Saturday, August 16, 2008

A Bad Day In Bongoland

On the way back from badminton on Thursday night we got pranged by an errant truck cutting across us at the most hellish roundabout in Kampala. He clipped the edge of the bull bar on the work landrover and pulled it up and forward and off its mounts. He did this all at about 20mph and sped off into the darkness. Nice.

The landrover now looks like it's raising its eyebrows at us.

But that was just the start of a series of unfortunate events.

The next morning, yesterday, I noticed one of our Shambas pick up the baby girl goat. Something was wrong. She normally runs away from anyone trying to approach her, let alone allows anyone to pick her up.

Her breathing was fast and shallow, her eyes were glazed, and her normally pink tongue looked pallid and grey.

All the staff reckoned she had malaria. They 'have' malaria about once a month. It's like their version of the common cold. Good for a duvet day.

Handily, we had vets on site. A Spanish couple who normally worked in Soroti were staying and one of them came and looked at her straight away. But just in the time we were with her, the baby goat lost the ability to stand and collapsed on the ground. She was limp in our arms when we tried to pick her up. She was deteriorating so rapidly we agreed to take her straight to the local USPCA.

The Spanish vet had donated a jumper from her baby daughter which we dressed the baby goat in to try and keep her warm (I will add a photo when we get them downloaded from the phone), and we bundled her into a cardboard box and took her straight up to the USPCA.

We got a strange look at reception when we checked in our patient. When we announced it was a goat, the receptionist tried to write 'dog' on the patient details form.

It's a GOAT, not a dog, I repeated.

The receptionist's eyebrows raised like the bullbar on our landrover.

I think we may have been the only people in Uganda ever to have brought a ruminant to the vet's.

Once inside, the nurse started to check the basics as we waited for the vet. We wrapped the baby goatlet in a blanket and gave her a hot water bottle. Her ears and legs had started to feel cold and her breathing was getting worse. Every three or four breaths she seemed to convulse slightly and I was getting a very bad feeling.

Sure enough, her breathing slowly stopped and eyes went dead. I tried to feel for a pulse as the nurse was out of the room. Where do you check for a goat pulse? The neck?

Nothing. Or if it was there, it was very faint. The vet confirmed this when she arrived a second later by checking with her stethoscope. The poor thing had just died.

From the symptoms, the vet reckoned she'd suffered a toxic reaction to something. It hadn't been an infection - there was no temperature.

But what could have infected her? Snakebite? Scorpion? A poisonous plant? Eating lead paint peelings off the walls? A guest feeding her chocolate, or worse, beer?

(Not that this last possibility has necessarily happened - but guests do funny things with animals - a few years ago two guests killed a duck by drunkenly playing catch with it and then wondered why everyone else, especially the duck, was so upset by their behaviour...)

So I pulled the blanket over the baby goat's head and left the surgery with one less goat than when we'd come in, suddenly really depressed.

And then once we got back to the office, we discovered one of our most trusted barmen might have been stealing from the company. But I'm only saying might for legal reasons - on questioning he admitted all. He's too honest and couldn't lie, but had casually pocketed dollars intended for the till as commissions from business partners we take bookings for. To him, this wasn't really stealing. To us, it was.

When the good guys turn bad, it turns the world on its head.

So what to do? A car crash, a baby goat death, and a good barman turned bad. Africa so rarely deals such negative blows - life here is normally up and positive. And if it isn't up it's at least different.

So fix the car, mourn the goatlet and dismiss the barman.

But it's still sad to see the goat wandering round with only one kid. And it's weird having to say goodbye to a previously trusted member of the team.

It's been a bad day in Bongoland.

1 comment:

Marie said...

I'm actually LYING outright on my own blog (being upbeat), and things aren't real special in my part of the world either.

But I don't want to be self-pitying in public, do I?

No dying goats or busted cars responsible on my end. Just my usual melancholy that comes from going through all these routine motions, chafing at how little progress happens when I just go to work every day.

So there's that, I least you're having bad days in Uganda instead of at home.