Category Archives: lost congo memoir

No place to sit down

I knew a couple who had spent a lot of time in the Congo in the 1950s. He was doing primatology, and she was the wife of a primatologist. And when she spoke of the Congo or Uganda, where they spent most of the time, she always said two things that always put me off a little. First, she would Uganda and Congo as “Africa” (which is technically correct, but I’ve yet to hear of someone saying “I’ll spend Spring Break in North America” on their way to Cancun) and she’d always say “The thing about Africa is that there’s no place to sit down.”

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Kobou

When I first arrived in the Ituri Forest I was shown a camp a group of Efe Pygmies all typically lived in, and told “everyone lives here but the old man and his wife … he’s a bit contentious and there was an argument.” Having read all the literature written in English about Pygmies, I was aware of the fact that these foraging people, who moved frequently — perhaps ten times a year or more — would often change the composition of their residence groups to reflect forming and breaking alliances among people who often, but not always, lived together. After hanging out in the camp, which was empty, long enough for the ethnoarchaeologist I had come to Zaire to “replace,” we went back to the road via a different path and passed Kobou and his wife (pronounced “Ko-bo-oo”) in a small clearing in a freshly cut garden. “Strange,” I thought, “They live in a square hut. Everyone else lives in a dome-shaped hut. I guess some Efe live in square huts.”

But no. Kobou is the only Efe we know of to always build square huts. Maybe somewhere else in the Central African Rain Forest, but not around these parts.
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HIV, AIDS, MMR, NPR and WTF?

Thirty years ago yesterday, “the CDC’s Morbidity and Mortality Weekly Report (MMR) published a report of five young men with Pneumocystis carinii pneumonia who were treated at three different hospitals in Los Angeles, California.” (see This Blog Post for details). Morbidity and Mortality Weekly is a really fun journal to read. It contains the latest reports of, well, death and serious illness as a means of disseminating information in a way that will allow quick response. So, if there are suddenly a bunch of cases of some disease scattered across the country, this kind of reporting may allow the connection to be made to an event … quite literally, like the Superbowl or a Marching Band Competition or whatever … at which the disease spread, or perhaps a region of the country where vaccinations are being skipped, or where swine-based flu has jumped the fence into a human population, etc.

In the case of this report, the disease being reported was to eventually be named AIDS and the infection that caused it HIV.

So, happy anniversary AIDS epidemic!

I just have two comments on this: First, how I found out about a certain aspect of HIV infection (which turned out to be unimportant) and second, how everybody else found out about AIDS
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What is your comfort zone?

Today, I took out the trash. I may or may not have taken the trash out last week, but I can tell you that the last time I did take it out, whenever it was, I had to drag the trash barrel across ice. Yesterday I went to the gym without a coat or jacket. That made me have to decide if I wanted to go to the locker room to stow the contents of my pockets (car keys, etc.) or just keep those things in my pocket. The grass outside is green. We expect snow on Friday.
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The Curious World of Bugs

The old man crouched slightly as he took small tiny steps forward towards the woman’s ass. I didn’t see what was in is raised right hand, it was hidden from my view by his body draped with a colorful sarong. He crept closer, still crouched and still silent. She didn’t see him coming, but when he finally struck the woman hardly seemed to notice. His hand, it turn out, bore what looked like a hand broom of the type used to sweep the dirt floors of the mud huts and open barazas, but smaller, cleaner, and cut somewhat differently. He used it to strike a fly off her bottom and when the surprised insect hit the ground his foot sprung out as fast as a welterweight boxer’s fist mushed it to death.
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