Friday, January 11, 2008

Hilake died

One of my Std 6 lads was missing from class for a few days and other students told me that he had died. That was sudden and very sad. Hilake was a good student and pleasant lad.

It was tradition that the head teacher should buy a white bedsheet to wrap the body in for burial. I purchased a sheet and went into the next village and found Hilake's house with dozens of mourners around the step wailing and beating themselves. I asked to see him and after climbing up a ladder-type set of stairs found Hilake still breathing. 'He's alive', I yelled, but they told me that he was dead; his spirit had gone.

I did a bit of yelling and sent another student on the school bicycle to the LMS Mission station to summons a nurse. About two hours later she arrived on a moped and inspected Hilake declaring him well and truly alive, but with meningitis. He was carried to the Mission Station and in a couple of weeks was back at school.

Even though I knew his father and we talked on occasions, he never thanked me, and Hilake never mentioned his return from the dead. I guessed that most, if not all, village people who lapsed into a coma, did go on to die. There were many situations where only later, as I grew older, did I fully appreciate some of their beliefs.

Later in the 1970s I was told that crocodiles have four eyes. I discussed that with my native staff and found that they too believed that crocs have four eyes. Even when I had a student bring a small croc to school from weekend leave they believed that the other two eyes hadn't developed yet.

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