Most of us probably know someone who had a ‘happy accident’ – the extra child that wasn’t quite expected! Some come within the same rough timespan as their older siblings so it’s never really that obvious; for others there’s a significant enough gap for them to spend much of their life making jokes about being the ‘whoops’.
But imagine bearing your parents’ surprise in your name?!
This week I dropped in on the District Medical Officer for Kisii district. The boss. These courtesy calls are part and parcel of our trips. You have to make your presence known, explain your purpose and be given the official go ahead to interview and photograph. Sometimes these meetings are long and boring; sometimes the ‘big cheese’ dismisses you quickly, not much interested in your business; sometimes you are treated with slight suspicion.
What would this meeting have in store? “Hello, I am Dr Nyongesa, nyongesa is Swahili for addition. I was my parents’ unexpected one. You are most welcome!”. Thereafter followed that deep musical laugh that I so associate with my trips to Africa.
That meeting set a tone for our time at Kisii Hospital. Everyone was warm, welcoming and keen to talk to us about how Merlin has been supporting them. There was also this thing about names. I interviewed Mary who manages the oncology ward and her colleague, Mary, who managed the HIV clinic. They told me about their friends on the TB ward – Mary, Mary and Mary.
I already blogged about the amusing conversation with John, when I asked about his health worker Alice and he started talking about his wife Alice. That was Tuesday. On Thursday, health worker Alice took us to meet another one of her clients. She was called Alice.
The mother I met on Tuesday morning was called Elizabeth. And the lady at the top of the very steep hill that we huffed and puffed up and skidded down? Elizabeth. Josephine who was so interested in learning about our equipment is not the same Josephine who cooked us the most amazing chapattis.
Alongside us while we met all these new names and faces was Merlin’s Dickens. Except I have been calling him Dixon all week.