We had worried all week about the wife of Daniel Amma, Ufani School’s assistant head teacher. (I won’t give her name because I don’t know it: Tanzanians will introduce a married woman as “Mrs. So-and-So” and call her “Mama.” Asking for a married woman’s name other than “Mama” provokes a blank stare.) She seemed vital and happy last Saturday, when Marianne and I and some other volunteers visited her in the new brick house, practically next door to Ayalagaya Secondary School, which Daniel completed last year. By Monday, however, she needed to travel several miles to the Roman Catholic mission hospital for treatment of vaginal bleeding.
We scarcely saw Daniel during the week until this morning, Friday, when our tour of the mission hospital brought us face to face with him as he waited outside the women’s ward to visit his wife. Dr. Susan, our gynecologist, spoke to her and Daniel while the rest of us stood at a distance. Susan said Daniel’s wife looked good, but maybe only because of the blood transfusion she had received—and because she is a lovely woman, anyway.
Although the hospital’s doctors had warned Daniel and his wife of the possibility of cancer, Susan insists that she needs an ultrasound. And this hospital doesn’t possess a microscope, never mind an ultrasound machine. Could she get an ultrasound in Babati, an hour away over fifteen miles of road to which one would only want to subject a healthy person? Nobody here knows whether we could find an ultrasound machine in Babati and skepticism reigns. We know we would find one in Arusha, three or four hours away and also requiring travel on miserable roads.
But what would an ultrasound cost in Tanzania? How much on top of that would it cost to airlift her? We also wonder what it would imply for Karimu’s relationship with the villagers if we paid for a treatment for Daniel’s wife that we could not afford to give to every woman with the same need?
“We” means Marianne and me, by the way, since we would use our own money rather than Karimu funds. Yet the villagers identify Marianne and me so closely with Karimu that providing this special favor to one woman would still, I suspect, risk altering our relationship with them.
I think we must pay for the treatment, nevertheless, because Daniel has a closer connection to us than almost anyone else in Dareda Kati Village. He and Paul, Ufani’s head teacher, met us at the bus stop in 2007 when we arrived as tourists, expecting to pass five days here and then never think about it again. Only Daniel has had us over to his home during all four of our visits. And he is crucial to Ufani School, still the center of everything Karimu does here.
We have to say goodbye to the entire village tomorrow, but it won’t be anything like our goodbye to Daniel this morning at the mission hospital. Not knowing if we will see his wife next year, we held him for a long time, as if that could hold her also and keep her from going.—Don Stoll