Wednesday, June 4, 2008

La La La La Luapula

Just returned from the rural Luapula Province where fishing, witchcraft, and cholera flourish. Local guides casually mention Archaeological sites from the Early Stone Age as if prehistoric rock paintings and tools are rather mundane and not worth much fuss. I tromped through rivers and waterfalls throughout the area and enjoyed a day off along the banks of beautiful Lake Bangweulu where curious fisherman drew their boats close to investigate the white woman lounging about in the sun, book in hand, looking very self-indulgent and bourgeois.

While I was in Samfya teaching a course in a small church that reeked of acrid ammonia courtesy of dozens of bats that dance in the rafters at dusk, we were alerted of a cholera outbreak in the community. Cholera devastates communities because they initiate fishing bans and bans on fishing means that people go hungry. Brutal. The minister had to go attend to a number of families in the congregation who were sick and suddenly bereft of loved ones. By the time we left about 30 people had died.

We traveled to a village called Mununga, which is proudly touted as the “heartland of witchcraft” in Zambia. People told me all sorts of stories about people turning into crocodiles and eating enemies and curses and charms and all kinds of black medicine. I attended my first exorcism, which is another story in itself, but I can offer the short version in one mass generalization: the West tends to psychologize and medicalize evil and human fragility whereas Africa personifies it. Demons and talking snakes and flying witches are a part of people’s daily lives and serve to explain all kinds of illness and hardship.

We stayed in a rather disgusting guesthouse where condom packages littered the ground and the stench of pit latrines lingered in my room at night. I wrote in my journal that first night, “We must be about two turns and a few kilometers from hell.” I had a good laugh when I found out that the name of this guesthouse is “God Knows.” But as my mom used to say, “Things always look brighter in the morning.” As we made our way to the church for our first seminar I had dozens of children following me around like lemmings. The toddlers were afraid and refused to get too close and I made some babies cry, but I eventually made friends with these small chaps. By day 2 we were playing “Nkoko, Nkoko, Chibata” (Duck, Duck, Goose) and by day 3 a massive heard of children were waiting on the doorstep of the church, ready to play with the muzungu when we arrived for our final day of teaching.

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Here are some pics from the last couple of weeks: mamas cooking nshima and villagers eager to have their pics taken.


Dan Morehead said...

You have a blog! Who knew?

Brett & Shelly said...

Hey, Carmie,

What great pics!!! You really have a great eye for good pictures. Your storytelling is first rate too.


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