September 1st 2010
When I first came to my village, I used to think about what would happen to me if I broke my leg, or was delirious with malaria or in some other situation when it would be difficult or impossible for me to walk or bike the 8 kilometers to the main road. A few weeks ago I was rinsing out my dish-washing basin and saw four men walking with a stretcher built of sticks hoisted on their shoulders, upon which lay a man who had cut his leg with an antsy be while chopping eucalyptus for charcoal. Ansty means knife and be means big. The antsy be is used for everything—making charcoal, clearing a field for planting, chopping firewood, peeling cassava root, cutting up vegetables.
The men were headed 10 kilometers down the road to the Centre de Sante de Base—the health clinic in my commune. I realized that if something ever happened to me, I would be carried out to the road like a wounded princess. Another method to transport the sick is on the rack on the back of a bike. One man who cut himself with an antsy be about two months ago was transported to the “good” road this way. When I went to visit his family later, he showed me his wound and how it was healing. He was lying in bed and still couldn't work.
Today I was biking home from a quick trip to the market, internet and post office. As I biked along, I began to notice bright red drops on the dirt road—lots of them. My first thought was that it looked like blood, but there were so many drops—too many. I was trying to think of other things it could be, when I saw some kids on the road and asked them about it. They told me that my friend Lala's husband had cut his arm with an antsy be while clearing his field.
As I kept going, following the fresh drops of blood the whole way back to the village, I felt sick thinking about whether he had made it to the clinic in time, thinking about the distance to the clinic and how people struggle to get there, thinking about his family and his field, still only partly cleared, and how this accident will affect their year—what they are able to plant, what work he is able to do. I thought about the antsy be and how important it is for everything in their daily lives, but how dangerous it is too. Sometimes it just strikes me how different things are difficult here. An infected wound, a few weeks delay on planting, the distance to the clinic, the tool you use every day slipping in your hand.