Friday, January 25, 2008

Under the Mango Tree

Rory Anderson with village elders and others in the shade of a mango tree.Still in Likasi. We visited the same copper mine site, this time to shoot video. With hindsight, Thursday was a cakewalk, but, the second visit brought the local authorities and more attention.

Local Congolese authorities were not happy that we were taking video. Not happy at all. Yet everyone seemed so friendly and no one was in uniform, so I wasn't aware of the pickle that we were in until Horeb told me, as we were leaving, "You know they were coming to arrest us, actually."

What?!? Perhaps it is a distinct advantage on my part for having very bad French and not being able to speak Swahili. Everyone seemed so friendly and wanted to talk and chat, so, I went along and chatted with the various and sundry chiefs and authorities. Hours of chatting.

At the time, I did not know that these were delay tactics. Yet the whole time I had no idea of the real problems we were encountering. But Horeb is a real star. He is truly a brilliant gem. He got us out of it, without me even knowing that we were about to step into a potential minefield.

The first round of chatting, we sat for about an hour and a half with the son of the local chief, who was trying to delay us. Horeb was superb -- he chatted them up, made jokes about different local customs, and generally charmed them all. After that, we managed to get down to the river area again, and Horeb was able to film and take some video for internal use.

The sun was strong and I was starting to burn (I forgot to bring sunblock. Stupid! I get arrogant because I'm black, thinking that I won't burn, but I do burn and was starting to get a bad burn on my neck and shoulders.)

So our local contact, Mme. Maitre, and I started walking up the Hill to a more shady area, but we were stopped. One of the local authorities asked in Swahili why we were there. No surprise, I stick out like a sore thumb. (They call me a muzungo, which means "whitey" in Swahili, even though I'm black American. I hate it, but, to them I'm foreign, and I'm lighter than many Congolese. I protest over this ignoble title, but what can I do?)

Mme. Maitre responded with zeal that we were doing a humanitarian assessment, and that World Vision hopes to begin doing humanitarian work in the area. We were asked to have a seat under a mango tree. Others joined. We began a pleasant exchange in French and Swahili, talking about the weather, etc. Horeb turned up and more local authorities joined the circle under the mango tree.

With much verve and charm, Horeb began explaining our goal for learning more about the humanitarian needs. I then asked questions about how the U.S. could help. Many people had many things to say, and we had a good exchange.

Perhaps my being single helped also, as I was made several offers. I was able to get a whole mining plot in exchange for my hand in marriage! That's the best offer I've had yet -- certainly trumps the 10,000 camels I was once offered in Egypt! ;-) Perhaps I ought to quit while I'm ahead ...

The incident ended on a happy note, taking lots of photos -- seemed I turned out to be a star. More like a fallen star: I had to promise both the local chief and the provincial minister of mines that we would not use the photos beyond World Vision's use. Indeed.

Posted by Larry Short on behalf of Rory Anderson in the DRC.


km said...

I know you thought that no one would really be interested in reading your thoughts. Well, I am. And I don't think this is narcissistic. I have a WV child from Kenya. I'm thrilled to be reading the WV blogs as I can better understand how to pray for your involvement. I'm also a homeschooling mom...and our kids will be learning about Africa for the next 2 months. I think this is a great tool. Thanks for your insite.

Rachael said...

I'm really enjoying Rory's blogs. Her stories are so funny! I especially was amused by her proposals. At the same time, she's doing a great job explaining the nuance of international relations...