I recently got some pretty severe blisters on both feet. And while not a serious injury, the blisters were bad enough that I couldn’t really walk, and was reduced to hobbling around painfully. Through my “injuries” I got to see a side of my village that was really beautiful. Word that I was “sick” (the Sesotho word kula applies for skin injuries as well as normal sicknesses) got around the village remarkably fast, everyone I passed asked how I was doing and if my feet were better or cured. It was heartwarming to have so many people concerned about my well-being. The village support group is a group of women in the village that assists orphans, elderly and sick people in the village, and who I have worked a lot with. Two member of the support group came by my house to check on me and see if there was anything they could do to help. My host mother brought me water so I wouldn’t have to carry buckets from the river. She also helped bandage my feet, while it may seem a bit strange and wasn’t really unnecessary, it was truly nice to feel so cared for. It made me feel like a real part of the community, being included in their system of caring for each other.
Since it’s only a week away from the opening of the community center, I had too much work to take time off for my feet to recover. For the first couple of days I couldn’t really walk, so I asked around to borrow a donkey. Every other family in the village has a donkey or two to carry grain to the local mill. Horses cost too much for me to rent as a Peace Corps volunteer, and if they aren’t trained well can be very difficult to ride. Falling of a donkey on the other hand is more comical than painful. I don’t think the guys I borrowed the donkey from trusted that I could stay on, on my own. And again, while unnecessary, it was very nice for them to escort me in case I should tip over and tumble off my little donkey. Admittedly, it’s not easy to ride without a saddle or reins (you steer a donkey by hitting it on either side of its neck with a stick). I’m teaching beginning English weekly at the community center, so more people try and greet me in English now, and called out to me “donkey transport!” It’s technically correct, but I didn’t really know how to respond, so I usually said something like “yes, I got a nice fat one today.”
After a week and a half, I am better enough that I can shuffle to work without needing a donkey. But the experience has allowed me to see how with such little resources the people of my village take care of each other. There may not be western medicine available to treat all their aliments, but there definitely will be a team of people there to help in any way they can and probably with some local remedy.