Part 3 - Please start below at Part 1
Dar es Salaam, Tanzania
I woke to the sounds of his phone ringing. I looked at my watch and it was after midnight. The evening commotion of the street had subsided and all was quiet except for the ceiling fan and the angry little phone ringing away. I picked it up. It was one of the little Nokia types that everyone had had in 8th and 9th grades. It had the game “snake” on it.
I looked at the phone and saw the name “Njankluddy” illuminated on the screen. Somewhat annoyed at being woken up, but also excited to hear how my good dead had worked out, I picked up the phone.
“Roooss,” the phone moaned and then started coughing the same disease cough as earlier.
Startled, I took a moment. “Jean-Claude? How are you feeling man?”
“I’m in the hospital,” he wailed absently, “Roooss” he said again.
“I – know,” I was puzzled. “Did they give you the medicine? Are you feeling better?”
“Ross,” the phone wailed again. ‘What the fuck is this?’ I though. “I’m sick. I need an ultrasound.” This came out as alter sound. “Doctor says I need an ultrasound. For my stomach. I’m so sick.”
“Ok?” I wasn’t sure how to respond. “Aren’t they treating you for Malaria?”
“I need an ultrasound. For my stomach. They gave me a drip for Malaria, but I’m sick – I need an ultrasound!” and then he broke into a cascade of coughs. ‘What the fuck is he talking about?’ I wondered. ‘Why is he sounding so miserable about the ultrasound?’ And then it dawned on me – ‘he wants me to pay for it’ I realized.
“Ok, ok Jean-Claude-y – so how much is it going to cost?”
“Rossss,” he moaned, “they need 40,000. I need an ultrasound. I might not make it – I’m so sick pray for me!”
40,000! Plus the 35,000 that I had already given him. That’s a lot of money in East Africa, but what could I do? I was involved and he couldn’t turn my back on the man now. A sick man, a refugee. And it wasn’t that much money.
“Ok, can you come over to the hotel?”
“When I finish the drip. Thank you. Pray for me.” And the phone beeped because Njankluddy had hung up.
I remained still in his bed. 75,000. He had seemed ok earlier – sick but not like this. The man was hardly making sense on the phone. And then I thought about something else – an ultrasound is just a diagnostic procedure. Surely he would need treatment for whatever they found. How much would that cost?
But god, how could I be so cheap? This was a man’s life, a man I knew. Someone who had spent the day trying to help me.
I thought all these things and waited for the phone to ring again. Eventually it did and I went downstairs.
The hotel manager, a big hawk nosed Indian, was sitting in the lobby and he peered at me with a puzzled look on his face. It was nearly 1 am.
I had a guard unlock the door and I stepped out into the darkness of the street. Dar es Salaam has almost no street lights. At night it is very, very dark.
Directly ahead, a man sat on a motorcycle watching me. To his left, a few figures could barely be made out through the darkness.
“Ross,” the sound came from my right and I reeled around to see a silhouette sitting on the hood of a parked car. I walked over to the man. He looked bad, he was panting, his shirt was pulled up exposing his stomach and his arms were curled up as if the small muscles in his arms had tightened up and he couldn’t release them.
“Jean-Claude, did the medicine help at all? Are you feeling any better?” I asked lamely – after all, what was I going to say? ‘Njankluddy, you look like shit’? I was still fishing for some good news.
“Ross! My stomach. I need an ultrasound.” He tried to sit up but after only lifting himself a few inches he flopped onto his back again.
“You told me,” I didn’t know what to do, I wanted to help, but Jesus!
Could I just give him the money 40,000 and go back inside? “So what happened?”
“Ross! My stomach! They put me in a ward to get a drip and next to me the guy is coughing and he has TB. You know TB? I can’t get TB, I will miss my classes! 6 months to treat TB. Don’t make me go back to that ward. Please!”
‘Make you? Make you? What is he talking about?’
“Doctor says I need to be in the hospital for 3 days and now I’m going to get TB! Please don’t make me. There is another ward.”
And again, a moment of realization for me – He wants more money.
“How much to move to another ward?”
“80,000 for the new ward and treatment.”
“So you want 120,000?” I asked, shocked by the number.
“Ross! They won’t treat me without the money. I need 140,000.”
“140,000? What is the extra 20 for?” ‘This is getting ridiculous I thought to myself.
“10,000 for the ride here,” he pointed at the guy on the motorcycle,” and “10,000 for food earlier. I didn’t want to eat but they said that I couldn’t take the medicine without food. He coughed again – a very sick, convincing cough.
I went over to the guy on the motorcycle. “Did you bring him from the hospital?” I asked.
The man gave me a blank “I don’t speak English” look. I didn’t ask again but instead waved him over to Njankluddy, still lying on the car.
Njankluddy looked ghastly. He had his mouth open, locked in a half grimace. The man said something to him in Swahili and he didn’t respond, didn’t move at all.
I wondered if he might die right there. How tidy that would be. And then, deep guilt – how terrible – this man needed to get back to the hospital.
The motorcycle guy hoisted Njankluddy back into a sitting position and pulled his shirt back down over his stomach.
“Ross,” Njankluddy stirred to life.
“Ok, ok,” it was too much for me. Yes it was a lot of money, but what could I do? I couldn’t let the man die because I didn’t want to give him $100. $100!
I had no choice. Hell, I even had the money on him. So I reached into my pocket and pulled out a bunch of 10,000 shilling bills – red with pictures of elephants on them – and counted out 14 and handed them over.
“Feel better man,” I said and started to walk away until a “Ross” stopped him.
“Pray for me.”
“Ok I will,” and I was back in the light of the hotel.
Back inside the hotel, the manager was clearly interested in his guest that had just popped outside for all of five minutes in the middle of the night.
“Is everything ok?” he inquired.
“Yes, a friend of mine needed to talk to me,” I replied.
“A friend, yes I see,” said the manager. “A friend from here?”
“Yeah, I met him the other day, he is helping me buy a motorcycle.”
“Oh, I see. Well just be careful and don’t trust anybody." He paused, "there are a lot of people here who think that they can make money off of you. You need to be careful.”
I looked at the ground and wondered if it would be hard to get out of Dar the next day. I didn’t say a word to the manager, walked upstairs to my room, turned off the lights and went to bed.