Our twenty three year old gardener phoned on Monday morning to say that he was taking a ‘friend’ to hospital and that he would be in to work late. At 2pm he arrived at work to say that the friend was in fact female, pregnant and was in hospital delivering a baby. Hmmm I thought, it sounds like it’s your baby then. Ok. I gave him money for the hospital fees and thought it a shame the baby wasn’t exactly planned but good luck to them. I know that our young gardener has to send money home to his parents upcountry every month and he’s the eldest child so is financially supporting younger siblings too, so that doesn’t leave much to spare from his monthly salary paid by us.
The next day he popped in to say that a baby boy was born safely and that he needed time off until the end of the week. Congratulations! One day later he called to say that the baby had suddenly died. He came over to our house once again and explained the tragedy in Swahili. Apparently the child went home from hospital and some hours later inexplicably seemed to be choking and unable to breathe. The doctor suggested giving the baby warm water and he seemed to recover. Twelve hours later the same thing happened and the baby died in the doctor’s arms while he was being examined. There was some vague medical explanation about perhaps the umbilical cord had been tied too late after the baby was born, which may have lead to these problems. His brother in law had leant him money for a quick burial which was what his religion dictated. By now he was calling his girlfriend his ‘wife’ who he said was unsurprisingly in deep shock. I said ‘try to be strong for her, she will be feeling very bad’ (who am I to say that?!?). I gave him more money and told him to take as much time off as he needs.
Meanwhile, the same day, our HIV positive ex-askari sent me a text:
‘Gd evening we are ok. 2day was appointment day. End year lab tests are required 4 us on 19.11.07 each of us need kshs.4000.tests-liver function, serum creatine, full blood count, viral load & total cholesterol. We kindly request 4 assistance. GOD BLESS. THANKS.’
We also gave him money last week for ‘rent and food’ as his redundancy pay from the security group he worked for is now finished.
What could I say: ‘This is not a good month for us; our gardener lost a baby so I gave him money, we just gave you money last week and besides it was my daughter’s birthday party yesterday and she wanted the magic man and a bouncy castle which wasn’t cheap, in addition we are planning another grown up party later in this month to celebrate buying our house for a vast sum, x30 people sitting down for dinner in a tent in the garden.’