Slaughtering the Calf

Friday, December 9, 2011

One obstacle in this remote place is the dearth of skilled local workers. One local has carpentry and welding skills and the equipment to do the work. As the only game in town, he prices his work accordingly. We can bring Kenyan or Ugandan workers from Bor or Juba, but that is costly, too, and with the long rainy season it isn’t always possible. Manyok and Dau are learning the art of negotiation. They know what things should cost, and they don’t give out the contracts until the price is reasonable. Our most recent negotiation was for welding of the elevation structure for our water tank and the gates for our fence. At this particular time, we have an advantage as the Kenyan plumbers and electricians now working on our site are capable of doing this job as well.

We now have a hand washing sink on the outside wall of our ablution blocks. Not a novel concept—use the toilet and wash your hands right afterwards—but there aren’t any sinks at the clinic, for example. The faucet at the clinic is a trek from the latrine through the clinic and from there to the dining compound. The water that spills from this knee-high faucet is drinkable, splashes onto broken concrete and trickles down a shallow mud ditch. From this single outdoor faucet we fill our water bottles, basins to wash clothes, buckets to wash dishes. We also wash the dust from our feet and legs and rinse our toothbrushes.

Earlier in the week, a small cow walking outside our fence managed to climb over a pile of concrete blocks and tumble into the hole dug for our septic tank. One of our crew was working on the ablution block roof, and he got down from the roof, jumped into the hole, and lifted the calf to another worker. Unfortunately, the calf sustained spinal damage of some sort and wasn’t able to walk or stand, but remained alive. Someone went to notify the owner and ask him to come and determine what should be done with the cow. He declined, so Manyok and Dau went to visit him. He was angry and verbally abusive but would not offer a resolution. They expected him to send someone to examine the animal. Cows here are not sacred as in India, but they are prized and people will starve before slaughtering them. The idea is to have them and to accumulate more like money in the bank. Of course they breed them, and they use the milk, but beef is saved for celebrations and weddings.

The crew carry the cow to a grassy area and offered water. On Friday, as no one had come on behalf of the owner, they put it out of its misery. It served to feed them all. I can’t understand it. If these animals are so loved, how could this calf be left to suffer by the owner? The septic tank was finished and covered. No other animals (or children) will suffer such a fate.

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