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“It is much more important to know what sort of a patient has a disease than what sort of a disease a patient has.” - Sir William Osler

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    Monday, April 21, 2003
    More From Malawi

    Here is the next installment of my friend Chuen-Yen's adventures, in which we learn that one wife is worth five to ten head of cattle and that you should always book through a reputable Western Hemisphere travel agency if you want to try to climb Mt. Kilimanjaro:

    Jambo (Hi in Swahili). I'm back in Blantyre for a day. Here's a brief update:

    "Brushing your hair is a poor substitute for washing it."
    -- Most profound thought at 5,895 meters

    Summiting Mt. Kilimanjaro is an amazing experience. However, reaching the trailhead can be the most challenging part of the adventure. At Dar es Salaam airport, Jason, John and I were agreeably swindled into purchasing a package deal. However, our $250 per person deposit covered only local transport to Moshi, a good place to begin a Kilimanjaro trek. This hypothetically five-hour bus journey lasted twelve hours and left me crusted with dead insects, bird feces, shards of glass and a fellow passenger's blood.

    Our first delay was Kili Express' brake failure. During the compulsory rest stop, I met Denas, a twenty-three year old Masai boy who had shirked traditional tribal life in pursuit of classroom education. He lamented that he was, at this mature age, unmarried and childless due to paucity of cattle. Denas limned that every Masai boy receives one cow at birth. With proper animal husbandry, he should own five to ten cattle by his eighteenth birthday. With these, he may procure one wife. As the herd enlarges, he will acquire more mates. However, Denas' family had consumed some of his stock while he attended school. With only three remaining animals, he was unmarriageable.

    A few hours into the saga of Denas' tragedy, we splurged $12 more for seats on a passing bus with functional brakes. Unfortunately, this one grazed a lorry, explosively injuring the driver and shattering several windows on my side. Luckily, I was leaning forward to assess what items had been filched from my pack during the previous breakdown. While surrounding travelers were severely lacerated and had debris embedded in their skin, I was only stung by a mist of glass needles and showered with my neighbor's blood. The wounded, including our driver, were rushed to a local clinic as officials collected multiple reports, thus causing further delays.

    Fortunately, the now repaired Kili Express caught up as we loitered outside "Barcelona Rhythms Nightclub," a roadside stand with a boom box. We scurried back onto the original bus. At 11 pm, we reached Moshi Central only to discover that Flugo Tours had paid for no further arrangements. I suppose $762 is a bargain for such priceless entertainment.




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