Hi my dear friends, beside having the unforgettable experience shared in the class of today, I am now sharing with you another most unforgettable experience.
When I was about to leave for Kenya and Botswana (Africa), many of my friends strictly warned me to keep myself away from infected people with HIV/AIDS. Even some suggested to me to never touch or shake their hands. To avoid such a disease I made sure then that I would never make any kinds of physical contact with people with HIV/AIDS.
A week after I arrived there, one of my colleagues, Kabello, invited me to go to the state hospital in Francistown, to visit a bedridden lady, called Sethunya (Flower). Fifteen minutes later we arrived in the hospital. We found Sethunya lying in her lonely bed in the third-class female ward. She was at her wits end. Amazingly, her sadness immediately disappeared when she saw Kabello come closer and closer to her bed. For her Kabello was everything. I could see it by the way Kabello showed his care. He held her weak hands and embraced her tightly. As I had just seen her for the first time, I only stood stiff beside her bed after holding and shaking her right weak hand; no more than it. Even though she showed a hearty welcome to me, she looked so miserable in my eyes. She spoke in English but unfortunately I did not understand her, not even a word. Clearly she was affected by her pain. She had been trying very hard to open her mouth wider, but she failed. So, she just seemed to murmur all the time.
In fact, it was time for her to have her breakfast. So, after some 10 minutes of chatting Kabello asked me to say a prayer for her cure and for the breakfast as well. After that Kabello fed her some porridge which we picked up on the way to the hospital. Even though she was very hungry, she just picked at the porridge. She couldn`t swallow because her mouth hurt so much. With great patience Kabello kept on encouraging her to finish the porridge. I topped it off with some fresh milk and handed it over to Kabello. “Come on Sethunya, please finish this porridge. It will give you some strength to cure yourself”, Kabello assured her in a deep voice. Almost in a whisper, Kabello continued, “Be sure that you will get cured very soon. Anton and I will come to collect you and take you home. Everybody at home is waiting for you”. This really touched me. Great Kabello gave her lots of strength to keep on eating. She really tried her best to finish the porridge. I saw in her deepest heart a promise to finish the nutritious breakfast. At times we made some jokes. Kabello said some of the jokes she loved most. We noticed that she wanted to tell some other jokes that Kabello had forgotten. Somehow she failed. Her mouth hurt so much as she tried hard to speak and chew the porridge.
After struggling for a long time, she finally finished her breakfast. The porridge slowly dissolved in her mouth. She must had gained some strength for this time. So, after that we continued our chatting. During the chatting something impelled me not to ask Kabello what kind of disease she was suffering from. I just kept the question to myself.
Unfortunately, time was passing quickly. We had been there already for almost two hours. We would have liked to stay to take her mind off her aches and soreness, but we had to say goodbye to her as the visiting hours were up. So, we said good bye to her and all of the nurses and the surrounding patients.
It took us 30 minutes to reach our house as we had to pop into several places. We also slipped in a outlet to buy Sethunya warm clothes made of cotton wool, that would be brought any time when visiting her. I felt I couldn`t keep the question of Sethunya`s disease to myself any more. Answering my question, Kabello told me that Sethunya was suffering from AIDS. “AIDS? From where does she get it?”, I asked, shocked. “Yes, she got that disease from her late husband”, Kabello answered. “So, her husband is late already?”, I added. “ The husband passed on last year. So, people living with AIDS are like that, suffering and dying soon after one another”, he confirmed. Furthermore, he said to me with a shiver, “Sethunya will nevermore come to our house; she will pass on very soon”. I was so surprised and sad.
Kabello kept on talking about HIV/AIDS in Botswana and of the people he had helped and visited. I did involve myself in the converstation along the way home, but I was afraid too that I would be infected. The warning of my friends overhelmed me so much. I was so afraid if I could be infected by the disease.
After thinking deeply for some time, I tried to make sure that I wouldn`t get infected. I kept telling to myself that Kabello was the proof to me. He was much closer to Sethunya than me and he used to be like that with all the other people with HIV/AIDS; yet he was still uninfected with the disease.
On arriving home I talked to those who did not visit Sethunya about this very first experience I had in the hospital. The story of Sethunya and other people with HIV/AIDS then became a hot topic of talking during the lunch time in the dining room. All of my friends at the table assured me that the contagion of the disease was not in holding or shaking hands, embracing, or sharing the same soap.
To our surprise and sadness, the news came just after our breakfast the following day that the loving person, Sethunya, had already gone. We canceled our scheduled agenda of meeting and rushed to the hospital. We took her body and handed it over to her family. Together with her family we prepared everything for the burial on the following day, Saturday. We also wrapped her body with the cotton wool cloth that we bought the day before. All of us really sorrowed at her death.
After the great sorrow, I searched out a lot of information concerning HIV/AIDS. I got more and more very important insights from newspapers, internet and books, especially from a book called "On Death and Dying" by Elisabeth Kübler Ross. Based on this information and insight, it became very clear that I could only contract HIV/AIDS if I had any kind of physical fluid contact. After that, I was not hesitant about the ordinary physical contact like embracing and hand-shaking with the people of Botswana. Time proved this truth to me.
Since I came back here Indonesia, all those wonderful memories often cross my mind. Unfortunately, right now, I don`t keep in touch with those sick friends. I just wish I could go back to Botswana to see them again and share the fun again despite their illness. I do miss them so much.