Wednesday, May 22, 2013
THE CITIES:: BANGUI/BOSUM, CENTRAL AFRICAN REPUBLIC 4
After registering at the Police Department and another interrogation by the Chief of Police, and visiting a friend of our church who lived in the house of the Head of the Gendarmerie (the Sheriffs), I realized that we managed to meet all of the City Government's figures. So much for trying to keep a low profile! The second trip was just as memorable, with tiny variations. Another bus, more of the intimate interlocking of the knees with total strangers. This time, a goat ate a lady's skirt, and a Muslim passenger threw a smoked antelope that someone was bringing home for Christmas dinner, out of the window, because it stunk to high Heaven or, may be, it was a sin to have a smoked antelope in a close proximity to a Muslim. Talking about Christmas dinners: huge jungle rats, at least twenty inches long and the ugliest I've ever seen, were a big hit and bought out in a flash by the passengers on one of the bus stops.
This time we stayed in someone's house. It was a one story structure, where our hosts lived in good rooms, and we had a pleasure to sleep in empty, rubble strewn parts of it. All that was OK, because the house had a real shower in the hosts' quarters! Our rooms didn't have glass in the windows (I guess, it was a rarity in Africa). All night long, I kept looking at the ruin of a shower, sure that a snake was making its way out of the rubble in it.
Early, early, early in the morning, a rooster flew up on the sill of the window opening and yelled his all important (because he had to repeat it so many times) message into our rooms. The empty walls and cavernous spaces echoed in reply, for about twenty minutes. We got up, dressed and came out into the dark, cold yard. Before we started a morning prayer, the wife of our host came up to ask what we wanted for dinner that evening. "Chicken" we replied in grim unison, pointing at the blighted rooster
Even from the house, we could see a hill with a large cross on its top. That's where we decided to go first. I persuaded the guys to get a taxi. The driver brought us to the bottom of the hill, told us that he'll pick us up 40 minutes later from the same spot and rode away, wiggling on the gravelly road. We made our way up the hill, following another lady with swaying hips and a basin, full of cassava, on her head. The hill itself gave off an aura of tragedy. It was burnt black, with no shrubs or grass to soften the impression. The cross on the top had no sign or explanation. It was just there. We stood together, numb from the implications of that symbolism: a cross on a barren hill. The prayer was the only appropriate response to our emotions.