Saturday, November 22, 2008

A Visit from the Chief

Part of being in a Whiteys House in a remote town with a prominent local man as your Head of House is getting constant (and unannounced) visitors, who come oftentimes to harass and intimidate, but usually just to loll in our white plastic chairs and shoot the breeze.

It does give us an endless parade, and while you think you may be safely ensconced in the isolation of your house, you never really are. So PS - wear pants! At all times!

It is quite a wonderful parade of characters, though!

This week, we had a visit from a local from the forest we visited earlier in the month -- he’d heard we’d visited, and thought he might come by to talk to us about it.

Chiefs here must feel somewhat impermeable because of their elevated social status - because often they seem to operate outside of social conventions and sometimes politeness.

Adam and I introduce one another as husband and wife, as it condones our cohabitation and makes life easier, and upon being introduced to Adam, Chief Rude turned to me and said, approximately

“Oh, you are fat AND have a husband! How nice for you!”

I won’t grace you with the variety of comebacks that ran through my head (especially considering this guy was fat, and everyone knows how much I hate fat fattists). But I kept my diplomatic grace and flashed him an “I Hate You” smile and thanked him.

He was not only fat, but had the most peculiar face I’ve yet seen! He looked almost like an anime character, with his eyebrows not arched high above his eyes, but instead slanted like a shift-6 carat -- ^.

He had this thin, perfect carat over each eye, and he raised his eyebrows up and down often during conversation, only exaggerating the effect! I wondered if he had molded them as such, and simultaneously wondered why anyone would mold them like that!

The exciting news that he told us, though, was that there were, in fact, still elephants in Yoko Forest. He had seen them, and reports from Polycarpe about seeing elephant dung near the outlying regions of the Aketi region toward the south of the Yoko River (about 60km south of where we visited) was still an active elephant region.

I talked with the chief extensively about conservation, stating as diplomatically as possible that many of the orphans documented and chimp meat in the market has been said to come from Yoko Forest - his territory - and his responsibility.

He took on a very stern face, declaring that he had mandated at Yoko that chimp hunting was INTERDIT! (wiggle eyebrows) -- Forbidden!

It’s times like these that are difficult, because you want to believe that this man is as passionate and seemingly un-corrupt about chimpanzee conservation as he seems to be. With people like this, how can chimpanzees here be in so much trouble?

But whether it is, in fact, a fa├žade or not, this man suffers from the same difficulties as Kabila himself - whether or not he forbids the hunting of chimpanzees in Yoko, Yoko is a HUGE forest -- how is he to patrol or even enforce his own edicts?

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