Tag Archives: Congo

Which works better, Acupuncture or Changa?

Acupuncture is the ancient East Asian practice of poking people with needles in specific places and in specific ways in order to produce any one of a very wide range of results that could generally be classified as medicinal or health related. I don’t know much about it, but Wikipedia tells us:
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Wildlife of Southern Africa

Wildlife of Southern Africa , by Martin Withers and David Hosking, is new (August 2011) and good. If you are planning a trip to South Africa, Namibia, Botswana or anywhere nearby, or if you live there and like to go to the bush sometimes, consider it.

This is a pocket guide, it is small, has good photographs, is inexpensive, and accurate.

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The Best Eclipse Ever (of the moon and of the sun)

I remember my first solar eclipse. I was a kid, and it was the one Carlie Simon sang about, in March 1970.

(The eclipse reference is just past three minutes. Some other time we can argue over whether or not Carlie, singing in this video on Martha’s Vineyard, was referring to the March 1970 eclipse or the July 1972 eclipse, but I’m sure it was the former, because that’s the one everybody got all excited about.)

I was such a geek that I actually missed the eclipse because I was busy collecting data. There was a phone number you could call and a lady’s voice would give you the time and temperature. Perfect. I called the number again and again and wrote down the time and temperature and made a graph. And I got results!
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Floods: Don’t go in them.

As an archaeologist, my expertise in the cognate field of geology includes fluvial processes, so I know something about floods. And I’ve experienced plenty of floods working in the Hudson and Mohawk river valleys … now that I think of it, I’ve got quite a few good flood stories. But the most significant experience I’ve had with flooding happened in about a foot of water.

It was in the Congo, at Senga, a location I’ve written about before. Our camp was on one side of a wash right where it entered the Semliki River, and the excavation was on the other side of the wash, but since the digging all occurred during the dry(ish) season, that was never an issue. But when the excavation was over, and almost everyone went home, those of us left behind to do our own non-excavation research projects experienced a number of good rains.
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Why shrews are interesting

It has been said that our most distant primate ancestors, the mammal that gave rise to early primates but itself wasn’t quite a primate, was most like the Asian tree shrew, which is neither a shrew nor does it live in trees. This is, of course, untrue. When the average American sees a shrew native to the new world scurrying past, he or she usually thinks of it as a form of mouse. Which it isn’t. (In fact, there are no “mice” native to the new world, but even if we give our hypothetical observer the concept of “rodent” as in “eeek, a rodent” the shrew is not that either.) If you spend any time hanging out with the Efe Pygmies of the Ituri Forest, eventually there will be a sudden movement on the forest floor, a quick snap of a machete or other similar implement, and … elephant shrew will be on the menu. And, most interesting, all three of the aforementioned shrews do not belong comfortably together in a single taxonomic group. The closest non-shrew relative to the most common North American shrew are moles, the closest non-shrew relative to the Asian tree shrew are flying lemurs, bunnies, primates, and rodents; and the closest non-shrew relative to the African elephant shrew could be, astonishingly, an actual elephant! (Or hyraxes, goldem moles, sea cows or the Aardvark.)
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Ethnographic Notes: Efe Forest Camps

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An Efe forest camp is usually dark and depending on the time of day, dripping from current or recent rain. The Efe live in dome shaped huts which may be more or less complete. A half dome might be a hut that was built quickly, or it might be a hut that was built more openly because it has been hot or it might be only a half dome to allow easier access in and out of the hut by children or individuals with injury or infirmity. A fully domed hut, with a small opening, keeps in more smoke (a fire is often kept in the hut) but it also keeps in the heat and keeps out the rain. So a rainy season hut may be a full-on dome with a small entrance way. Or, this kind of hut can be made when it has been cold, or when more privacy is needed, or, simply, when more time has been invested in making the hut.
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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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A Bend in the River: Get Bent

On of my favorite books is A Bend in the River by V. S. Naipaul. It is a story set in at the junction of a native and expat community in an African rain forest country with a not very despotic leader (the “Big Man”) at a time when a civil war was about to arrive on the scene. I like the book because of the writing, because of the story, because one of the character is supposedly based on someone I vaguely know (that’s always fun) and because I was there …. living at the juncture of an expat and native community in a rain forested African country with a not-to-despotic leader named Mobutu Sese Seku. And I read a few of Naipaul’s other books and liked them to.

The, I go and find out he’s a dick.

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