Learning to Watch Our Language

Outside Bukavu, Zaire – We went down to the springs the next morning and the boys weren’t kidding – it was a large stream flowing through the jungle, only it was warm and the air was filled with steam from the river. Stef, Mike and Tina splashed around the water a bit before we went back to the truck to leave. We pulled into the city of Bukavu around noon, just in time to change money on the black market and do the food shopping for the next few days. Couldn’t stop for more than an hour or so because we were flying like bats out of hell to get to Goma to see the gorillas. Our courier kept the tour going at a break-neck speed just so we could keep up with the itinerary.

We went to Kahuzi-Buega National Park before leaving for Goma, and that was so we could pay five dollars to go see what our courier thought was a pygmy village. Since we had an incompetent courier who couldn’t lead a group of people out of a paper bag this pygmy village turned out to be a bunch of tea plantation workers who happened to grow dope as well. Dope trees abound, more than I’ve ever seen in my life, but not worth any money to see, let alone five dollars. It sucked and was a total rip off – all thanks to an incompetent courier.

We headed out of Kahuzi-Buega, slowly on the unpaved roads through many a village towards Goma. Zairian children think it’s great fun to pick up rocks or other items and pretend to throw them at the truck. It got to the point where Jim has a few rocks on his lap to throw back if need be. The only other thing Zairian children know how to do is stick their hands out like beggars and scream, “Donnez moi une Bic.” (meaning Bic pen.) Everyone on the truck was so sick of hearing these kids scream “donnez-moi” that when entering a new village, before the barrage of donnez-mois could be screamed by the kids, we’d all lean out of the truck and scream it at them first. That confused the locals a little bit, but not enough to keep them quite.

Speaking of thing we used to do on the truck – there’s Raewyn, one of the Kiwi girls. Raewyn would always sit on one of the outside seats and would proceed to wave like crazy at any and all locals within her range of peripheral vision. I sat there and watched her for a while and figured out that she thought she was the Queen of England spreading goodwill and homeliness and that every local she waved at should wave back. If the locals didn’t wave back she’d lean out of the truck wildly waving her hands harder while screaming “Jambo” – welcome in Swahili in an attempt to get a response. Amusing to watch her, but even more amusing to see the expressions on the locals’ faces. The way the locals looked at Raewyn made me think that they were thinking, “Who’s the silly bitch hanging out of a blue mzungu truck screamin ‘Welcome’?” Remember I mentioned the Zairian boys throwing rocks? If I were a native and I saw Raewyn acting the way she was I’d throw rocks too – I don’t blame them.

We drove all day, finally reaching the shores of Lake Kivu where we camped in a school yard for the night. That evening Brenda, Rich Tom (the plumber) and I were standing around the fire talking to one of the teachers when tom made a major faux pas. Tom wasn’t that clued in as to the ramifications which can occur if you bag on the ruling dictator while talking to the locals (who could always be the police). He and the school teacher were talking away when the teacher asked Tom if he knew about Zaire’s president. Tom’s response was, “What, that he sucks?” Rich, Brenda and I all heard that and immediately all of us started screaming NO! NO! NO! NO! The school teacher saw our reaction and said he didn’t like the president either. It was only after Tom saw our reaction to his comment that he watched what he said to the locals. Tom is a dim bulb, but he is amusing to be around – just to hear what the next outrageous statement to come out of his mouth is going to be.

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