Feet First

“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, December 16, 2002
    Here is another of Chuen-Yen's vignettes of life in Africa:

    Happy 3rd week of December!

    I just returned from mushrooming. The impetus for this outing was that I impulsively purchased a finicky tortoise.

    Two days ago, I spotted a feeble old rogue waving the little reptile wildly in the air. Sensing my curiosity, the salesman approached, shaking it even more violently. After learning how to stew tortoise, I bought the tasty creature for 150 Kwacha. In reference to the reason for her (three out of five voted that it is female) purchase, she will be known as �Enigma.�

    Once home, Gift promptly informed me that the �kamba� (Chichewa for tortoise) should only cost 50 Kwacha. As usual, I was ripped off because, �Madame, the dark ones see that you are White and know you have very much money.� He then asked how I would like the kamba prepared. To his dismay, I instead converted the bathtub into a temporary testudidine habitat, which I lined with a smorgasbord of food. Being a true Malawan, she voraciously consumed a lump of mgayiwa and nothing else. After getting over his incredulousness that the non-human had a name, Gift hypothesized about my new pet, �Madame, I think you have malaria.�

    Mushrooms, apparently the favorite delicacy of kambas, are a rare commodity in Blantyre. Gift and I just made a two-hour mushroom mission through brush and garbage dumps on the outskirts of town. Our tenacious efforts paid off when, 1.5 hours into the trek, we discovered 3 immature tan boletes. We gently extracted the precious fungi from some waste, wrapped them in large leaves and, with satisfaction, headed home.

    Back at the hospital, the dentist reported that mushrooms are easy to find. They grow in front of the union headquarters adjacent to my house. Amused with our endeavors, he scolded us for not asking him where to hunt before embarking our low yield quest. I still don�t know why I should have known to ask him. Across the parking lot, we found, as described, a plethora of boletes. We picked a few and laid the offerings in front of Enigma. She lunged, as fast as a tortoise can lunge, for the local mushrooms and glared disdainfully at the laboriously imported ones. Gift silently potted the rejects and placed them in the window.

    Merry Christmas from Enigma.




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