So, Kapuna. Get ready for a torrent of random information.
This is a rather interesting place, mainly because it isn’t really a village in the traditional sense. Once upon a time in 1949 a small missionary hospital was set up in the bush. It quickly grew and included a training school for general healthcare workers. This same hospital still stands today in Kapuna, 70 years after its establishment. The hospital and training school now run under the Gulf Christian Services who have also set up a primary school for the children of its employees. As a result, Kapuna’s only permanent residents are those connected to the organisation. Dr. Calvert, lovingly called ‘Grandma’ by everyone living here, is the oldest resident of Kapuna. She started working at the hospital in 1953 together with her husband. Sadly, her husband passed away in 1982, but she stayed on to continue her work. She finally decided to go for an early retirement at the tender age of 88, and currently boasts a respectable 93 years of age. Most other inhabitants are far less permanent, and as a result the population is ever changing. Volunteers, doctors, and students come and go, and the patients make up the rest of the population. Especially because patients quite often take the whole family with them.
Now, to take the Netherlands as an example, we have nurses to pamper and wash our patients, and a permanent kitchen crew to provide meals that are all covered by our insurance or social system. Many hospitals here cannot provide these services, so patients have to take care of themselves in that respect. People bring their own mats to sleep on, patients and family are in charge of buying and preparing food, and the family has to wash the patient if they are too sick to do so themselves. This might sound harsh to some, but the hospital is not equipped to provide anything more than healthcare.
However, people staying in the hospital rarely spend all day in bed, or even in the hospital. Patients will sell wares in the market, help make food, and even do small chores around the village to make some money. In other words, the inpatient population is a lot less static than back home. I even spent one day playing touch rugby with everyone and suddenly realized I was playing alongside a number of the tuberculosis patients (sputum negative, and on treatment for more than two weeks for those who might be worried).
So, we arrived in Kapuna which you now know a bit more about. We received an entire house to stay in, fittingly named ‘The Guesthouse’. The welcome over the next few days was incredibly warm. We met Wijnand and Elize, a Dutch couple who have been living and working here for the last three years. Elize is a tropical medicine doctor who I tagged along with the days I spent in Kapuna. Wijnand, her husband, runs the financial side of GCS and everything else that comes his way. They have two young daughters who are truly great, and seem to be having the time of their lives living here.
The rest of the inhabitants of Kapuna form a close knit community, and it was interesting to be so quickly welcomed into it. Then again, I guess they do have some experience with greeting new faces. We spent every night at another person’s house for dinner – yes, poor us – allowing us to get to know the people, and the local produce.
For now, I will leave it at this for Kapuna, we loved our stay and there are too many moments to just race through. We will revisit the place in the coming posts as we start to explore some of the aspects of life here.
First we need to complete the journey, next post is Step 4. Home.
What we learned:
- Retiring at the age of 67 is for the weak. The great only start to consider stopping when they reach 80.
- Being sick doesn’t mean staying in bed. Especially in the case of tuberculosis, the treatment is long but the recovery is quick, so no need to stay in bed.