One of the abiding memories of Christmas for me, from amongst the chaos of Cargo, Air-Traffic Control, and Security Management, was my first delivery. Ever since being once denied the chance, I have always wanted to witness a birth, and when I first came, Sheila was very keen that I come and be there one time, in the delivery room. One night, between Christmas and New Year, I was roused from bed by a guard, needing me to supply water and 230v light to the anti-natal clinic or ANC (12v light-bulbs still on the way from Amsterdam…). This request came into my sleep through the African night:
‘Rufa, Come-On: Miss Shielie, Piu, Light Kalas. ANC.’ Sheila had a Mama birthing in the ANC. I had to come, to turn on the Water Tower, and something was wrong with the lighting of the Delivery Room. It was urgent.
After I’d seen to the necessary, I went to check-up on Shiela, and hung-around, shy and bleary-eyed, by the door, whilst the Mum, with no screaming or swearing, went into the final mechanisms of giving-birth. It being the first time I had seen this miracle, I was amazed by how it happened as it was meant to. I wondered at how the baby boy could come from such a slim frame, and, sizing him up afterwards, could swear he was bigger across than the mother who had carried him. But it happened, as I say, with a neatness and order which dumfounded me. Obviously, it was not ‘easy’, but walking back to the Tukul under the vivid blanket of stars, I had that sense of ‘Species’, that fatalistic, inevitable perspective on the human condition which provokes so much thought and philosophy.
Good friends in Spain emailed me today some photos of themselves holding, with barely-concealed glee, their newborn baby girl. Sheila the midwife and me looked at the lovely pink bundle of sterile, clean baby, no dirt, dust, flies anywhere to be seen and wondered. I haven’t been here that long, but already whiter-than-white, cleaner-than-clean images like this a part of some different world.
Today, another massive change happened to Lankien. The UN turned up. There are now four cars (Four Wheel Drive) in the village, and it feels like an invasion. We are still cut-off by truck, but I am told that supply is only a matter of weeks away. It is too risky to travel and assess the impassable part of the road ourselves, so all information is composed from local sources.