The police returned the medical supplies and documents they had confiscated from me. I showed the Commissioner my diploma in acupuncture and notified him of my intention to continue to treat people who come to me for help.
My friend Tahara lent me a tent, and a relative of hers who owns a house adjacent to the hotel courtyard (the site of the original clinic) allowed me to erect it on his property. I had the new site cleaned up and brought in truckloads of clean sand.Â
In this new venue, my work continues as before. I treat about thirty people a day, from morning through the afternoon, and I also make home visits to see patients who are unable to move.
However, the conditions in the new location are more challenging. The tent is smaller, it is hot, and above all the site is very exposed to the windâ€”which is to say, the dust.
The dust of Timbuktu is one of the major sources of disease. The wind carries air and debris from the streets where people discharge their waste water. And it is dirty with the expectorations of the sick and the excrement of children. All of this gets dried in the sun and flies away with the wind of March, the month of the winds.
On top of this, people regularly clear the streets of the piles of garbage by burning it. The smoke is toxic and foul smelling.
It is no surprise, then, that almost all the city’s inhabitants are plagued with sinusitis, headaches, and respiratory diseases.
We are just entering the season of the sand winds, and I find my new hospital very uncomfortable. I’m not the only one to see it this way, and if by chance a wealthy person comes to seek treatment, he will go away immediately, and only the poor remain with me.
Nonetheless I am pleased with this arrangement, because the rich often presume that they should be treated before the others and don’t want to wait their turn.