I was seated on the settee in the little front room of Min’s house. Light was streaming into the room from the open front door. Standing on the doorstep were two of the local children who had come to stare. Min’s mum, perched on a wooden chair, was mending an old shirt. As usual, she looked less than wildly happy and I wondered if this was confirmation of my fear that the family were not entirely at ease in their new home and new neighbourhood. Aldi, the pleasant looking middle child, then aged about thirteen, was squatting on the floor next to Min. Aldi reported that he was having problems with the local children.
"They’re horrid to me," he complained . I thought he was going to cry.
"Are you horrid to Aldi?" I asked Eko, one of the schoolboys who was standing at the front door.
"No," protested Eko, staring at me with his big dark eyes and trying to look sincere.
"They’re not being nice," muttered Aldi.
"Come in Eko," I said, "and I’ll take a photo of you, Min and Aldi on the sofa."
Aldi made a face but the three of them were persuaded to sit together. Min smiled happily. Eko gave a slightly phoney smile. Aldi temporarily relaxed and grinned.
"My leg’s very sore," said Aldi, who looked a bit flushed in the face.
"Has Aldi been to the doctor?" I asked Wati.
"Not yet," she replied.
My main concern was for Min. I felt it was up to Wati to sort out her other children’s problems. She didn’t seem to be totally without money as, scattered around the floor, there were new toys, including a plastic car big enough for a child to sit in.
Next afternoon I again called in on Min.
Aldi was hobbling about. Fairly high up on his left thigh there was an inflamed red lump, possibly the result of a cut or a sore.
Min’s five year old sister, Imah, had a cough.
"Do you want to take Aldi to the local doctor?" I asked mum. "Imah too."
"OK," said Wati.
We drove to the clinic a few streets away and a young doctor gave Imah some cough medicine. He then applied some cream to Aldi’s cut, and administered some kind of injection.
For the next few days I was busy preparing to move house. I seemed to have acquired rather a lot of books and files and I went through them trying to decide what to throw out. In the end, what I disposed of was mainly old socks full of holes, torn shirts, used exercise books and broken pens. When I had dumped this rubbish in the bin I noticed that the maid carefully took it all out again and carefully stored it away for future sale or use.
The new residence, I had been assured, had no problems with leaking roofs. But after moving in there was a downpour and small brown stains appeared on parts of the ceilings in the lounge and one bedroom. Maybe the stains had been there before and I had just not noticed. Come to think of it, many of the houses of colleagues had similar problems. I completed my unpacking and decided that I was going to enjoy my new home.