Physicians Across Borders: Episode 8

Sanda is sitting next to her mother at the weekly session of the Sat'htine Women's Club sewing circle. She's Gen-knitting a little sweater for one of her future siblings.

Sanda would rather be working around the rug hooking frame but wants to stay close to her mother in case she needs help. Toria can hardly stand without assistance these days.

Rahanya ambrov Sat'htine has just finished a rough shift in Sat'htine's geriatric ward, where they lost another patient this morning. After that, she's really looking forward to an hour of nothing more momentous than knit-one-purl-two.

Toria is too pooped to make any actual progress on her current effort, so she's working through a pile of clothes that need darning while keeping an eye on Sanda's sweater.

Rahanya knits another cable twist into the turquoise sweater she's working on, and glances at the mother/daughter pair. They certainly have settled in nicely here.

Toria is also doing her level best not to think about her more or less permanent ~~ backache ~~ and hoping that, low-field as she is, she isn't shouting it too loudly to all the Simes in the room.

Rahanya, who's the Sime sitting nearest Toria, isn't bothered by the backache. It is, after all, a life-affirming sort of pain.

Toria: Raha-- Rahan-ya?

Toria stumbles over the unfamiliar name.

Rahanya: Yes, Tor-hya?

Toria smiles involuntarily.

Toria: That color yarn you are using is very beautiful.

Rahanya: Thank you.

Rahanya searches for some parallel compliment she can offer. There's not much you can say about mending.

Sanda is pleased that her mother is becoming more fluent in Simelan. She doesn't have to translate for her as much now.

Rahanya: Those babies you carry are far more beautiful than any yarn, Tor-hya. It is soon, now, isn't it?

Toria: Not soon enough, I think!

Toria is ~~ pleased ~~ at being able to make a joke in Sime language.

Rahanya grins. She can certainly appreciate the sentiment.

Rahanya: I zlin that the girl plans to play kick-ball before she's full-grown.

Rahanya wonders if her Out-T friend is familiar with the game.

Rahanya: She is a lively one, is what I meant.

Toria: Yes, I understand.

Rahanya: Is your man ready to face the burdens of the delivery room? ~~ teasing ~~

Toria: Oh yes. Gegg has always -- wait, did you say delivery room? As in where the baby is born?

Rahanya: Yes. He's a good man, Tor-hya. We've all zlinned that. He'll support you well.

Sanda is undecided about whether she wants to watch the babies being born. It would be interesting in itself, but it's her mother.

Toria: Out-Territory, men are never in that room until after the baby is born. Only the mother and the [English] midwife. And sometimes the female relatives.

Rahanya: Here, a man would be most delinquent -- er, bad -- to abandon his wife in such a moment.

Rahanya isn't sure how good Toria's Simelan vocabulary is.

Toria: Oh, I am not abandoned! He is outside the room. His part is to worry about me. ~~ internal grin ~~

Rahanya: And you, Sanda? This will be your first time, to help?

Sanda knows that she wouldn't be counted as a suitable female relative back in Gumgeeville until she was sixteen, and maybe not even until she had got married and had a baby herself.

Sanda: Uh. I don't know. I guess it's up to my mother. ~~ ambivalent ~~

Toria: Sanda is too young. It is not our custom.

Sanda shrugs.

Toria reflects that that was about the first Simelan sentence she learned just by hearing it.

Rahanya: You must have them both with you, Tor-hya. Your man to hold you, and help you breathe; your daughter to watch and learn, and hold the babies after they come out. After all, Sanda will be having her own soon enough, will you not?

Sanda: Uh. Not for a while. ~~ uncomfortable ~~

Sanda figured the whole Householding knew that she wasn't even allowed to have sex yet.

Rahanya: That young man of yours, Struger. Pleasant enough to zlin, but how is he in bed?

Sanda: Uh. ~~ embarrassed ~~

Rahanya pauses in mid-cable to glance at Sanda.

Rahanya: He is not satisfying you?

Sanda grits her teeth.

Sanda: Uh. I'm not allowed to have sex until I'm older. That's the custom out-T.

Rahanya raises an eyebrow.

Rahanya: But you are a woman now.

Toria intervenes.

Toria: It does not matter. She is not an adult until she has sixteen natal years. And even then, if she, ah, did that without being married...

Toria is at a loss for Simelan words.

Toria: Many people would be disapproving.

Rahanya: Your House -- village -- doesn't welcome any healthy baby?

Rahanya scowls disapprovingly.

Toria: The parents must be able to support the child. Otherwise the other people in the village must do so. And it is hard enough for them to support their children and not other people's children too.

Rahanya: A strange, harsh place you come from.

Rahanya's dorsal tentacles writhe up off her knitting needles in disapproval.

Rahanya: Your family would do better to stay here. We would all welcome you.

Toria: This is not our home. And your ways seem very strange to us as well. We could never be happy here.

Rahanya: Have you not been happy these past months? We have all tried very hard to show you happiness.

Rahanya is, despite her upset, trying to keep her grammar simple and her diction clear.

Sanda knits harder. She'd like to stay in-T, although maybe not at Sat'htine, but she knows she has a responsibility to go back to Gumgeeville and help her mother with the twins.

Toria: Every day, no... Every week, something happens that I do not understand. Or someone assumes that I know something that I do not, or believe something that I do not.

Rahanya: That will get better, as you stay longer. You have been doing very well. You are very able people, all three of you.

Toria: Thank you for saying that. But it has been very hard. If it were not for Gegg and my babies, I would never have come here at all.

Rahanya: But you are here now, and we have all zlinned you coping better and better.

Toria: "Coping"?

Rahanya: When you first came, you were confused often, unhappy always. Now you are confused only occasionally, and I zlin your contentment more often than not.

Toria: Yes. I am contented. But only because I know that I will go home where I will understand most things already, even the bad things that I grew up with.

Sanda nods. She isn't looking forward to witnessing those bad things again. She wonders whether any of her schoolmates have been shot in her absence. ~~ bitterness ~~

Toria: And also because I know my babies will be safely born here. But I am talking too much. I should let other people talk too.

Rahanya: I have zlinned you contented here, in the small things of daily life. And how will you manage, if your village is as harsh as you say it is, with two small children to watch and care for?

Toria wonders how to explain to someone who's lived in a cocoon her entire life.

Sanda figures the kids will be safe for twelve years, and then her parents will do something to get them near a channel. Maybe they can go live with Mik or something.

Rahanya: And you, Sanda? Would you not prefer the life you might have here, to the limited future you face in your village?

Sanda: Uh. Well, I have to help my mother with the twins. Maybe when they're older I'll come back in-T.

Rahanya: And by then you will be tied to a man and a life there, will you not?

Sanda: I can't get married until I'm sixteen -- that's three more years. And there aren't all that many boys in Gumgeeville. None I'd want to marry, that is.

Toria: We hope so. Sanda's husband must get the farm when we are dead, since our other children must work for the Tecton.

Sanda looks down. That's not her plan.

Rahanya: I zlin a difference of expectations here.

Toria elevates her eyebrows and gives Sanda The Look, although she has a ~~ sinking feeling ~~ that it doesn't work as well as it used to.

Sanda thinks Rahanya is being kind of rude and nosy. There are advantages to being where no one can zlin the attitudes you're too tactful to bring out.

Toria: Sanda's a good girl. She knows her responsibilities to the family.

Sanda: Uh. I'm kind of thirsty. Would anyone else like a cup of trin?

Rahanya: You must discuss this, while you are still here, and can speak as two grown women together. Or there will be much trouble later on.

Toria sighs ~~ exasperatedly ~~.

Toria: I'll think about it.

Rahanya: You must think about it. And talk together. You, and your man Gegg as well. All three of you.

Toria: Thank you. ~~ indignant ~~

Sanda: I'll get the trin. No honey in yours, mom, right?

Toria nods, not trusting her voice.

Rahanya: Do not be angry, Tor-hya. You must talk of this now or it will grow larger later, will it not?

Toria: ~~ at her limit ~~ [English] You may be right at that.

Toria scoops up her mending and walks out.

Rahanya: Ah. I have offended. ~~ regret ~~

Sanda turns at the kitchen door and sees her mother waddling out and goes to help her with her coat and boots.

Toria ~~ angrily ~~ waves her daughter back and struggles into her outerwear herself, not without some cost to her dignity. But it's the principle that counts.

Toria: Stay put, Sanda. I'm going back to the cottage -- I need time to myself.

Toria leaves the building.

Sanda puts on her own coat and boots. She's not going to let her mother walk home by herself. If she slips and falls, she probably won't be able to get up without help.

Rahanya: Sanda!

Sanda: Yes?

Rahanya: We have a saying here: "Make your choices while you can, or your House will make them for you."

Sanda: Uh-huh. I better follow my mother, in case she slips and falls.

Rahanya: Please tell your mother I am sorry to have offended. She is a good woman, and I only wished to help.

Sanda: Yes, I will.

Sanda intends to make sure Toria gets home okay, and come back and work on the hooked rug with some of her friends.

Rahanya: You are a good woman also, Sanda. ~~ sincerity ~~

Sanda: Uh. Thank you.

Sanda follows her mother at a distance, and when she makes it into the cottage safely, heads back to the women's club. She hopes Rahanya will have found somebody else to advise in her absence.

Rahanya looks around at the other ambrov Sat'htine, who've been quietly knitting and sewing.

Rahanya: Such a hard life, in those barbaric lands. We could give them so much better.

Essie: Yes, we could. But you can't just give people a better life as a gift. Otherwise, the whole world would be one big Householding by now, eh?

Rahanya: It wouldn't be a gift. They're all good people, hard workers. They've already made a place for themselves here. And for those two babies, to be dislocated again when they come of age. So hard, and so unnecessary.

Essie: Not what I meant. If someone came to you and said, "I know a much better way for you to live, but to get the benefits, you'll have to give up everyone you know and everything you believe in", most people wouldn't do it. That's why so few Simes joined the Householdings in the bad old days, even those who could still disjunct.

Rahanya: But every Sime who survives changeover out-T has to make exactly that choice. Or die.

Essie sighs deeply.

Essie: I'm afraid that's true. Still, no one has ever asked such a thing of us Gens. Out-Territory they live as they've always lived, maybe a touch better in the cities; in-Territory it was the prison doors opening for most of us.

Essie was salvaged by Sat'htine just before Unity.

Rahanya decides the conversation is getting too heavy.

Rahanya: Yeah, rub it in. There's no equality between larities. You Gens get all the breaks!

Rahanya continues knitting as she speaks, managing five strands of yarn at once.

Essie goes on saying nothing about how Simes do all the knitting and she's left with the repair work.

Essie: Hmp. ~~ good humor ~~

Rahanya knits faster, spurred by the happy ambient.

Sanda comes back to the meeting room, takes off her coat and heads for the rug hooking frame where several of her young friends are working.

Tessie, Essie's daughter, is sitting at the frame. She thinks Sanda is a glamorous and exotic stranger, and hopes Sanda will occupy the empty seat next to her.

Yono has seen a lot of exotic strangers, working as she does in Sat'htine's hospital's main reception area. She sees Sanda as a bit of an orphan, at home neither here nor in the village she was raised in, and feels a little sorry for her. She frees one dorsal from her work to wave to Sanda as she approaches.

Sanda: Hi, guys.

Tessie: Hi, Zanda.

Sanda takes the empty seat next to Tessie.

Sanda: I guess I can work on the background here.

Sanda picks up a hook and some strips of cloth and starts hooking.

Tessie: Okay, sure. I'll just work on this bit.

Tessie has in fact been working on the same bit throughout, but thinks it a good idea to say something.

Yono: You've gotten good at this, Sanda. You could work on the main pattern if you wish.

Sanda: No, that's okay. I feel like doing fill-in right now.

Yono: Having a rough day?

Yono can zlin that something is troubling her friend.

Sanda: No, I'm okay.

Sanda is getting tired of all these zlin-prying Sime women at the sewing circle.

Yono decides not to push; she knows how much Gens value their illusion of privacy.

Yono: What do you think, for this bit here? The light green, or the darker?

Tessie can't tell who this question is addressed to, but decides to wait to see what Sanda will say.

Sanda: I like the darker green better.

Tessie: Me too.

Yono, who had been leaning towards the darker shade herself, nods her thanks and begins hooking in a strip of the dark green.

Sanda: I like the swirly patterns you're doing, Tessie.

Tessie ~~ blushes ~~.

Tessie: Thanks, Zanda.

Tessie tries to make them still more swirly.

Sanda watches and tries to copy Tessie's method.

Tessie tries to think of something complimentary to say about Sanda's work, but can't think of anything -- background is background, after all.

Tessie: Umm, is your mother [English] okay?

Sanda: It's just so awkward for her, being so close to term with two big twins. She can hardly get around, and she's tired all the time.

Yono: It must be hard, being a good daughter at a time like this.

Sanda: Not really. It's a lot easier here than it would be at home. At home we'd still have to do all the work, even the heavy stuff, but here, mom can do mostly light work she can do sitting down.

Yono: How you cope out there, with a House of only three, I can't begin to imagine.

Sanda: I guess everybody is just used to it. And other relatives and even neighbors help when things get too hard for a family.

Tessie: Like when?

Sanda: Like if somebody is really sick, or gets injured and can't work.

Yono: Or is very far into pregnancy with twin channels?

Sanda: Well, they would if we really needed help, but mom has me and dad so we could cope. People might bring us some meals or offer some help, maybe.

Yono: So a village is at least a tiny bit like a Householding, then.

Yono isn't thinking in terms of selyn management; she's thinking in terms of family.

Sanda: A little, I guess. The same families live together for generations, so they have to help each other if they expect to get help.

Tessie: But you told me that some of the families won't even speak to each other!

Sanda: Yeah, but that's the exception. And people will still help in an emergency even if they don't like each other. Well, mostly.

Yono: Mostly?

Sanda: They'd probably wait to see if anybody else helps, and only help if the people still needed more help.

Sanda's Simelan is fluent now, but she still talks in the imprecise manner of a young teen.

Yono: Like sending personnel from another department only if the same department has no one to spare?

Sanda: Sort of.

Yono is training to become a hospital administrator, and is starting to see everything in hospital-equivalent terms.

Tessie: Yono, is there anyone you wouldn't speak to? Besides that Bilyum, I mean.

Yono: Szantel. Maybe Prista. But still, if they were brought in to the hospital ill, I would aid them just like anyone else.

Yono is still angry with Prista for that incident with the scissors when they were both five natal years old. She still wears her hair defiantly short, so no one can harm her haircut ever again.

Sanda takes another handful of cloth strips.

Tessie: Well of course you would! ~~ indignant without an obvious target ~~

Yono: There is like and dislike, and then there is duty and necessity. Is that what you were saying, Sanda?

Sanda: Yeah, like that.

Tessie: I don't think it's so much duty and necessity as [English] You scratch my back and I'll scratch yours.

Tessie: [English] Or maybe more like,

Tessie: If you don't scratch my back, I won't scratch yours. Isn't it?

Sanda: I guess. But even if somebody has a bad reputation for not helping other people out, if they got in real trouble, their family and neighbors would help them. Not as willingly or as well as if it was somebody who pulled their weight, of course.

Tessie: Well, okay, I guess. ~~ crushed ~~

Sanda: Most people would think they were freeloaders, which is almost the worst thing you can say about somebody out-T.

Yono: Yet most of your people zlin no help to be required, when a new Sime is at her most vulnerable.

Sanda: Well, what can we do if there's no channel available? Let them kill us?

Tessie: Anyhow, they do "help" the new Simes.

Tessie shudders.

Yono's laterals retreat as far up their sheaths as they can. ~~ horror ~~

Tessie: ~~ apologetic ~~ Sorry, Yono.

Yono: Sanda, I don't understand why you want to go back to such a harsh place. You have friends and possibilities here, now.

Sanda: My mother will need help taking care of the twins, but maybe when they're older I'll come back in-T.

Tessie: Really?! ~~ excited ~~

Yono: We'd be glad to have you here.

Sanda: Well, it wouldn't be for years and years. But at least I know what it's like here.

Sanda sighs.

Yono: Will Struger wait so long for you? ~~ teasing ~~

Sanda: Oh, Struger.

Sanda figures she can do better than Struger, if she wants to settle down. He's such a child.

Yono zlins that this whirlwind romance is about to deteriorate to a dust devil if it hasn't already.

Yono: Tessie, could you pass me a handful of the medium rust, please?

Tessie hands it over without comment, wanting to hear more from Sanda.

Yono: Thanks.

Tessie: So what about you and Struger, eh?

Sanda: He's a nice enough Gen, but... I don't think we're meant for each other.

Sanda was disappointed that Struger's interest in her slacked off considerably when he realized that she was really really not going to have sex with him.

Tessie nudges Yono.

Tessie: Just what does she mean by that?

Yono: There are better men in Sat'htine. I think Sanda has realized that.

Tessie raises her eyebrows.

Tessie: Such as? Not Bilyum, of course.

Yono flicks a dorsal at the mere mention of Bilyum's name.

Yono: Many, many. I don't know Sanda's tastes, so how could I possibly suggest names for her? Avoid Hliir, Sanda. It's said that he snores at both ends. And Dorvo is another.

Sanda figures most of the young men are avoiding Yono, too.

Tessie sees it's futile to try to stir up anything further: Sanda is too quiet and Yono too serious.

Tessie: Oh, I'm tired of hug-rooking -- I mean rug-hooking -- anyhow. Good night, everybody.

Tessie: [calls out] Mom! I'm going home!

Yono: And I, as well, should go shower. I'm on duty again in forty minutes.

Essie: Okay, sweetheart. Don't forget to pick up your room.

Tessie: Mom! ~~ indignation ~~

Sanda: I think I'll keep at this for a while.

Yono sets down her handful of medium rust, stands, and glides Sime-silently from the room.

Tessie follows, not gliding Sime-silently.

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