Sunday, 17 May 2009

Unfair presumptions - Post 34

Kacper walked down the stairs from the Ethiopian Airways Boeing 737 at N’Djamena airport. The heat was overwhelming. ‘Surely, I am back to Chad’, he recognised. ‘Feels like hell again’ he smiled. He looked around the small airport. There were around 5 United Nations planes, and a big cargo jumbo with a logo of some air company that he didn’t know. He was making his way to the arrival’s terminal, a small and simple looking building. A group of Chinese workers, who came on the same flight from Addis Ababa, run frantically towards the entry of the terminal, wanting to clear immigration before other passengers. Kacper made sure that he let all hurrying Asians pass in front of him… He is scarred of disorganised crowds, and he prefers taking time, rather than exposing himself to a danger of being run over by overexcited people.

The Chadian immigration officer proved to be extremely polite. He got interested in Kacper’s passport. ‘You are from Poland’, he stated. ‘You must be coming here to join the Polish military forces working for the United Nations?’ he enquired in English. ‘No sir, I am arriving here to join one of the humanitarian organisations in Abeche’ explained Kacper and added that he was going to remain in Chad just for 5 days. ‘This is a very short visit’, noticed the man. ‘Where will you be going afterwards?’ he asked. Kacper told the officer about his plans of going to Pakistan, and working for benefit of displaced Pakistanis, who flee the ongoing fighting in the Swat Valley. ‘Aren’t you scared of doing it? It seems like, it is a dangerous place these days!’ he expressed his concern. Kacper thought it was funny to hear it from the Chadian official, whose country has been more or less in civil war for years. Just before he made this remark, he bit his tongue and answered: ‘Sure sir, I am scared of insecurity, but this is a nature of my work to go to places, where people need humanitarian assistance’ he added politely instead.

Kacper remembered of his airport conversation later on, when he arrived to his house in N’Djamena. ‘It is interesting to see how relative everything is’ he thought. ‘A Chadian in his home country perceives that Pakistan is unstable, whereas all seemed to be normal for him in Chad’, Kacper went on wondering. ‘Surely, most Poles would consider Chad to be extremely unsafe, something that some Chadians might find offensive and unfair… This goes even further, many Westerners consider Poland to be underdeveloped, the opinion that infuriates most of Kacper’s countrymen’, he kept on in his mind.

One of the main lessons that Kacper had learnt while travelling around the world was not to make assumptions about unknown places and people. There were so many examples that proved him wrong about his beliefs.

Kacper still remembers his greatest lesson on humbleness that he received in Bangladesh some time ago. He is ashamed of himself when he recalls what kind of opinions he had of the country, before he went there. ‘Corrupt, messy, unsafe, inefficient, extremely poor…’ were just a few adjectives that were entering Kacper’s mind, when he thought of Bangladesh. Reality proved so different. Bangladesh and its people charmed him. He loved the country, its colours, people’s friendliness and hospitality, and their commitment to traditions. He found the place simply enchanting. Kacper met many extremely interesting and fascinating Bangladeshis, who challenged his views on his perception of the world, and simply inspired him.

Of course, Bangladesh is very poor in terms of economical values, but this is not at all how the country manifested itself to Kacper, and he will never look at it, as a depressed and hopeless place. As a truth of a matter, Bangladesh, or Bangladeshis literally saved his life – something that Kacper will never forget and will always be grateful for.

‘Sadhan, I will need to go to a toilet, please excuse me for a second’ Kacper informed his Bangladeshi colleague and friend, in a middle of their meeting. Sadhan worked in the same organisation. He was responsible for managing media relations and information management. They were having a meeting, during which they discussed a press release their organisation was going to make to the media, on situation of homeless, who had lost their houses to the cyclone that hit the country months earlier.

He was sitting on a toilet closet and got worried. He felt a scrutinising pain in his tummy. It felt like if someone had just shot at Kacper. The pain was so severe, he thought he was going to faint. ‘Kacper, something terribly wrong is happening to you’ he thought to himself panicking. He pulled himself out of the toilet seat with a greatest difficulty. ‘At least I can stand’ he assessed the situation. Trouble was that his trousers were still down, and he needed to pull them up, before he left the toilet. The task of dressing himself seemed so difficult at the moment that nearly impossible to accomplish. ‘Now or never’ he decided and he bent over to reach for his trousers. He felt like screaming, and sweat instantly appeared on his forehead, neck and back. The pain was intolerable. Kacper slowly and gently tried to fix a belt around his waist, but just a thought of touching his tummy brought discomfort to him…

‘Kacper what is wrong with you?’ asked John, Kacper’s Indian friend, who worked as a chief accountant. He stood in front of him pale and at a point of collapsing. ‘John, I need to go to hospital immediately’ whispered Kacper. He tried to keep his voice down, so he doesn’t attract an unnecessary attention of other colleagues in the office. ‘You want to see the doctor?’ asked John seeking reassurance. ‘No… I think that it is too late for an ordinary doctor, or clinic, I don’t know what is happening, but it seems I need a hospital rather than anything else’ explained Kacper. John didn’t ask any more questions. He helped Kacper sit down, and went to arrange for a car to take him to hospital.

It was George, another accountant from Bangladesh, who escorted Kacper to hospital. ‘Kacper, hang in there’, he nearly begged him. George got worried to hear Kacper screaming loudly, whenever their car hit speed bumps, or potholes. He reached for his mobile and called the hospital, which they were approaching. Kacper, half conscious, heard him instructing the medical staff to be ready in the emergency entrance, with stretches. ‘There is something seriously wrong with him…’ he was explaining.

‘How are you feeling?’ a friendly looking doctor asked Kacper. At that point, he couldn’t answer. He had tears in his eyes, and he obviously seemed to be suffering enormously. ‘Just tell me where it hurts the most’ the doctor added and inserted his stethoscope to his ears. He delicately examined Kacper’s tummy, observing his face carefully, trying to notice, when his touching caused extra discomfort. ‘We will give you some painkillers now, they will start working soon, and you will feel a bit better soon. We will also need to take blood for examination, and we shall send you for a CAT scan immediately after.

‘Sir, you will need to hold the contrast liquid inside you for 3 more minutes’ begged him a young nurse, who helped perform the scan. ‘We really need to finish the examination’ he added. Kacper was literally screaming out of pain. Finally, the nurse detached Kacper from some pipes he was hooked up to, and helped him to a wheelchair. He covered Kacper’s legs with a blanket, and started pushing his wheelchair towards the toilet. The moment they left the examination room, Kacper screamed and that was it… all liquid he tried to hold inside his intestines made his way out of his body. It obviously was extremely messy, and very embarrassing to Kacper. The wheelchair, the floor around them, and indeed Kacper himself was all dirty and smelly… ‘I am so sorry, I am so sorry …’ Kacper kept on repeating. ‘Sir, please do not worry… just take it easy’ the nurse reassured Kacper with a smile. ‘We will take care of this… now, the most important is that you are fine’ he added and asked other colleagues for help to clean Kacper.

Kacper was in his hospital bed. His colleagues from work arrived there as well. The pain was more bearable at that point; the medicaments that he had been injected started working.

The familiar doctor entered the room. ‘Kacper, is that OK that I discuss with you the results of your examinations with your friends around?’ he asked politely. ‘Of course doctor’ Kacper confirmed. ‘They are like my family’ he added. The doctor smiled. ‘I do not have very good news, but please do not worry, you will be fine’ he started. ‘Your bowel seems to have perforated, and your body is being poisoned by what should be inside your intestines’ he continued. ‘We will need to operate you immediately’ he concluded. ‘Yes doctor’ was all what Kacper could say. He was so much in pain that he didn’t care anymore what was going to happen to him. He just wanted that someone does something to stop it. If he was to die; let it be, he wanted to die, but the quicker the better. He just couldn’t imagine suffering for an hour longer.

John enquired about possible complications of the operation, and asked the doctor whether it wasn’t better to evacuate Kacper to Thailand. ‘I understand your worries… I know that you might be concerned that we will not be up to the job to help your friend, but please believe me, we will look after him the way he would be looked after in any other place in the world. Besides, Kacper has got maximum one hour to live, if we don’t do anything now’ the doctor added firmly. ‘Doctor, please, can you please operate me here… I am more than happy that you do the surgery, and I fully trust you!’ Kacper asked with a weak voice. ‘Very well!’, the doctor said ‘We are preparing the operation theatre’ he said and disappeared.

‘You can not drink water now sir… I know you are thirsty, but you can’t drink now’ the nurse told Kacper stroking his hand. Kacper was in a sterile-clean room. There were other beds inside, and some of them were occupied by patients too. The intensive care unit seemed to be working extremely efficiently. There was always someone checking on Kacper, and none of his movements, or noises went unnoticed. ‘The operation was successful Kacper’ explained the nurse, whenever he asked. ‘It is still painful, but you will be just fine’ she went on. ‘Please try to sleep a bit and rest’ she added caringly.

A few days later, Kacper was brought to a regular ward. He was in his private and comfortable room. He seemed to be recovering very fast. One night however, Kacper had a crisis. For no apparent reason, in the middle of the night he started crying. Tears flew on his cheeks, and he sobbed quietly. He was convinced no one could hear him, and he didn’t expect anyone checking on him for another few hours. Suddenly, the door of his room opened. It was too late; Kacper couldn’t pull himself together and hide his tears… The doctor noticed him being miserable at once. Kacper tried stop sobbing, but it didn’t really work, it became even worse, in front of the doctor.

The man just pulled a chair, next to Kacper, and he took Kacper’s hand into his warm hands. He just sat there, saying nothing… It took Kacper another 3; perhaps 4 minutes, before he was ready to stop crying. ‘Is there anything, anything at all that I can do to make you feel better?’ asked the doctor. ‘You already made me feel better doctor. Thank you!’ Kacper answered. ‘Will you sleep now?’ continued the doctor. ‘I will try’ Kacper took a big breath. He felt looked after, and this felt so good. ‘The nurse will come in a moment, and will give you something to help you sleep Kacper’ the doctor smiled. ‘And make sure, you buzz me, when you need me… even if you just want me to sit here for a minute or two’ he tried to encourage him.

‘I think that it was the best medical care I have received for years’ assured Kacper his worried parents, when they collected him at the airport of Krakow. He was back home in Poland, where he was going to stay for a few weeks to recuperate. He was so happy he could enjoy views of familiar landscapes and buildings, when they drove. Kacper knew that he was able to experience seeing his parents, and his own place again only because of professionalism and devotion of his Bangladeshi doctors, nurses and friends. ‘And I thought I was going to a country, where nothing worked properly’ he recalled still slightly embarrassed of himself.

PS. Kacper is watching the news on latest developments in Sri Lanka.


  1. This is such a beautiful post because you go beyond our initial impressions of places and people. Yes, we all make assumptions, but have we got the courgae to challenge them? You have, my friend, you have. I hope you have a very nice stay in Chad.

    Greetings from London.

  2. Ooh! I had a lump in my throat reading this. This is so beautiful. Since discovering your post I look so forward to it. Thank you!

  3. Good post Kacper, if only we could get beyond our first impressions of people and places.

  4. I am really glad, you enjoyed the post!

    Best regards,

  5. on that Afrikaans movie please check the ff website

  6. Thanks a million Moremogolo!