Friday, January 9, 2009

“Even the little person can see the sky”. . . Feo Chief

We have been very busy this week (yea!!!!). It has been really great. On Monday afternoon we rode out to Feo (a community in the Bongo district) and stayed with the Feo Chief and his family for two nights. The Chief indulges heavily in two things: talking and pito (locally brewed beer from millet), and therefore as his guests so did we. On Tuesday we spent 8 hours out on the bikes sampling boreholes (the hand pump wells) and hit 21 wells. It was a long day, especially since our accommodations at the chiefs house was a very nice room with a very hard concrete platform upon which to sleep. Our bones were hurtin’! On Wednesday we rode back to our house in Bongo (to sleep on a soft bed) and to patch some tubes---we are having some rim tape issues (fuck velox cloth rim tape, for reals. . . but more on that later. . . like in another post).

Wednesday night there was this fire festival in Bongo that was described to us like this:
“So tonight, around 7pm people will go out with sticks of fire and will chase you with the fire as part of our fire festival, are you coming?” Hmmm . . . maybe next time. We turned out the lights to the house and watched through the window as people of all ages and in various stages of inebriation ran by with fists full of fire. Then there were the cannon shots. Then came the gunshots. Needless to say we conducted our nightly rituals without the aid of light. Scared? Naw. More like frightened more than a line of cattle in a slaughterhouse.

Thursday we rode back to Feo and repeated the day of sampling again, except we only had 8 wells left (phew) and were finished by midday. On Saturday we do it all again in Bongo-Soe (the community next to Feo) and we should be able to do a lot more in the same amount of time since Mo and I hare have finally got a rhythm going.

The Chief told us a story before we left, and we’d like to relay to you as it may be interesting for our audience to hear: “One day, there was this mathematician professor on his way home from the university. As he was driving, his front wheel flew off, and in the chaos the bolts were lost. As he sat there on the side of the road, an insane man came by and told him that he could help, an offer the mathematician refused. But the crazy man persisted until the professor finally said ‘What is it that you, a crazy man, can do to help me, a learned mathematics professor at the university?’ The crazy man replied, ‘You have twelve nuts left on the remaining wheels. If you take one from each wheel, you should be able to get to town and purchase the missing bolts.” That’s how he ended the story. I know, I don’t get it either. Maybe we should listen to crazy people, is that the moral? Or only when it comes to automobile mechanics should the criminally insane be given credence? Maybe this story only applies in Africa, but my western mind has been flummoxed. (He speaks in stories and sayings . . . it can be amusing if you are not trying to go somewhere...but if you are, sit tight because the road may not be open to you---since he is chief you must ask permission to leave his presence by inquiring “Is the road open”). But seriously, he is a really great person with a nice family . . . he is just a character is all!

Check out the pics . . . they’re pretty cool . . . and so are we.


Anonymous said...

Sound like a great time. :)

I think I've heard that story before... Maybe not exactly with a "university professor" and "crazy person", but always with a person usually admired for being "smart" being shown out of practical problem by someone usually considered "stupid". Those types of stories are usually told to show how common sense can triumph over book-learning... The chief may have been making a point about how even though you are the fancy university scientists from America, and he is "just" a tribal chief in Africa, you don't necessarily have all the answers, and the advice from him and his people should not be automatically dismissed.

At least, that's how I interpreted that...

tadpole said...

I've heard of people driving with not all their lugnuts on every wheel in order to replace missing ones on one wheel.

I'm so glad you guys are riding around there and that you didn't get shot or burned.

The inauguration was awesome to see. It actually feels different in America now and a lot of my coworkers are acting less douchey lately because it's not in style anymore. Hopefully.