Let me continue my “Tour de Fame” by introducing you to some of Fame’s main characters. Adored by most, hated by some. Like the extremely charming dog Charley, who, omnipresent, is roaming around the Fame territory day and night. He knows everyone’s secrets. He is the listening type, the one that feels your moods, the one that you go to after a difficult shift. He is a bit chubby and everyone likes to discuss his weight issues in public. Instead of giving him even more food, I took him for a walk as often as possible. He made me feel protected, although I think he probably wouldn’t even harm a fly. He is the type that walks a girl home every night after a shift, and waits patiently outside while you are taking forever to get ready for an outing.
Charley has one arch enemy on the Fame territory: the redhead cat Mathilda, owned by volunteer coordinator Alex. He defends the behaviour of his cat like a single father who knows he did his best but can’t help his cat is a little queen with a big attitude who doesn’t accept correction. Warm-hearted Charley was initially on good terms with Mathilda, but after having been attacked innocently several times, even he thought she had gone a paw too far. These days, as soon as Charley sees Mathilda, he chases her down with a speed you wouldn’t expect from an animal with his laid-back nature.
Mathilda doesn’t know what instructions are and definitely doesn’t know what “no” means. After I had woken up at Fame for the first time, I noticed her. She kept trying to enter the house and was begging and mowing at the window, with an obsessed look at the bread and cheese I was having for breakfast. In the other volunteer house, they had issues with bread and other food disappearing when everybody was absent. Finally, the culprit was found: the cat Mathilda, a thief by nature. To be fair, when someone had issues with bugs in his or her bed, Mathilda was also high on the list of suspects, but those accusations were never supported by clear evidence. I tend to call her innocent on that one.
According to the saying “the friend of my friend is my friend”, I have more positive reports on the black canteen cat. Even though, being a real queen, she is not willing to take much correction either, breaks all hygiene norms by sitting on canteen tables and is hardly willing to make space for the staff to put their food down. Ever since a blind cat scratched me in the face as a child, I have been a bit afraid of those animals, so I sometimes had to smile kindly to one of the staff to remove the cat for me so that I could have a space to eat lunch. I could easily tolerate this lady though, as she was part of the set and turned out to be a sweet companion to Charley.
The Fame founders, the couple Frank and Susan, who also live on the site, have their own local zoo: two dogs and a grey striped cat. When we went for a veranda meeting, the dogs were like big puppies, one with a bit too much baby fat an the other one with too much energy. Their cat on its turn, was very persistent in trying to steal even the vegetarian samosas.
Talking about “companions”, for some reason, my sleeping room attracted more insects than any other place in the house. With some of them, I signed a sort of armed peace (see picture), while others met their end under my never missing flip-flops. One advice: when you travel to Africa, pack waterproof flip-flops. They can be used on many occasions for many different purposes, from surviving a dirty shower to killing a poisonous spider or, if need be, slapping someone in the face. Waking up one morning I saw four giant spiders on the couch on which, until then, I had been chilling so nicely during the nights. I grabbed my flip-flops and could kill three out of four. From then on, the couch was a no go area to me.
By the way, us volunteers got along very well and we really had a great time in each others company. We didn’t just work shifts together, but also went for evenings in town and safaris. We had one radiologist, two internists, one registered nurse, one non-medical volunteer and me, a midwife, in our volunteer crew. Our non-medical volunteer got to experience what it means to hang out with medical people, but she really got along with our freaky talks and was the glue binding us all together.
With some of the main characters introduced, my next blog will finally take you to the hospital. Stay tuned!
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