After an hour on the tarmac we turn off road and descend a steep dirt track that winds down in to the valley. We cross a small wooden bridge over the river, it doesn’t look strong enough to hold a child, never mind a mini bus and equipment van. The views are stunning. We have a 360º panoramic view of dense, lush green vegetation. Classic round mud huts with straw roofs are dotted throughout the landscape. Farmers are tending to goats, sheep and cows, donkeys and chickens roam the little pathways that intersperse rich fields with 6 foot high maize. We eventually track down the edge of a field and end up at a small dispensary that has USAID logos stamped all over it. This is to be today’s clinic site. The team head straight to work renovating the building in to a world class eye clinic and the patients steadily trickle in.
At times like this, in the midst of such perfect surroundings, I sometimes consider that the biggest disadvantage of ophthalmology as a speciality is the need to work predominantly in the dark. Here I am in a place that is hard to imagine real it is so beautiful, and I am cooped up in a small room, backed up in to a corner on a hard plastic stool, the slit lamp in front of me, laptop to my left, retinal camera and visual field machine on the table nearby and a heavy, black curtain over the window blocking out the outside world.
As the day progresses, nature calls and I venture out on a small walk to the nearest toilet (well pit latrine actually, I’ve yet to work anywhere with a toilet), around 80 meters from the clinic is a small wooden shack. As I approach, admiring the views around me, a phone stars ringing from within the toilet, it is the classic Nokia ring tone. I am so taken a back that I genuinely expect Dom Jolly and some camera crew to jump out at me. It just goes to show how widely mobile phones are now used, there may not be flushing toilets or electricity, but you can be sure to find wherever you are, someone has a mobile phone!
We sit at the table with Daddy for breakfast. “What does Daddy do Lucas?” “Eye Doc-tor, Peoples eyes better” I can see how proud Daddy feels sipping his morning coffee. Being charming is a strength Lucas is developing almost inversely proportional to his eating ability, aside from licking the butter from the toast and leaving the rest, despite plenty of encouragement again he eats and drinks nothing, he asks to get down and finally we agree.
Whilst Andrew is having an adventure in the field Lucas is wanting his own adventures and not any of the necessities the day brings. I walk into Lucas’ room holding the tangle teezer hair brush and some conditioner, immediately he runs to the bed and slips down into the “tantrum” position, lying face down with his head in his hands and bottom in the air! I gently pick him up and begin the fortnightly struggle, I am thankful he is not a girl! (I think he is too!). Daddy regularly offers to give Lucas a haircut in his own balding style but I haven’t yet managed to trim his beautiful golden curls.
We settle from the trauma of hair brushing, Lucas shouts “nee naw” as he chases the tractor with a fire engine. We are heading up on to the roof for “pouring games” (we pour water from various containers in to others, often with food colouring so he can see how colours mix). I take out the daily sun cream to protect him from the midday equatorial sun, he slides down into the tantrum position with his reusable big bum nappy in the air, head on hands making a lot of noise. Usually he is very good at sun cream (thankfully!) but not today, finally he gives up, giggles and I paint him white.
I think he must be tired, he has been up by 6.30am and sleeping at 9pm for the last two nights, with only a 30 minute snooze in the carry rucksack whilst I was marching up a hill on the way to Kate’s house in the baking heat. It may well be teething time again and it is certainly the familiar no sleep and irritability! Coupled with an unfortunate encounter with a swing yesterday, he walked in front of it and was knocked flat by a flying foot to the jaw, right where there are more teeth coming through! Toddlers are wonderful, but can be tiring!
Lucas wakes from his much needed sleep, he comes for a cuddle then sets about racing his red and yellow cars. We sit for lunch sharing a soft juicy “ad-do-ca-do” mine I’ve made into a quick guacamole, Lucas’s has a little less spicing. Along with the homemade crusty seeded bread he munches away followed by a juicy sweet mango bought this morning, perfectly ripe from the mkokoteni (fruit cart) we are both left with sticky fingers and juice all around our mouths. We get down, get our things together and head out to the guesthouse 15min walk away to play on the grass, we chase doves, find geckos, spot red and purple flowers, tuk tuks, cars and run down the dusty road! It feels more normal although I haven’t relaxed to the point of letting him pick up any stick on the road after seeing a few too many men pee down there! At the guesthouse the sun is shinning, we giggle, sing, chase the ball, read under the table (for shade) and Lucas finishes the trip by picking a purple flower for Daddy, these are special moments to be remembered. My phone rings, it’s Andrew he’s telling me he has had a bizarre experience on the way to the toilet…
Recipe – Pumpernickel Bread
30g rye flour
2g dried yeast
325g White strong bread flour
220g rye flour
20g cocoa powder
110g strong cold brewed coffee (filter)
The pre-ferment above
3g dried yeast
120g butter unsalted
6g caraway seeds
1. Make the pre-ferment the night before by mixing ingredients altogether with a spoon and leaving at about 20ºC
2. The next day combine the white flour, rye, cocoa, water, coffee, pre-ferment salt and yeast mix with a dough hook for 3 minutes or knead by hand for a little longer, then add the molasses and sugar and mix for further 7 minutes.
3. Add the butter and caraway sees and mix until well incorporated.
4. Leave to prove for 1 hour or until doubled in size.
5. Half the dough and flatten each piece slightly then fold in from either side, turn 90 degrees and repeat then fold round to make a loaf like shape and place in a floured bread tin, repeat for the second loaf. If you don’t have two loaf tins you can make into a round to make a circle shaped loaf.
6. Leave to rise for a further 1 hour until a finger leaves an indent in the dough. Cover with cling film or plastic bag but be careful the dough will not expand to get stuck to the cover.
7. Place in the oven a 220ºC for 40 mins with tray of water at the base of the oven to create steam. After 20 mins turn down to 200ºC.
8. Remove from the oven turn out and place on a wire rack to cool.