I awoke to the sun rising, a cool breeze, chicks chirping all huddled together under their mother’s wings, and the death of an orphan goat that Teacher (my landlord/host father) had been nursing with baby milk solution since its mother died of what was thought to be malnutrition. The goat lost its mother about 3 weeks ago and at first Teacher expected it to die without its mother’s milk, but after a week on its own it was still alive so he decided to start feeding it milk that he bought from town.
Every day I would awake to see this goat (and its sibling) resisting death and surviving against all odds – it gave me a little hope. One thing about living around so many free roaming animals is that you see the beauty of birth and the small young ones playing around innocently, but at the same time you see the harsh realities of nature for death is always around the corner. I still remember how a few months ago I woke up to a dead baby goat in the middle of the compound floor. I asked Teacher about it and he said something like “I have to throw this away like a piece of trash, a living thing” while holding the lifeless animal by its hind leg. To be honest I haven’t seen much compassion or affection for animals here, but I could sense that he was morally troubled by the look on his face and the tone of his voice.
So while death is often present, so too is the breath of life. Walking back into the compound after seeing the orphaned goat’s rigor mortised body, I saw the smiling face of Ajigeway learning to eat porridge as her mother spoon fed her chubby face. By now she’s 6 months old or so, and I just found out that she was born the same day I moved to this compound house. To me she’s the brightest symbol of life I encounter on a regular basis. No matter how I’m feeling or what kind of day I had, Ajigeway’s big wide eyes absorbing all that surrounds her, and her little smile always brighten my day.
It’s pretty common normal for sons and daughters to stay in their parent’s house up to their early 30’s until they finish school, save enough to buy their own house, or rent a place (more common for men as women move to the man’s side of the family when they marry). It’s also common from what I’ve seen and heard to have your elderly parents live in your house, as well as other extended family like cousins, aunts, uncles and their children. Extended family is much more valued and important here than I’ve seen in Canada. Here if you’re my 3rd cousin then we are “from the same house” and I’ll refer to you as my sister or brother. The point I’m making is that because of how family is organized and how the living arrangements are, this small girl Ajigeway is surrounded by a number of people besides her parents who show her daily love and affection – I think this is an area back home where we tend to be underdeveloped.