Doctors Without Boundariesbycowboy109©
Jarrik's last memories of Boston were neatness and politeness. The stainless steel tweezers to turn the needle for the suture were sparkling. The boundaries of the surgery site were formed by straight lines of medical tape. Skin was inside the rectangle. Outside the rectangle was a blue sheet with the fold marks from storage. The anesthetist was sitting on a swiveling chair amid monitors and electronically controlled injection tubes. The anesthetist gave him the thumbs up that he let the patient come out of general anesthesia. The nurse to Jarrik's side held the straw of an organic apple juice with re-balanced electrolytes in front of his face mask. She politely moved the straw under his mask for rehydration.
The first impression on the African airplane was the bright sunlight inside of the cabin. The airplane was a standard Boeing. Yet, the sunlight closer to the equator was a lot stronger, twice or thrice by his estimation. The more jarring impression was that things were basic, maybe shoddy. The wax coated paper cup in his hand was plain white. The seams were clearly evident and peeling. The paper cup contained water. Cola was reserved for first class. The flight attendant that explained it to him was wearing a boxy stiff uniform. Her uniform was a solid blue with a few pieces of solid white. A white plane, white stripes on her shoulder, and a white mini apron identified her.
People on the plane seemed taller, scrawnier, and less confident. For example, the pilot stepping out of the cockpit was rather tall. His uniform sleeves were too short. The pant ended way above the ankles. The jacket cuffs were somewhere around the middle of his forearms. He lacked the dignity, weight, and slowness of an American pilot. He looked like a shifty corner vendor stuffed into a children's pilot costume. He was fumbling with a rubber band to tie the cockpit door open. His feet were closed. His butt stuck out more than it needed to do. His elbows looked boxy. His fumbling seemed aimless.
The traveler next to Jarrik was managing director of a dairy plant in the capital. He was attempting to solve a Sudoku puzzle in the back of the flight magazine. Jarrik glanced at the paper. The man had only two numbers filled out. A quarter hour later, the man had only progressed to fill in one more number. Jarrik picked an easy square that had all numbers, except for one filled in. Jarrik offered the other traveler the solution. He happily accepted with a cheer and head bobbing. On a second look, Jarrik noticed that one of the earlier numbers was evidently wrong. The managing director had written a nine right next to another nine. Jarrik seized up the man with his thick plastic glasses and the white tape to hold them together.
Jarrik glanced out into the cabin at the arms, wrists, and scalps that lurked over the seats in front of him. Another hard bump of a turbulence shook the overhead compartments. The pilot came running from the back of the plane. The rubber band had snapped. The cockpit door was swinging closed. The door engaged the terrorist safety lock automatically upon closing. The pilot stood in front of the blue painted door with the bare metal frame. The little black pinhole starred back at the pilot. The pilot rattled the door with the weak click-click of the door handle. An African woman on the other side of the plane screamed hysterically.
A tall African passenger stood up in the front row. He helped the pilot ram the door with their shoulders. An Englishman asked the flight attendant with British accent: "Should I start worrying now?" The flight attendant ensured the passenger: "Oh, the pilot is dumb in head. He always make nonsense." The pilot attempted to balance now on one leg. His black sneakers, white soaks, brown skin, and high running pants gave him only a shaky support. His other leg was raised hip high into the air with a bent knee. He kicked the door with tremendous effect to his balance, yet none to the door.
Most passengers were now looking at the pilot as he was retreating from the door. Jarrik had a joke flashing across his mind. In the joke, a pilot ran to the back of the plane with a parachute. He told the passengers not to worry, because he was going to come back with help. The pilot on this plane found a fire axe in the emergency overhead bin. He chopped into the door only making dents. The pilot's face was torn with anxiety as he ran to the back of the plane. There he started screaming hoo-hoo-hoo and ran forward with the fire axe over his right shoulder. It eluded the pilot that the long distance rather tired him out then allowed him to gain more speed. The fire axe bit into the door. A clear line of white sun light broke through the door from inside the cockpit.
A few more of those long range attacks and the pilot made it back into the cockpit. The applause of the passengers had him smile smittenly. The plane landed in the capital. The airport was as to be expected. It was bare concrete. A few soldiers with skinny machine guns stood around. Crowds of people in multi-colored clothes with the weirdest old luggage and plastic bags shuffled in long lines. Jarrik mistook the hand pressed against his chest as that of a pickpocket and grabbed it firmly. The hand contained a pack of Marlboro. The man was apparently a petty thief selling duty free cigarettes. Jarrik let go of him to find a taxi.
The taxi was a white diesel Mercedes from three decades ago. The backseat was worn thin making Jarrik sit lower and appreciate the added head room. The diesel engine vibrated the whole car. Every few seconds, the engine would rattle up higher and make the whole car jump twice before settling down again. The black driver wore a simple dress shirt and brown pants. The driver adjusted the beautiful, dried flowers on the dashboard, while asking Jarrik for the destination. Jarrik told him to go to the Doctors Without Borders hospital. The driver high-fived another cabbie through the open window, as the car slowly pulled out of the line up of waiting cars at the terminal.
The drive had all the sights that Jarrik had been looking for, while he completed his tropical medicine course to qualify for the mission. There were the palm trees with their skinny logs and bushy top. They stood on dried out dirt patches in the center median of the road. Perhaps, it was intended as a presidential road at some point in the past. There were the white washed square houses with stairs on the outside. People had their bedrooms on top of the house to enjoy the cool night temperatures as a respite from the daytime heat. Poor, suffering people were in throngs along the road. He looked forward to alleviating their suffering by offering his medical services for free.
At the MSF (Medecins Sans Frontieres -- French for Doctors without Borders) building, Jarrik meet a short, stout, slightly overweight blond man. The man wore beige shorts and a white short sleeve shirt. Hiking sandals covered his feet. His face was round and filled with a big smile: "My name's Kyden, mate." Kyden lead Jarrik to the back of the building. A small concrete court yard with a few cracks was there. The place looked like it had been a very small motel before. All the signs were gone, yet the architecture of many small rooms was evident. Kyden turned the round golden door knob to the first door. It was a door with many small glass windows: "Here's your little cubby house."
Jarrik left his luggage in the room and followed Kyden back to the court yard. The next door had Kyden's room. Kyden plopped down into a low camping chair. The plastic bands of his seat stretched almost down to the tiles on the floor. Next to him was a plastic ice chest. Kyden got a beer out of it and handed it to Jarrik: "Those planes are as dry as a nun's nasty." Jarrik sat down on another camping chair. He sipped on the beer. The room was bare: One ice chest, two camping chairs, one cupboard broken into its individual wood boards, another cupboard probably contained Kyden's clothes. The bed was large and puffy. It promised to be overly soft and sagging. The walls were white washed, clean, and simple.
"You are not the one for ear bashing."
"Oh, I am sorry. The long travel must have dulled my mind."
"No drama, mate. I have to close down the clinic for the day anyway."
Kyden slapped Jarrik on the thigh and left. Jarrik went back to his own room to get darker sun glasses, a hat, and sun screen. Curious to see the African continent, he stepped out into the street. The street was quieter, because they were in a suburb. A resemblance of a sidewalk was hard to make out. Yet, there were only very few cars going by. A black woman with a pink fabric wrapped around her hair was selling fruits on the other side of the street. Jarrik crossed the street to take a look through the glass window into the cart.
The tall woman with slender hands pointed out the fresh pawpaw fruit that she had gotten. They looked yellow and similar to a papaya. Next to it were a few tangerines threaded on a string and tied in a circle. The peeled mango on a wooden stick seemed most appealing to Jarrik. The woman noticed Jarrik's attention to the mangos.
"Half price for doctor!"
"How did you know that I was a doctor?"
"You walked out of the clinic and are a white man. My name is Namazzi. It means water."
"Hi, my name is Jarrik. I have no clue, what it means."
Jarrik felt Namazzi's hand. The touch was soft as a woman. Her fingers and skin was a bit hard. He looked into her eyes and saw her warmly looking back at him. After the long raucous journey, he felt her female energy. It made him feel at home. Her breasts were on the small side for her tall size. Yet, he looked at them anyway. He held her hand a moment to long. She broke into a giggle as she pulled her hand back.
"My brother better not see white man flirting with me. Here is your mango. It is a gift for a kind man."
Jarrik walked back to his room. The shower stall was simply a shower head. There was no basin for the water. Next to the Western toilet was a drain in the bathroom. The wood board under the mirror over the sink was too narrow for more than a tooth paste. Jarrik had to put his toiletries on the water tank of the toilet. The mango stone was lying on the floor near the entrance inside a napkin. There was no trash can to be found. Ants were already on the Mango, when he finished his shower. The ants were laying down scent to build a solid ant street. Jarrik politely placed the Mango leftover in front of his door into the court yard and went to sleep.
Kyden woke Jarrik up with a "G'day." Kyden rattled the spoon inside of a plastic glass. He placed the plastic glass, a box of cereal, and rice milk next to the bed. Jarrik hat a good feeling about the day. There was something more solid about this place than Boston. Boston was such a rush and full of nervous people. This place had a solid feel. Perhaps, the simple nature of the place let the mind settle. Or, the backward nature of things gave the mind a little rest from catching up on the latest innovation.
"Bog in. We don't have real milk only long shelf life rice milk. As you noticed, there is no trash can in any rooms, because they ants come in through the holes. All the trash has to go into the dumpster. The dumpster lid is open, so that you can throw the trash from your door step."
Kyden pushed open the door to the clinic. Jarrik's room was a square white room. The exam table was a stainless steel metal table taken from a restaurant. Kyden showed, how to spray down the table and wipe it after each patient. A swivel chair with a round seat cushion and no backrest was his new office chair. Previous doctor volunteers had covered the once green seat cushion with stickers: a little heart, a skull of a metal band, a skate boarding logo, a BMW log, a snappy sticker saying 'mean people.' The supplies were still in ten by ten by ten inch white boxes. Some boxes were already opened. Others were still closed. Some boxes had complete manifests of the content. Others were missing the manifest and someone had scribbled with a sharpie gauzes, blades, antibiotics, pox immunization and so on. An oversized box of torn Nitrile gloves lay in the corner.
The tour continued into the waiting room. Grass mats around the edge of the room allowed people to sit or lie, while waiting. A few people were already sitting there, swatting flies off their faces and bobbing little once on their knees. "The morning brings a lot of ankle biters. They burn themselves on the night stoves," said Kyden. Kyden smiled at a little three year old boy, who was holding his hold weight on Kyden's two fingers. The boy's face was gruffy and a large pink sore covered the entire shin on the black body. He wore only a white fabric wrapped around his hips.
The mother and boy followed Jarrik into his office. Jarrik washed his hands in the sink in the corner with industrial bar of soap. He snapped on his gloves. He swiveled his sticker chair to take a look at his first patient, who sat observantly on the restaurant table holding his leg up. The job was straight forward: Wash the debris out. Pick the fabric and other embedded material with tweezers. Cover with a burn lotion. Wrap with sterile gauze. Teach the mother to use a handful of single use burn lotion packets. The challenge was finding all the little things in the boxes. He started to move the boxes from stacks against the wall into a field of boxes spread out on the ground. He started grouping them by adding an inch space between the boundaries of different types of boxes.
By mid morning, he paid less attention to things and could blindly reach for the most common boxes, while still looking at the patient. The beginning of routine gave Jarrik the chance to look outside the window. Namazzi had returned with her fruit stand. She had waved him a warm hello. Jarrik had smiled back feeling happy to already recognize someone familiar in his new environment. The dark brown skin of Namazzi had a nice shine in the sunlight. Jarrik was curious to touch it and feel, if there were any difference to his white skin. The brightly colored fabric looked good against her dark skin. The hands and feet of Namazzi had a strange fascination, because they were light colored. All black people are like that, yet it made the soles of the hand and feet stand out so much more. He wondered, what it would feel like to hold these feet that seemed more like a tool for long walking then the fetish model like feet of his fellow Bostonites in luxury shoes.
The almost last patient of the morning shift was a thirteen year old boy with thick Shea nut paste rubbed on his chest. He had curly short hair. The peculiar boy had a deep cut. Kyden quickly pushed the boy into Kyden's office.
"You don't treat any diggers of the Lord's Resistance Army. That shea butter is their mystical bullet proof vest. They have a kangaroo loose in the top paddock."
So, Jarrik took an early lunch break. He walked over to Namazzi. She smiled at him with a sparkle in her eyes. Her nose seemed extra clean today. Jarrik did not understand how that nose-clean effect exactly happened. Today, he was curious to try to the Jackfruit and insisted on paying. She asked him about his hobbies. He said that he was an avid hiker. She told him that not having a bicycle, she had to walk a lot. Yet, there was this beautiful road up a mountain near the capital. The view from the other side of the mountain would show a vast plain. There the high grass and waterholes nurtured a rich animal life. In the far distance was her home village, where her father still lived.
He asked her, if she would take him. She burst for a second with excitement before she could her composure again. During that second, she kicked up the sandal behind her and raised her flat hand into the air, while her large, even white ivory teeth chirped 'ke-ke-ke.' Kyden yelled at them to come for lunch. Jarrik invited Namazzi. Namazzi followed pulling her fruit stand behind her.
A white pickup truck was parked on the other side. The driver was wearing a turban and looked shifty, while revving the engine every once in a while. Jarrik was unsure, if the driver was preventing an impending engine stall or rushing the man on the truck bed. The men on the truck bed gave Kyden two stuffed paper bags in exchange for colorful paper money. Kyden took the paper bags into the courtyard. Next to the dumpster was the single tree of the court yard. The white canopy stretched out thickly providing comfortable shade. A few large bricks were placed in a circle. Kyden shifted the bricks onto their narrow sides to have taller bricks to sit on.
The bags contained McDonald's burgers, fries, cola, and chicken McNuggets. To celebrate Jarrik's first day, he had sent a driver across town to the only McDonald's of the country. He figured a little familiar from back home would be welcome. Jarrik was not sure, if he should give into the good feeling of comfort food or insist on getting the most exotic experience out of his trip.
Jarrik thought the better of complaining to his host. Instead, he complimented Namazzi on her delicate and price tattoo. Namazzi had rolled up her sleeves all the way over her shoulder in the heat. The middle of her shoulder had a tree and a moon shining over it. She explained that it was a mystical power symbol of her village. Her father still was the leader of the village. He had twin daughters and no boys. So, he marked one daughter as the queen of the day and the other as the queen of the night. The tree symbolized the gathering place, where he ruled. The night symbolized that she would have the power to rule the village at night. Been queen of the night was mostly pointless, because the villagers followed the rhythm of the sun and slept at night. However, the celebrations were held at night. So, she would lead the ceremonies, when she went back home.
As Namazzi was talking, she grabbed Jarrik's forearm to make a point of how beautiful her ceremonial dress was. Jarrik felt goose bumps spreading over his body. As he became more aware of his body, he noticed that Namazzi's sandal food was resting on his shoes. He quietly enjoyed the feeling of body contact and secretly inhaled with each breath the energy of Namazzi. Namazzi's face glowed as she described her struggle leading an antelope bull in front of a procession. Jarrik was entranced looking at her face, waiting for the occasional touch from her. The touch would set off a sparkle of sensation waving through his body. He soaked up every facial expression and gesturing tick that she had.
Kyden seemed to have a sneerful attitude. Every time Kyden glanced at the tattoo on Namazzi's shoulder, a bitter twitch ran across the corners of his lips. The expressive Namazzi eventually realized the heavy tension between Kyden seizing her up and Jarrik eying Kyden for not being friendlier to the guest. She excused herself that her customers would soon finish lunch and were looking for a fruit dessert. Leaned forward and kissed Jarrik on the cheek. He felt her moist lips, moist enough to feel wet. The sensation stayed with him the whole afternoon like a tattoo. During the humdrum of bandaging and vaccinating, he played the memory of that kiss over and over. He wondered what her lips would taste like, those red lips behind the dark brown face. He wanted to lick her teeth and gum to taste her.
As the room got darker from the setting sun, Kyden knocked on the door of Jarrik's office:
"Mate, I am sorry about lunch today. I know you like the girl. Let me make it up to you. Why don't you chuck a sickie tomorrow and go with her on that guy up the mountain. I already paid her boss twenty bucks to make up for the lost revenue of her taking off tomorrow."
"Kyden, wow, I really appreciate your care. I hope that I can re-pay it some day. Though, is it okay to take a sick day on my second day already?"