Even though we are here in this small village for but a few weeks, we are witnesses to life’s events. Births, weddings, funerals, jails.
In the past two weeks, we attended a presentation ceremony, a step along the path to marriage where the bride is marched into a collected assembly and presented to her future husband. After the ceremony she leaves with her future husband to live wherever he lives, saying goodbye to the family that raised her. Her husband has a year or so to pay the dowry. The bride’s mother and other family members were crying to see her go.
Later in the week, we took a woman to the hospital for a checkup in the seventh month of her pregnancy. She is the daughter in law of our hosts and quietly does a lot of the work taking care of us. (The photo here is of Rachel cleaning the front yard.) She has two young boys and a girl and is hoping for another girl so her daughter can have a sister. It sounded like she had an ultrasound but she told us it was too early to tell the gender.
Then, the next day, our host, Papa Jean, drove up to the work site in his old station wagon that he manages somehow to keep running and said he had been summoned to the border with Equatorial Guinea by the police commissioner. “What have you done?” I blurted our thinking it would be funny. He said that the two grandsons (who had helped us get water last week) had been sitting in jail for two days. An hour later he was back from the border with the two young men. One of them later told us they had been taunted and harassed on the other side of the border and ended up in a fight, landing them in jail.
Saddest of all was the rumors that filtered on that one of the village residents had taken ill and died in Equatorial Guinea where he gone looking for work, as many young people do. The rumors proved true with the message that a 25 year old brother/cousin of some of our workers had died and they were bringing the body back to be buried here. Three days of preparations and people from all over started descending on the village. Last night was the wake that extended through the night. Our workers went to help dig the grave and prepare the cement tomb. In front of the house where we are staying the coffin passed several times with a long procession; long both in terms of numbers of people walking but also in distance they had to walk. Almost on cue, the wind picked up and thunder and lightening announced a heavy rain just as the procession arrived from the church to the final resting place.