Today I had another one of those uniquely “African” experiences: the maternity clinic. The private doctor has become too expensive for me so I thought I’d try the public route. Elton’s auntie, Cordelia, offered to escort me. Namibian health care is first come, first serve whether you are going to the private doctor or public clinic. Monday is the day they see first-time maternity patients. We arrived a little bit late and there was already quite a line… by quite a line I mean I was #9 out of 10. The nurse was convinced I should be seeing the private doctor. She used her best arguments to deter me. She was sure I wouldn’t be seen until at least 4pm despite the fact we were entering the clinic at 9am. All she managed to accomplish was to steel my determination that the mikuwa (white person) wouldn’t be defeated. Honestly if Cordelia wasn’t with me, she would have refused me.
So I waited…..first we had to go through the line for vital statistics: weight, blood pressure, urine sample, shoe size (????? I honestly have NO idea what that has to do with anything but they use it to determine level of risk), medical history, etc. You wait until all 10 people are done. Next you move as a group to a room to be counseled about why they do blood tests, about eating habits, the risk of HIV, family planning (a little late for that, isn’t it?!) and how not to contract syphilis. Fortunately they conducted the session in English for my sake. Then it is back to waiting in a line for everyone to receive rapid HIV tests and their results (I’m happy to report: HIV-). Then back in line to wait, wait, wait to see the nurse for drawing blood and the physical exam. Just my luck: the same nurse that wanted to send me away. At this point, it is almost 1pm: lunchtime. She saw maybe 2 patients then went out of the office. Everyone else assumed she was leaving for lunch so they left too. Since I had no where to go, I continued waiting. Lo and behold she came back after just a 10 minute break and continued to see patients. Since almost everyone left I jumped from #9 to maybe #4. She continued in her “rosy” personality until she read my medical card and realized that she is somehow related to me through Elton’s father. Small world. After taking blood, poking my stomach for a few minutes and handing me a bag of multi-vitamins, she happily welcomed me to come back in a month for a checkup and to receive my blood test results. Oh, and not to forget to greet my husband for her. By this time it was about 2:15pm. I lucked out… much earlier than the predicted 4pm.
I walk away from this experience shaking my head. Not only that I wasted an entire day to save myself something like $40USD, but also about the treatment I received. I’m not quite used to being subjected to prejudice. It’s a horrible feeling to be judged based on one’s skin color. Elton’s family has always been so welcoming to be that I’ve never really suffered that feeling among them. Usually if I receive someone’s hasty judgment, it’s that I have abundant resources to help them, not usually to deny me some sort of acceptance. And how quickly that opinion can change when they realize I’m actually “one of them.” I hope to come away from this experience with the memory of how it feels so as not to commit the same offense against another.
“I now realize how true it is that God does not show favoritism but accepts those from every nation who fear him and do what is right.” Acts 10:34-35 TNIV