In July, after school had closed, I asked my father if we could visit my grandpa soon, who lived in a rural area. My grandpa was an expert in making our traditional banana juice known as Umutobe. It’s made from ripe bananas and is very sweet. I always loved visiting him. He offered me all Umutobe I could drink.
My dad agreed and took me to my grandpa. When my grandpa saw us, he could hardly believe his eyes. “Magdalen! Magdalen!” he yelled to my grandma with a big smile on his face “Our grandson is here!” I ran straight into his arms, and my father followed, they spent almost two minutes hugging, and exchanging sweet words about how much they missed each other. Grandma came running outside to hug me, but she was not as energetic as she was last year. I think she was getting old.
When we arrived, my grandpa had already prepared Umutobe, and grandma offered me a full jug. She knew how much I liked the juice! My father was not served anything since the juice was made right at that time and he liked Umutobe fermented, so he had to wait for three days before he could enjoy the drink.
After finishing my drink, I asked Grandma if I could go out in the neighborhood to play with other children of my age. I was eleven at that time. “Sure,” my grandma said, but I still feared my father or grandpa would have stopped me because they knew I was a troublemaker. I, therefore, snuck away carefully, making sure neither of them would see me.
The boys were playing soccer and were happy to let me join. While playing I was injured, it was just a small wound but it was bleeding though. I couldn’t feel the pain while playing but it was serious when I finished the game.
“What happened? Oh my God! my grandson!” Grandma cried after I finally managed to get home. Both my father and grandpa came to see what happened. My left knee was bleeding. Grandpa struck a couple of matches, extinguished them between his index finger and thumb, and applied the ashes to my bleeding wound. It was so painful I almost wanted to urinate my underwear. When he was done, Grandpa advised me to use ashes from burnt matches whenever I was hurt, it would prevent infections from developing. “This is our way to get relief from fresh wounds,” he said when I asked him if he was a doctor.
“In case you don’t have any matches, table salt can also provide some relief,” he continued. I asked if salt or ash will help heal old wounds, but he said it wouldn’t. I was very keen to learn more from him, but my father planned to return home, so I had to gather my clothes and say goodbye to my friends in the village. The visit was too short for me but my father had already decided and there was no way to say no, I had to just obey.
When the morning came, Dad took me back home on his new bicycle. Grandpa and Ma waved us goodbye. By the time we arrived home, I packed some salt and matches in my pocket and went to play with my friends in the neighborhood, while my father was telling my mother about our adventures. While we were playing, I deliberately wounded one of my friend’s heels. I wanted to apply the methods learned from Grandpa.
My wounded friend disagreed with my method. He said it would be better to treat the wound by urinating on it, but he couldn’t do it, because the wound was on his heel. He asked one of our friends to urinate on his wound, but I denied him access because I wanted to be the one to heal him with my newly learned tricks. I knew all my friends would praise me when our friend’s wounds would cure, but he said that he had used urine before and that it would work better. He was angry with me, because I had hurt him, and now offered strange medicines! He was in so much pain though that he asked to just do it, so I took the salt and rapidly put on his bleeding wound. ”Yooo!” he cried, with a contorted face. Some friends wanted to beat me up but others protected me. I saw it as my chance to run away. A few minutes after I heard he was no more limping. I knew the remedy worked, but I also knew that he was in agony, the pain from table salt and that was my happiness.
As an eleven-year-old, I couldn’t understand why, when I went out to play with friends or learn new skills, we’d return with bleeding wounds or scratches on the body. The next morning, a friend suggested that we should learn how to ride a bicycle. I agreed and picked it up from the place where Dad used to hide it. I told my friend that I wanted to start, so he held the bicycle by its bag carrier and pushed me away. It was amazing to learn a new skill, I felt profoundly happy. But my friend let go of the bag carrier deliberately, and I lost control and fell. The chain penetrated my right calf. I could see white muscles, but I didn’t feel any pain.
I told my friend to urinate on my calf but he ran fast to bring ashes from our new neighbor’s charcoal burner. It felt strange, but after, I felt the same way as I did whenever I apply ashes from matches. So, I understood that ashes from any burnt material can be used to bring relief to small wounds. I asked myself whether people who accidentally break their legs or other parts of the body can also apply our methods to bring relief to their wounds! But I don’t think so.
When I reached home, my father had learned of the bicycle accident and said I was becoming a man now, that he should find me a wife! I knew he was joking because he was a civilized man who liked to joke around.
The last time I saw my beloved grandparents was just before I fled my country. It was very difficult to move from one part of the country to another at that time. People would violently slaughter others, even on public transportation. One time, my dad and I were lucky we didn’t die. We were traveling by bus to visit my grandparents after not having seen them for a long time, and we saw rebels burning the bus that was driving behind us. When we arrived in the village, we narrated what was going to befall us when we were on our way to visit them. They all thanked God for our safety.
I escaped when I heard them talking too much. I went into the fields and hid myself among the banana trees. I hid myself there with a bunch of bananas. I was getting one banana after another. Grandma was looking for me, but she couldn’t find me. I think they loved and checked on me every time because I was the only child my father had at that time. Now we are three. Suddenly a scorpion bit me and I screamed in pain! My father was the first person to reach out for my aid.
Grandma and Pa were too old to run fast for my assistance but they wished they were as young as their son who ran to me. They all heard my voice screaming for help. My dad held me in his arms and carried me to where Grandpa was. Grandma also rushed towards us to see what happened. The small toe of my right leg was aching. immediately, Grandpa ordered my grandma to bring him matches! At her age, running was very hard, but I saw her run as if she was Lionel Messi who was about to score a goal. Grandma returned quickly with matches. This time around, Grandpa was more interested in the flame of fire than the ash. He immediately applied the flame to the skin bitten by the scorpion. It was painful but after some minutes the pain vanished.
I lifted my eyes and saw everyone. My dad was holding my legs to prevent me from kicking. My grandma was caressing my left hand. After some minutes, Grandma took me to the kitchen. She put several sweet potatoes in the traditional wood burner and told me not to go out again. My father was too angry with me after the incident and shouted that I should not go into the fields without informing them. We relaxed but my grandparents suggested we should go back home because the country had too much insecurity. My father agreed and planned to come back home after visiting his cassava gardens which were a bit far from where my grandparents lived.
The next morning, Grandma prepared our luggage, and she gave us ripe bananas, banana juice, and cassava. I was afraid that rebels would kill us on the way back home, but I hid my feelings from my father. It was sad to see my grandparents waving as my father was riding his bicycle. It was the last time I saw them.
Can you imagine! When my firstborn fell and get wounded, I used salt to soothe the pain. My youngest daughter was watching. I was surprised when I saw her apply salt to her wound when she cut herself with a knife. Nowadays, both my daughters learned to use either table salt, match head, or ashes when they get wounded. Grandpa´s wound remedy is still alive, and it has already been passed on to my offspring.
14 May, 2023