Here I am up in Melaki. Yesterday was a long day. I was starting to wonder if we would actually make it, but finally in the late afternoon our little caravan started off. You should have seen EhKnYa's bike! That thing was loaded 'til it could have taken no more. Finally we were beginning our ascent. We made it up right around dusk. I must say that I had strong hopes for a quiet entry. I just wanted to sneak in there and maybe sometime the next day start quietly getting acquainted with the villagers. But that was not to be! I just hate being a gazing stock, but that's just exactly what I am here. "Gullawa! Gullawa! Gullawa!" It means white person and you wouldn't know how tired I get of hearing the word. I tell you, this big white person thing wears on you... Even the cows eye me with suspicious gaze and the pigs have squealed and high-tailed it at the sight of me.
Anyways...the villagers trailed us up to the house and congregated to watch the new gullawa. I took care of a few patients (with great fear and trembling) and a few of the villgers stayed to sit around the fire a while. There's two girls who were asigned to stay with me for a little bit, at least 'til I get the hang of cooking over a fire.
We were up bright and early to the tune of the crowing roosters. 4:32 - I kid you not! I may be many things (not all pleasant), but I assure you that an earlybird has not been one of them. Well if life must be this wayat least I will get to join the exclusive ranks of the healthy, happy, & nice. (I say happy as wealthy is one thing that dosen't happen here.):)
No patients in the morning. The girls took me visiting at several places through the village. I have never had such a morning in all of my life! They took me to one of the girls homes. I don't know if there's a way to describe to you what I'm feeling as I duck into a dark and smokey little bamboo room where a mother and her children sit cross-legged around a fire. I almost feel as though I'm going back to some pre-historic place in time. It quickly dawns on me that the furry and not so little creatures they're roasting over the fire are rats. I see a whole pile of them lying there. The (very normal looking!) mother reaches over and hands another limpid and very dead little creature to her young son on the other side of the fire who spears the thing and proceeds to roast it. He snaps off the tail, popping it into his mouth with apparent relishment. I with my American mindset am horrified and am doing all I can to simply maintain a neutral expression. With great self-control I seat myself nearby and try to act as if this indeed is quite normal. It's almost all I can do to sit there and watch. They ask me if I think rat tastes good. I say that I don't know as I've never eaten one. This they seem to find amusing. They inform me that they indeed are quite delicious. Now I'm a vegetarian. And just one thought of rotting dead animal of any kind entering my mouth gives me the creeps and I certainly think nothing more of rat meat (no offence to any carnivorous readers.:) I had been thinking about how I would respond if I was offered anything with meat in it. But right there at that moment I knew that I had no qualms about saying no.:)
Oh, and I must tell of my first (and last, I may add) betel nut chewing experience.
The next house we visited was much more normal on appearance. We sat around for a long time. I had a great time with the girls and many of the village women and children came in and out. They made valiant attempts at teaching me Karen, pointing to nearly everything in sight and giving it's name. I in turn taught them the English words. Pretty soon they offered me a nut-like little thing with a kind of hull on it. They told me what it was, but I had forgotten the Karen name for betel nut. So I, with the true missionary spirit (it wasn't a roasted rat after all!), received it with gratitude. Pretty soon it started to dawn on me what this was. Now I should say that of all the vile things, on my list betel nut is pretty close to the top. Their teeth are horrible - all black and red stained from it (I'm told this is supposedly the women's aim - the blacker the better.) and the smell nearly makes me sick. Thankfully, I didn't get very far with it though.:) I must say though that it's a pretty sad beginning for the new "nurse" of the village who's supposed to exhibit the most exemplary behavior to all.
And there are the more exciting points of my first day.:)