This and that

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This and that by Andy Buhler, CUSO, 69-71

Sylvester’s father arrived on Wednesday evening to greet me. Michael, the builder here, came with him to interpret. I gave them each a Guinness (fortunately I had two) and talked to Michael for some minutes. As they left I was dashed a chicken, five eggs and a pineapple for helping Sylvester with a job. They know I’m leaving and hope I may help Sylvester with school fees for next year as he will return to studies after I go.

Wednesday I was in Agbor most of the day getting drinks and supplies for the Sisters as they had a big feast for St. Patrick’s that night. We had just finished drinks in the evening and went in to eat (about 10:00 p.m.) when -- fade-out lights. All power went off. Jack, the fellow from Nsukwa who works for Seismic Surveys, went down to the generator and jury-rigged some repairs. Now there is power in the Sisters’ house, the girls’ dorms, and the OR theatre. I use a candle and go to bed early. Perhaps by Tuesday it will be repaired.

We’ve had five people look at the generator in this last week. The first man said, “Brushes are loose,” and he then tightened them (I read on the generator on Friday that it’s a brushless AC generator). The next night no power again.

A generator engineer came and looked at it, said, “Nothing wrong” -- and still we had no power (so then it became a job for an electrical engineer).

Then three men arrived from PWD Benin City. They worked all one evening -- “Not enough fuel!” -- so they changed the elements.

They left Tuesday. Wednesday we had the Sisters’ party power failure. Yesterday a new man was to come but he hasn’t arrived yet.

Ever since Monday I had been fighting off a cold so Sister bought me a bottle of brandy. Thursday morning I took a vitamin tablet, an anti-histamine tablet, two Aspirins and two ounces of brandy in hot water and sugar. Thought that would kill the cold for the day. Went to work for an hour and felt so weak I had to come back home to bed. It was the cure that killed me I’m sure as I took all of that first thing in the morning on an empty stomach. Came back hung-over.

Friday it was back to work and over to Asaba for supper in the evening. Arrived in Asaba to find we were going to Onitsha for supper. The CCN, after suffering for a long time in a ramshackle place with a leaky roof and little room, have just moved into this palatial two-story mansion with rooms and space everywhere. They almost need a Honda to travel around in it.

Yesterday was Saturday. I wrote a letter at work and then constructed some productivity graphs for the last two months. Did more work units in February than in January.

Today I wanted to sleep but one girl wanted me to take her to her home in Ewulu to buy fish. This is the place we cycled to some weeks ago. I asked Sister for the car and she said I should take some girls and my camera to Ibusa to see some Native dancing. So at 11:00 a.m. I was ready to go to Ewulu, by 12:15 p.m. the girls were ready to go too.

We arrived at Ewulu by 1:00 p.m. and I wanted to leave straight away to get to Ibusa by 2:00 p.m. We were invited in and broke kola then I was given up-wine (palm wine tapped at the treetop from a living tree, instead of from the base of a fallen tree) and while I was looking at photos in comes a huge dish of fu-fu and a bowl of fish soup. We must eat to avoid offense -- African style is no cutlery (glad I’ve been practicing).

We went to see the river and finally got back in the car by 1:45 p.m., and then I was dashed a yam before I could leave -- most hospitable people, fishing-farming folk. Eventually we got back to Ogwashi, woke up Patrick, and took him and the three nurses to Ibusa. Luckily, they ran on African time there too because we arrived after 2:00 p.m., found the buffet was for 2:30 p.m. and sat down to eat by 3:45 p.m. -- then we saw the 3:30 p.m. dancing afterwards. The dancing was good. I took a whole roll of film so I hope it turns out well.

Wednesday I woke up in the morning feeling like I shouldn’t have. My eyes were sore and when I turned my head I felt like I had a hangover. Still, nothing ventured, nothing gained, so I got up. All my upper joints and my back were sore. I thought I must have caught a chill in the night. I went around feeling sort of achy all day. Since Dr. was away and there was little work I went to Issele-Uku with benches and came back via Ubulu-Uku to see Fr. Flynn. While I was there he asked if I could take a patient to the hospital. I drove up all sorts of rough little back roads until I reached the patient’s place -- an old man who had fever for five days and they only decided he was bad that day. When I saw him, one boy was sitting on the floor supporting his head while he gasped and moaned away. The room was tiny, poorly lit and had no ventilation. With the number of bodies in the average house -- it’s hot and sweaty.

They lifted him into the Peugeot and then everyone started to bring him some loads for the hospital -- wood, pots and pans, yam, and something for soup. Money changed hands and four people piled in with the patient to care for him or just for the ride -- since the crowd around was about 30-35 people I felt lucky to get away with that few. I got them to hospital and him put to bed.

I checked with the lab -- a man came to donate for the hospital, hemoglobin of 22.5 gm., but as is the case with most gift horses he was Group B which we seldom use and the blood was full of microfilaria. We took him the next day anyway and treated his worms. By evening I still wasn’t feeling too well and had the aches so I took two Aralin and a couple of Aspirin and went to bed at 7:00 p.m.

I was lying there feeling sort of blah when at 8:30 p.m., knock, knock, knock. “Andy. Get up and go collect Lawrence and Philo for an emergency op.”

Into some clothes and down to the car I go, grumbling. I found Philo at home but when we got to Lawrence’s he was nowhere to be found. Big family discussion as to where he might be plus lots of shrugging, so I took Philomena in to work. I stopped the car and it refused to start again. I had to run for the truck and head out again all over town looking for Lawrence. Soon I felt it would be too late for him to help anyway so I came back. I waited by the OR to see doctor about myself when she finished. Sr. Mildred took my temp 102°F so I got an injection of Resorchin (anti-malarial) and was going to go to bed when Sr. Cora said I should have something for sleep so I took a hot brandy and two phenobarbs. Still I never closed my eyes all night. I stayed in bed next day.

Thursday my fever was down to 100.2°F but I still had eye-ache so I took six more Aralen and a number of Aspirin and read Damsel in Distress by P. G. Wodehouse. I had another injection for my headache and I got woozy from it. Still it cleared my headache that night and I slept.

Friday I got up still with the headache but feeling a bit better; by 10:00 a.m. I thought I had had a long enough day so I went home. I read Physician’s Heritage by J. Harpole. I had looked at the blood film that I had taken from myself before treatments to see if there were any malaria. I didn’t find any but my WBCs were low so it was probably some sort of a viral fever, maybe carrying on from that bout after Benin City. Guess we’ll never know.

Saturday I felt a bit better so I went to Agbor shopping for Sister and one of the midwives (who was getting a bicycle). It was very hot and humid. I returned and the boys told me they had just cross-matched some blood and there were microfilaria on the slide. I said OK since this is getting more common. Then they said it was the recipient who had the filaria. A new approach for them.

Oh, about Agbor, beer, and corruption. I went to one shop to buy beer for Sister. No beer. As I was getting a case of Fanta I saw three men taking out cases of Star to a van. I asked again and, faced with the facts, the man agreed he had beer if I brought our empty cases. I did so and got the beer and asked for a receipt. He said receipt for the Fanta but none for the beer. I asked why, were his prices too high and he said “Yes!” He said there is no fixed price for beer. I reminded him of the Government Fixed Price Control but he said everyone is corrupt so there’s no fixed price. Traders buy beer and building supplies in bulk and then hoard them. This gives a shortage of items for some time so they take out a few and, because of the scarcity, will charge grossly inflated prices. Regulation price for zinc roofing is £N6/4/9 and yesterday they asked me £N8/15/- for an inferior brand.

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