Welcome back, Robert. You Have Grown Fat.
I think what my colleague at the Ministry meant to say was “Welcome back, Robert. You are looking really well after your holiday in England.” I can only assume that her command of English was not good enough to deal with the full subtleties of the language!
If, on the other hand, she was correct in her observations, then I have to blame the wonderful hospitality that we received, during our home leave, in such diverse places as Nottingham, London, Minehead in Somerset and Lewes in Sussex.
We had a great time catching up with friends and family and the only thing that slightly marred our visit was the four dental appointments that kept me travelling back and forth to Northampton over the space of about a month.
It was a few days before we left South Sudan that I first became aware that the crown on one of my teeth was coming loose. When I mentioned this to my dentist, he put his latex-gloved fingers into my mouth and then smugly said, “Did you mean this one?” as he proudly presented me with the crown. I had felt nothing. I think the wretched crown was being held in place by gravity and not much more.
Anyway, the upshot was that I needed a root canal to be re-excavated and filled with antiseptic for a week, then the tooth needed to be ‘rebuilt’, before a new crown could be fitted.
I have never been a great fan of dentists and I was singularly unimpressed when this onesaid that he gave me about a 50/50 chance that the repair on my tooth would work. His parting words were “If you have problems with it when you get back to Africa, just get someone to take it out.” After all that!
I didn’t have the heart to tell him that our nearest proper dentist is 800 miles away. The Dinka can remove teeth with a spear if necessary, but, call me a wimp, I think I’ll pass on that. I have a big bag of pain killers, just in case.
So, we finally got back a few weeks later than planned and people have been very welcoming. I think they were a bit surprised that we actually came back at all and now we can’t walk down the street without being warmly greeted by someone or other.
The trouble is that, as the only eccentric, grey-haired, bicycling, white couple in town, everybody knows us. Unfortunately, this state of affairs is not always reciprocated. The following scene takes place on a regular basis.
Random Person: Hallo Robert, hallo Madame Linda. How are you?
Linda and I: We’re fine. Thank you. How are you?
Random Person: I’m fine. How was England?
Linda and I: England was fine. Cold and wet when we left.
Random Person: How was your family?
Linda and I: They’re fine. Everyone was fine.
Random Person: How was your daughter?
Linda and I: She’s fine, thanks.
Random Person: Welcome back to Rumbek. Bye!
Linda and I: Thank you. It’s good to be back. Bye!
Linda: Who was that?
Me: Not a clue.