Sunday, June 26, 2011

More from Tanya's trip

A road of red dirt, dotted by deep holes, as wide as the road, as long as a car, and deep – filled with water. Are these little lakes deep enough for fish?  I don’t ask this silly question, but it does cross my mind as the truck crosses yet another puddle, with the driver declaring in broken English ”that was a piece of cake”.  As laughter escapes my mouth, I wonder if I’ve heard correctly.  Before the question is spoken, Rachel tells me that Edison, our fearless driver, learned this phrase from other visitors.  I smile. My smile meets the fish question and it settles while my body continues to bounce.
I listen to the Lingala flowing around me, picking out now-familiar works and making up the rest of the conversation in my head. Lingala is a trade language and is not a rich language, at that.  It would not be hard to learn this language, I decide silently, and I try to memorize words as I hear them.  Two hours pass quickly and I look up to see that we’ve arrived in Bwamongo.  Here, we are visiting the pharmacy where we get the medicine we donate to the clinics of the Tandala Health Zone (16 of them) and the Tandala Hospital.   I have been brought here by Rachel, Tony, Dr. Bienvenneu, and Edison. 
Since French is easier for me to understand, we conduct our business in that language, visiting the warehouse and making some small purchases for some doctors and the dentist at the hospital, who made requests when they knew we were coming here.  Soon, our business is over and we climb back into the back of the truck.  We settle our sore bums for another couple of hours of riding as we make it back to the hospital and I settle my brain to do some more listening and thinking.  My friends sing in the truck – lilting voices combining to make a gorgeous sound.  At least four parts in each song and is it simply amazing.
I let the sound wash over me and I look out the window and look at the women balancing heavy burdens on their heads.  Before we ever reach them, they move silently into the tall grasses that edge the road.  I quickly turn my head to see them through the back door window.  I am always surprised when one or two more people come out after our car moves on than the number I saw go into the grasses. I think how grateful I am that their disappearances are short-lived and that they are due to a peaceful car passing by.  Not long ago, women and children disappeared into tall grasses because they were running for their lives.  With soldiers ransacking, raping and killing, the grasses meant life.  Babies were hushed with soft singing and hands pressed over their mouths.  Mothers prayed and dragged children while looking out for water and edible leaves.  Soldiers walked by on the road and the lucky ones in the grass fled and counted the days until the soldiers went home.

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