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July 3, 2003

Words from Sandy

When I returned from Mozambique, Sandy was just finishing her training at IICD. We spent many hours talking and talking. I felt quite jealous that she was the one who got to go to Mozambique!

This is the second report that Sandy has sent. There are bits that are quite difficult to read. However, as Sandy says, this is the reality. She was traveling a bit, with her teammate Pazit, in order to visit a few graduates of the Teacher Training college who had since graduated. I cut out some of the story, but it begins here with her travels home. She managed to hitch a ride with the governor of the district.

Sandy writes:

We were again super lucky to be able to get a ride with him the next day back to Chimoio (where we live). The ride was in the back of an ambulance, which was like an SUV with the seats taken out in the back. We rode for an hour just Pazit and me and one boy. Then we came to another small town and went to the hospital to pick up more people. While we were loading 7 more people in the car plus a babe of 2 or 3 among the already present two 50 gallon drum containers and three 50 kg bags of maize plus their luggage and our 2 backpacks and us, I saw rubber gloves hanging on a fence next to a wash basin. It appeared that they were drying... reusing medical gloves... this is a rural hospital. I could not believe that I actually saw that. Amazing... Anyways, needless to say with all of these people there was no comfortable way to sit and everyone was touching everyone else and crammed in. I was not looking forward to the long hours of my legs falling asleep and being jostled around on dirt roads. There were 4 men, 2 women, 1 teenage girl, and one girl child. It was plain to see that the 2 women and the child were sick. One woman was thin, emaciated, rather. And she looked like the photos you see of people who have AIDS-not people in Western countries who have AIDS and have health insurance and cocktails of pills to take. But instead like the like people in underdeveloped countries whose life is already a hardship. Where they are already malnourished and poor. I can only imagine that she had AIDS. They say a picture is worth a thousand words, but I say that it is not, but rather an experience is. And this experience that I am going to tell is worth more words than I could ever say or write.

Let me describe her. Her eyes were bulging out and her cheeks sunken in, her lips protruding, her head looked oddly too large for her body, which was skin stretched over bones. She had the needle from the IV-the receptor-still attached in her arm, taped in with a white X of medical tape and a bit of dried blood around it. She had on no shoes and could not really more herself very well. She was like every picture you see, but seeing and hearing about it is oceans away from seeing it and smelling it and feeling it in person. We started the drive, I was so cramped and felt a bit motion sick and I did not know how I would make the whole journey. The women with the child starting sweating profusely all of the sudden and it was very strange because it was not at all hot. Maybe a case of malaria (Pazit thought), my mind wandered to something far worse-TB. Then the woman I suspected had AIDS made motions that she needed to vomit. A window was opened for her but as we were driving down the road, the vomit came back inside on everyone. In my face, on my clothes, on everyone. And I thought, ”OH God, can I do this?” She needed to vomit more but could not move herself to project it out the window, she could not even heave, she just turned to the side and the vomit just poured out of her onto the back of the woman with a child. She turned around and looked in my direction; her face was covered in vomit, stuck to her cheeks, her eyelashes, her neck, her shirt. The other woman began vomiting in one of her capalanas (a piece of fabric 2 meters long that women wrap around themselves as skirts.) Both of them were vomiting into their capalanas. They looked as though they did not even have the energy to vomit. I did not know what to do or think. We were in the car for 1/2 hr and were in it for 2 and 1/2 hrs more and no one motioned for the car to stop. Even after a ways when we stopped to let one of the men out, no one said anything about stopping and letting them clean themselves or the car or getting them something to drink. They sat for the rest of the trip with their capalanas balled up in their laps full of vomit and the woman with AIDS with her face covered in it-her eyes told me that she had given up, mentally, but as though it were some cruel joke, her body was just dragging her along. The one good thing was that this vomit had no smell, b/ c it was different from when we vomit b/c we have food to eat, and there is something to vomit up. This vomit had no smell and just poured out of them like a little bit more of their lives leaking away. Unbelievable. And who are Pazit and I? 2 well dressed well-fed white women. Who are we? And all I could think about was what if we get in an accident-blood everywhere. That’s it. We dropped them off at a hospital and continued on with less people for another 2 hrs until we got to Chimoio. This time gave me time to think although I did not want to…. I thought about getting in an accident riding in one of the chapas (public transport) here. The drivers are crazy and since the roads are so bad they drive straight down the middle or on whatever side has the least amount of holes and, like in Chicken, wait until the last moment to move over to let a car going the opposite direction pass. Statistically, 1 in 10 people have HIV/AIDS but the government surely cannot take very good numbers in a country where mud huts are in the middle of nowhere. So, in actuality, it is more like3 in 10 and if there are 15 to 23 people crammed in a chapa tighter than sardines in a tin…. If it crashes, well, you do the math. This is my life here, this is my reality. And I can still see her eyes and thru them I learned the meaning of burning a hole thru you.

Sandy can be reached at: (Copy & Paste)