Daily Archives: June 5, 2010

The Great White Missionary

It was a rare day that I was at the Ngodingodi research station at all … usually I was off in the forest with the Efe Pygmies, up the road excavating an archaeological site. It was also rare that Grinker, my cultural anthropologist colleague, was at the research station. He was spending most of his time in the villages learning language and waiting around for the other shoe to drop (he studied conflict, so on the average day … not much conflict).

But then an even rarer thing happened.
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Our Research Camp as a Mission Station

A couple of “missionary” posts back, I intimated that we got to stay at the missionary stations while visiting various cities or en route between points in return for our work giving out medicine and such at our research camp. In truth, the arrangement was a bit more complex and subtle than this, and in fact, I think the arrangement and its nature changed over time. The various missionary entities that existed in the Ituri Forest and nearby cites that would be used as jumping off points were actually hospitable to us for three reasons. 1) Almost everybody is almost always hospitable to everybody else in this region. This is how things must be for anything to work. The only non-hospitable units are official governmental agencies of Zaire, or where they exist, embassies or consulates of the United States. 2) We did fill in a blank space on the map where essential medical services were not available to local people because the missions did not operate that far into the bush. Our research station was beyond the Blender Line and even beyond the Beer Line. 3) We paid. For the most part, mission stations had guest rooms and other facilities for use by passers by, but there was a charge (though very inexpensive) to cover costs. Flying on their planes cost as well.
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