Arusha Days

I wake as usual in the wooden dormitory, on the simple framed bed with it's horsehair mattress. It's hot already. The mosquitos are buzzing in my ear. I hate the mosquitos. I hate them so much, hate the high pitched "nnnnwwww" sound they make, as they fly past your ear. I've had malaria twice now. Its horrible. They make me take this yellow powder from a teaspoon. Once, I sneezed and spilt it, and they beat me, and no one got breakfast. Mornings are hard. Michal wets his bed. We all get punished when he does. Once, I decided to do something about it. In the night, I tied a piece of string around his willy, tight, to stop the wee getting out. It worked - he didn't wet the bed. Trouble is, his willy swelled up like a balloon, and they had to take him to hospital, because his willy had swollen up so much, they couldn't cut the string off. Still. They never found out it was me. To breakfast. The usual race to see who cam eat fastest; loser goes hungry. I don't care. There's my sister over there, with that girl she's always with. I think they're in love. She never has time for me anymore, just hangs around with HER, holding hands and laughing. I don't care! I don't need her anyway. We're heading to the river today. Me and the boys. Have to be careful walking barefoot down there, though. Last time, some insect crawled right through my skin and into my foot. Or maybe just eggs got in. I don't know. Anyway, next thing, this insect was growing under the skin on the sole of my foot. IN MY FOOT! sick. Anyway, the only thing you can do when that happens, is find a Masai. They're the only ones who can help. You stand really still, REALLY still, and they do something with a piece of bone, fast, while you're notlooking, and its gone. But still. It hurts a lot. Best not take our shoes off. We head off, the three of us. I lead the way. I'm youngest, and a girl, but I'm bravest too. We're going to the swing. Its made of creepers. The boys follow me through the bush. Here's the river, here's the swing. We play for hours. When I'm in the air, I feel like I'm FLYING! We're not supposed to be here - the river's forbidden. Time to head back soon. One last go each. My last go, I push off REALLY hard, I swing up high, high, out across the river , weeeee..... somehow, i don't turn quickly enough, and I'm heading backwards towards the tree, I can't turn, I can't ... SMASH. I hit the tree back first, full force. I try to curl away as I reach the tree, and bang the bottom of my back, full force, into the tree trunk. I let go of the rope, and fall onto the red mud bank, half in and half out of the water. I can't breathe. I can't move. I can't speak. The boys pull me up the bank. I lie there, staring up at the treetops, tears pouring down my face and into my ears. The boys are panicking. We shouldn't be here. What if I've broken my back. What if I'll never walk again? The boys try to pull me up again, but I just scream, and they let me back down into the mud. Half an hour later, together, we get me to my feet. I limp back slowly, leaning on them. We've missed lunch. We're in for a hiding. We can't tell anyone where we've been or what happened. I try to walk on my own as we reach camp. They know something has happened, they don't know what. We're in disgrace. My back hurts. My head hurts. My sister doesn't care. I can't eat. I feel sick. When supper time comes, I don't want bread and jam, I just want to sleep. But when I get into bed, I hurt too much to sleep. I lie awake, on my side, listening to tje nightime sounds of the bush, and wondering how long this pain will last. How long? Maybe a lifetime.