Many times our patients will bring us some guinea eggs so that's what I was expecting.
I walked out the front door, and there on a bench sat an old man, rather frail.
"U duan guam te?" I greeted him. ("How was your lying down and sleeping?")
"Laafia" he replied... and we went through the other parts of the greeting... "how is your family?", "how are your children?", and so on...
Then this dear old man held up a black plastic sack to me and opened it.
"A po", "It's for you," he said.
I took the bag and looked inside.
Well, I've never received Gum Arabic before as a gift...and in it's raw form!
I was a bit speechless, but quickly recovered and heartily thanked him.
Since then, I take the bag out every now and then just to look at the beautiful formations of the sap. When the light hits them, they just shimmer.
Gum Arabic is a binder and thickening agent, used in many of today's products. The soft drink industry is probably the biggest buyer, but it is found in numerous other products, from printer ink to cosmetics to art supplies. And it's a big money-maker. In this country, rural people will collect it and sell it to merchants,who then sell it to big buyers.
But out in the bush, many people will chew on it, just as we enjoy Chewing Gum. And Gum Arabic is in that too!
So I was given a very expensive gift by a patient who appreciated our work at the clinic. All things considered, I think that's one of the nicest gifts I've received!