Sunday, February 15, 2009

Field Journal - Day Three

Sacred Heart Parish - Likati, DRC
N03º22.114’/ E023º53.253’

Time flies, whether you’re having fun or not. but it’s been a good stay here at the cathedral. We’ve vacillated between busy to so calm that the trip nearly feels like a vacation!

We bought our bulk supplies yesterday, though this is such serious mine country that essentials like rice had already been bought out by miners! It took hours of waiting at the rice machine just to get some!

Adam and I nearly forgot too that it was Valentine’s Day! It wasn’t until I scrawled the date in my notebook to write the day’s expenses that we realized.

Surreptitiously, he snuck out by the toilets with his utility knife to the flowers that grow from between the old bricks there -- and cut me one.

Like no Valentine’s Day we’ve ever had (or will probably have again!) -- the sentiment was absolutely perfect.

We’re really almost there now -- everyone else left this morning by moto and bike and I’ll remain here, in our room, hiding from gawking children.

I’m not sure where they all come from, but they seriously creep up on you like Ninja Cat! Only when you turn around and look at them directly do they hide or flee, and every time you turn around they’re about 3 feet closer to you!!

There aren’t just kids here -- the charity of the mission attracts all sorts of crazies and weirdos who are at once so pitiful and so ridiculous that you don’t know whether to laugh or cry.

We were accosted my first day here by one such man who worse a huge cowboy had, had a shirt with only one sleeve, and wanted to debate the finer points of catholicism with us, all while having an enormous booger hanging from his nose.

A sadder tale was that of an ancient woman who hobbles around the grounds here, asking for coffee. She relayed a bit of her life and explained that, although her husband and children were in Buta, she was alone in Likati.

It eventually prompted a whole discussion of old age with Polycarpe, as I queried why this woman was alone, uncared for and essentially, abandoned.

I had always just assumed that the old in agrarian societies were looked after until their deaths, but apparently, if you live past a certain age (e.g. 65), people start looking at you skeptically. Additionally, if you are unable to work, there is only so long that your family will put up with you and feed you until they throw you out!

In effect, you are punished for living too long. Polycarpe also explained that people begin to believe sorcery is involved past a certain age, and it is not at all uncommon for children to throw rocks at abandoned elderly or beat them with sticks.

As horrible as all of this sounds, what was worse was that Polycarpe could not stop laughing as he relayed this information to me.

Already a man of nearly 50, I asked him what he would do in 10 years, at 60.

He replied, still laughing, that he’d just have to hide in his house! The gruesomeness just seemed to be lost on him -- and Seba both!

It’s just such an odd contrast -- while people in America are afraid to die, people here in DRC are afraid to live too long!

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