Sunday, March 15, 2009

Sadness in Kurobonla

In March of 1969 Skip Smith (a fellow Peace Corps volunteer) and I traveled to the Loma Mountains and Mt. Bintumani to do some hiking (I have written about this on previous posts). As I noted travel there was harsh and challenging, and after a nearly 24 hour trip (which included having our transport stuck on a remote latterite road in Guinea) we found quarters at a first aid clinic on the edge of Kurobonla. I remember feeling ill, most probably from fatigue and probably from not drinking enough on the trip. Skip was in better shape and was able to continue on to the mountain sooner than I was. It was during the first evening there that I observed a very disheartening scene. I had just finished my meal, cooked on my white gas Primus stove, and was enjoying the relatively cool air of the area, and also enjoying the view of the summit of Bintimani in the distance, when out of the high grass came a father and mother, carrying their very ill and emaciated daughter in a hammock. The young girl was extremely dehydrated, very wasted, and having difficult breathing. I was told by someone nearby that the parents had started out more than a week before, traveling the bush trails from somewhere deep in Guinea, looking for help. It was rumored that the child, probably 12 or 13 years old had tuberculosis. As they trudged to the clinic where we were staying the child was barely breathing, eyelids were only partially open, and she was unconscious.  Very soon after arrival she ceased breathing.  I remember her beautiful very black skinned face, and how very emaciated she appeared. I marvelled at these caring parents walking hundreds of miles in the Savannah seeking help for their daughter only to have her die as they reached the poorly supplied clinic in Kurobonla. Their mourning began and this was very hard for them, and although I was remote, very hard for me. I had looked at her face as they passed, offered her water but she was unable to take any in her condition, and remembered how shallow her breathing was. It was minutes later that she died. It is now 40 years from that event so very far away, but the beautiful face of this little girl, and the memory of her parents as their child died in their arms shall never leave me. 

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