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Camping

I wanted to go to the forest camping with my toddler and the Baaka, but my bosses told me to practice closer first, so tonight we camped in Moussapola, a Baaka village about 5km from here, between tall grass and taller trees and red sand and tons of dirt.  We arrived with lots of lollipops for the people and coffee and tobacco for Memba, the grandmother who would receive us and let us pitch our tent in front of her hut, who I was told had a little consumption problem like almost everyone around and that if I gave her money she would drink it and so on.  Anyway, lollipops, Nescafé and tobacco, and everyone was happy.  We arrived and my son was already in his element, bumping fists with everyone, chasing the kids who cried at the sight of him, getting into other people’s houses (for him these huts are like toy houses, only you can find people shitting or something) and exploring the whole town.  I was behind him, spraying him with mosquito repellent and saving him from falling into every bonfire he saw.  It was threatening to storm, so we pitched the tent, and just in case they told us which hut to run to if we got flooded at night, because here when it rains the sky falls down.  And suddenly it was night.  While lightning fell on the forest and everything was filled with fireflies, people began to gather at the two little bonfires that were there, they took an empty bucket and little else, and began to sing and clap.  My baby danced in the dark.  The ghost of the forest arrived, a man who danced disguised as a bush, and when he dropped the costume he said it was because the ghost does not like lanterns, so the rest of the ghost dance was in the dark and we only saw what the lightnings illuminated.  My son went about his business, not seeing a peep but rubbing up against all the snot-covered kids, trying to steal their lollipops and groping the ghost bush.  At about 10 o’clock he couldn’t take it anymore so I took him back to the tent, to sleep I thought.  The party ended at 3 o’clock.  The poor baby looked at me with the eternal gaze of the insomniac, the one that asks with mute desperation, what’s wrong, they don’t have a home?  I answered him, patience, my dear, soon the rain will fall and they will disband.  My forecast was right only in part. After two hours it began to rain but the disbandment was partial.  The hard core stayed there, doing iiieeeeeeeeeeee iiiooooooo in three voices, repeating the parts that did not go well and shouting from house to house.  Somewhere around then my son fell asleep crying.  In the wee hours of the morning I got scared because there were people coming to the tent shouting angrily.  This morning they explained to me that it was because some people came from far away to see my exotic blond toddler, and when we left they were disappointed.  Another version says somebody stole a cauldrom. On top of all this, the 150% humidity inside the tent before the rain turned into soaked and cold clothes when it started to rain, we only had a mat (which my baby took) and the floor was made of dirt and stones.  I feel old.  Around four o’clock I managed to fall asleep and at six o’clock it was dawn and the whole village and the goats gathered around our tent to comment on how long it was taking us to get up.  So, we got up, we went out to fraternize a bit in the daylight and as when my son has spent a bad night he only wants to be breastfed and left alone, and as by now all the women around here know what ti-ti-AAAAAAAA means, every time he asked me to breastfeed him all the ladies shook their own, and my baby has spared no attention, he has touched them all and has sucked some, and I did not know where to hide  At the end it started to get a bit crowded, so, as no one was coming to pick us up, I grabbed my backpack, put my sonon my shoulders and started walking towards Bayanga.  Then grandma Memba joined me and told me that not that way, the other way, and she stayed with me just in case.  At the end we crossed paths with my bosses, who came late to pick us up because today an elephant came to the house, destroyed the stall and wouldn’t let them get in the car.
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