When we hired Joseph Tazenou to create and maintain our yard and garden, we had no idea that our lives would intertwine as tightly as the loofah vines on the chainlink fence. Today's excerpt recalls a problem Joseph had and our attempts to help him solve it (from Part Three: Cameroon Tales, Chapter 10)
Joseph, Dakota, and Tina work in the garden
I thought he might have malaria. His glowing black skin had lost its luster and his face was drawn and gray. His robust and muscular body sagged now, weak and frail. Fred advised him to go to a doctor.
"Father, a medical doctor cannot help me, for I have a demon in my back. You don't believe me, but this is the truth. I know about modern psychology, but that is no help either. The boys I work with in the Ambassador's garden hate me because I come from Dschang and belong to a different tribe. To get rid of me they sprinkled a curse on the grass and it entered my body through the bottoms of my feet and lodged in my back. I cannot stand the pain. It will kill me if I don't go to my home village and have it removed by the medicine man."
Fred pulled out his wallet and gave Joseph bus fare to Dschang.
Three weeks later, Joseph returned, hale and hearty, his exorcism an apparent success. Fred interceded on his behalf and Joseph transferred to other duties for his part-time work at the ambassador's residence, guaranteed to be at a safe distance from the rival tribesmen and their toxic magic.
Fred and I discussed other ways to help Joseph improve his lot in life. We asked him if he would consider doing any kind of work other than gardening. He expressed an interest in office work, so we bought him a portable typewriter and paid for his enrollment in a typing class. Too bad the breadth of his fingers made typing impossible. He hit two keys with every stroke.
Joseph suggested that he might like to be an embassy driver, if only he had the chance to learn to drive. We sent him to a local driving school.
License in hand, he invited Fred to go for a drive with him to demonstrate his skills. Fred borrowed a car from the motor pool and off they went. I thought it odd when they returned so soon, with Fred behind the wheel, his lips taut and grim. Joseph retreated to his room and Fred launched into the story of his near-death experience. Joseph drove as if he had never before been behind a steering wheel. His attention flitted everywhere but the road ahead. The car weaved and wandered, slowed and speeded in random surges. Fred made him stop and change places. We shared a rueful laugh about the quality of training at the local driving school and the futility of our attempts to help Joseph find a new career. ###
Voluntary Nomads is available in paperback at Amazon