Howard Hiatt tells Kidder that Paul and Jim have mobilized the world to accept drug-resistant TB as a soluble problem. He feels this is no small matter, because two million people a year die of TB, and when they include MDR patients, the number can increase dramatically. Add malaria to this problem, and it's obvious the world faces catastrophe on a scale not seen in centuries. He wonders what would happen if the time Paul gives to patients one-on-one in Haiti were converted to a major program elsewhere in the world. Think what he accomplishes now, and what he could do if he spent most of his time on worldwide projects.

Farmer is widely respected throughout the world for his work, but only he seems to know what his overall plan is. Kidder likes to watch him answer his e-mail in Cange, on airplanes, and in airport waiting rooms. He receives many, asking him for a variety of help and from all over the world. Farmer always answers promptly even though he may have upwards of 75 messages a day. These days, as Ophelia says, Wherever he is, he's missing from somewhere. In a two week period, Kidder accompanies him from Cange to a church group in South Carolina to Cuba for an AIDS conference to Moscow for TB business and a stop in Paris en route. On these trips, he maybe wears one of his two suits and drives the truck to the airport in Cange, because he gets motion sick. The road along the way makes Kidder narrate Haiti for the reader: the road had been built by American Marines early in the 20th century using slave labor; he had seen one picture of a slave who had refused to work and the Marines had cut off his hands; sights along the road are less dramatic than they were , but nonetheless still poignant, like the old man riding an emaciated pony as he tries to go to work on a rocky, infertile piece of ground; the sights remind Kidder of Matthew 25 which says, Inasmuch as you have done it unto the least of my brethren, you have done it unto me. They encounter a kwazman along the way. That is something you encounter on the road that isn't good. Farmer is pleased it's just an overturned truck with no dead bodies.

Their first stop on the road is a prison where one of the men in the truck will visit with his son who has been accused of murder. Farmer has already found the kid a lawyer and talks softly to him about his prospects. Then, the truck won't start when they leave, so they have to push it until it catches, and they go on their way. Farmer tells Kidder that it occurs to him that with all this cost-efficacy crap, if he saved just one patient, it wouldn't be so bad. However, what he really loves is his chance to save a zillion of them. The next stop is a downtown errand and then the airport. The traffic is snarled, as it always is on the road to the airport, but they arrive with Farmer still in a great mood. On the airplane, however, Kidder realizes his mood has saddened. Farmer actually hates leaving Haiti, mostly because as he looks back from the plane window, he knows that the Haitians are never going anywhere. Writing thank you notes and putting a checkmark on his bwan improves his mood. Nonetheless, his thoughts of a baby girl who had died the night before keep him sad until he and Kidder go over the patients back at Zanmi Lasante. Then, he remembers how well the little premie was doing, and he brightens up again.

Ophelia describes Farmer's personality as fairly complex, built of oppositions - a need for frenzied activity that verges on desperation and a towering self-confidence oddly combined with a hunger for affirmation. However, she believes he has never experienced true depression, no matter how bad the conditions he experiences. He always seems to find a way to bounce back.

Farmer loves Miami Airport, because it's here he can get a haircut with his favorite Cuban barber with whom he speak Spanish, buy his favorite People magazine, sit in the Admiral's Club, and sip some wine. He calls this a Miami Day and when he has to stay over at a hotel there, it's a Miami Day-Plus. However, he often spends a long time finding his gate, because the people in Cange are not able to keep his schedule in order, and he doesn't often know where he's supposed to be. When it comes to managing his staff, he has only one major rule: no one can be fired except for stealing or slapping a patient twice.

That night in the Miami hotel, Farmer breaks his toe when he gets up in the night and won't turn on the light in fear of waking Kidder. It doesn't stop him, however; he just limps along with a minimum amount of luggage and a smattering of clothes. He prefers to fill his suitcases with medicines and gifts so he only has three shirts to last him two weeks. Kidder remarks on Paul's sleepless nights, his hundred-hour weeks, and his incessant travel. His answer to that is, If I don't work this hard, someone will die who doesn't have to.

Finally, they come to the check-in point where, like everyone else, they are carrying the gifts and the extras to people who have no access to them. Kidder figures Farmer is looking forward to Cuba, because he says, No dead babies for awhile.



This chapter reveals a great deal about the kind of man Paul is as Kidder follows him on a typical trip from Cange to Miami to Cuba. His personality and mood bounces all over the place at times, but he always manages to find something optimistic to think about.


Cite this page:

Clapsaddle, Diane. "TheBestNotes on A Long Way Gone". TheBestNotes.com.