Sunday, October 12, 2008


I eat a lot of chocolate here.

Driving to our IDP camp today, we passed an area thick with bamboo. Mark and Jimmy told us that it used to be a very dangerous spot. Then they said that, if the rebels return, it will be a dangerous spot, again.

Behind the area thick with bamboo was a hill covered in trees. Behind that was The Sudan. The rebels camped on the hill and attacked anyone who traveled through. Many people died there. Jimmy said that if you traveled this road two years ago and you made it to the other side, you felt like a very brave, big man.

When Jimmy tells stories about the rebels, he laughs. It’s strange to me.

The stories he told were, like, about how the LRA would send their newest, untrained captives to the front of the battlefield, like human shields. He told us about how the children of the LRA were (are) fearless fighters, of course – how they would be tied together, so no one could escape – or so if their were helicopter attacks by the UPFD against the rebels, the rebels could tie the children out in a clearing, in the open, to be killed, little sacrificial lambs, while the real rebels hid. How if their wasn’t enough rope, all the children who could manage to get themselves tied on to the rope would scurry to do so, and all the rest would be killed. How they would trade clothes with the newest abductees, so the newly kidnapped children would be dressed in rebel clothes and the rebels would be dressed in civilian clothes, so in battle, the UPDF would massacre the children and not the rebels.

And Jimmy laughs.

It’s not a bitter laugh, but it’s not humorous, either. I don’t really know why he is laughing. It is because he finds the stories funny, I guess, but at the same time I guess I know that he doesn’t find them funny at all.

It’s awkward, because you don’t know what to do in response. Laugh, too? Surely not. But when a friend tells an anecdote and chuckles at it, you laugh too, out of camaraderie.

J gave a sort of strangled laugh. I solved the social dilemma by pretending that I wasn’t listening. But sitting, bouncing along in the car a row ahead of Jimmy, I was listening intently.


We’re in a Key Informant Interview, now. There’s a gold plastic clock on the wall, with fake roses around it. A yellow plastic butterfly is attached to the second hand and it is slowly spinning (this clock works.) Cheap Chinese crap is everywhere here.

Jimmy is moderating and Lisa is taking her tiny, perfect notes. Lisa’s not talking to us today, though. She’s angry with all of us because J embarrassed her in the car yesterday. J demanded that she sit in the bumpy, crowded back with the rest of us, while Patricia get the lovely shot-gun seat. Lisa didn’t understand why. She didn’t get that she should let someone five years older than her with a limp from childhood polio get the more comfortable seat.

For her part, though, Patricia never mentions her disability. She walks slower than the rest of us but she works hard. Patricia didn’t even want the front seat; she was embarrassed by the attention. She didn’t take it today. (Mark’s up there in the front seat today).

Today, Lisa was so angry that she didn’t even come to work. It was pouring, pouring rain when we left. We picked her up at home once we figured out that was where she was (MTN cell phone network was down, too). As her excuse, Lisa said, “God molded me from clay and I melt in the rain”. (“Get an umbrella, my dear,” sighed Patricia.)

Patricia told me today that her biggest dream is to earn enough money to open a nursery school in her ancestral village.

1 comment:

Gwen said...

I noticed the laughing during telling stories of horrors and trauma a lot in Liberia. Example, a woman would tell me how the soldiers came and tied up her daughter, raped the daughter in front of her, then decapitated her. She'd tell me this while laughing - more of a nervous chuckle. I'd also notice crowds of people laughing during church services when someone would get on stage and talk about the atrocities they committed, like killing and cannibalizing children. I asked people about this directly, 'why are you laughing' and many people responded, 'things are so horrible, its either to laugh or you cry'. try asking your friends who tell you these stories why they are laughing. and let me know what they say.
ps have you read that Utas article yet...might be helpful, if you ever have a bit of time and/or a bit of electricity/battery power.