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Previous Challenge Entry (Level 2 – Intermediate)
Topic: Africa (03/05/09)

TITLE: City Boy's Night in Congo
By Jeannie Morse


In the center of Africa, in eastern Congo, Anne taught at Rethy Academy. A message arrived by radio. Darrel Young, scheduled to fly on a small missionary plane, would arrive at Rethy in three days.

Anne had met Darrel at Biola University in California two years earlier. His mother, a health-food advocate, had raised him to not eat sugar or salt. Totally into Californian culture, he worked as a radio disc jockey.

Back in Congo, at Rethy, Anne lived with sixty-year old veteran missionary, Betty. She suggested they both walk down to a fishing village on Lake Albert with the city boy.

The twenty mile trail to Lake Albert dropped 2,000 feet in altitude. The path followed tops of natural ridges down the escarpment. Africans in the area didn’t use switchbacks. They preferred a pounding rhythmic momentum straight down the mountain, slapping wide callused feet on the rocky trails.

Betty, Anne and Darrel slipped, crawled and cautiously climbed down the grueling path.

In the late afternoon they entered the village, sweaty, dirty and panting with thirst, their leg muscles twitched with fatigue.

Red and yellow flowers tied in garlands decorated the thick grass roofs of the mud walled huts. Dozens of enthusiastic villagers lined the path singing welcome songs. Women in multi colored wrap-a-rounds and men in bright shirts greeted them with hardy hand shakes. Even shy little ones inched forward and smiled.

A village elder placed strings of flowers around the guests’ shoulders. In the meeting-hut they sat at a wooden table set with chipped enamel cups. They sipped hot tea boiled in milk and sugar. Sweat poured off Darrel’s forehead as he longed for a bottle of cold water.

A family from the largest hut had moved out offering it to the visitors for the night. As a special gesture they had plastered the walls with a mixture of red mud and cow dung.

Darrel whispered. “What’s the smell?”

“Fresh paint,” Anne teased.

The home had a living-room furnished with three chairs and a bedroom with two wood-slat beds. A six by five-foot granary for corn and millet, just off the living room, had been emptied out, and a bed assembled in it for Darrel. He was six-foot six.

Behind the hut a fence of tied-up palm fronds, five feet high, looped around a circle of pebbles and created the shower. Inside the enclosure they found a polished aluminum basin, yellow hand-made soap and a small towel. A young girl refilled the bucket of fresh water after each shower.

Darrel poured water over his head and lathered up. Realizing the remaining water wouldn’t rinse off all the soap he stepped into the aluminum basin planning to catch and reuse water as he rinsed. With head and shoulders rinsed, he bent down to pour the water back into the bucket. Small holes, made from the pebbles poking through the aluminum because of his weight, had drained all the water out of the basin. He wiped the rest of the soap off his body with the little towel.

Before dinner the host provided an old plastic basin with water for washing hands. The same wet towel hung on her arm for drying.

Fingers picked up roasted salt-dried fish with heads still on, sticky rice and boiled bananas. They had no spoons or forks. Then little sweet bananas served with sweet hot tea finished up the meal. No cold drinking water was offered.

Darrel sat on his bed while the girls used the only lamp. Should he rest his head on the wall or should his swollen feet prop up on the facing wall? He turned on his flashlight. Dozens of two-inch insects scurried up and down the granary walls. He rushed out. In the sitting room he lined up the cushions on the dirt floor. The cushion stuffing, made of palm fronds, scratch red marks into his skin. Finally, too tired to care, he stretched out on the dirt floor.

Later Darrel woke from a stinging pain on his back. He jumped up, grabbed his flashlight and called Anne. They watched a trail of hissing army ants pass through the room and out under the door.

At dawn a chicken clucked under Anne’s bed. It had laid an egg. Anne found Darrel awake, seated on a cushion-less chair. As she opened the door to let the chicken out a man greeted her and Darrel.

“Missionary, sir,” he came in, “Did you sleep well with your two wives?”

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This article has been read 483 times
Member Comments
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Lynda Schultz 03/12/09
Poor city boy! This is hilarious (though if it's true it wasn't funny for the participants, I'm sure.) I loved the last line.
Loren T. Lowery03/12/09
I enjoyed this thoroughly - it was intriguingly told in a manner that I didn't want to stop reading of the City Boy's journey. And, I learned a great deal about the people and customs of the Congo which was an added bonus!
Norma-Anne Hough03/12/09
This is a lovely account of what happens not only in the Congo, but many other parts of Africa. Delightful and very african!
Christina Banks 03/12/09
What a fun story to read, though I am sure the city boy wouldn't agree! :)
Josiah Kane03/12/09
While ants are certainly a problem (Ouch) in Africa, the dread army ant would have eaten through the chicken, missionaries, chair, and maybe even the "new paint"--In short all your brilliant descriptions of African life. I especially loved your ending, with the locals, though they evidently could communicate with the missionaries,making such a hilarious cultural mistake. Well done.
Joanney Uthe03/12/09
You put the reader right into the setting. I bet this City Boy was ready to go back home, especially after the last line. Thanks for a great story.
Ruth Ann Moore03/13/09
Oh poor Darrel! Talk about culture shock; and to not even get a glass of cool water! This trip would certainly either make him or break him with respect to staying as a missionary. Nicely done.
Karlene Jacobsen03/14/09
Poor guy... will he adjust? Will he stay? you have me wondering...
I enjoyed the humor of Darrell's night. I hope he got some rest.
Catrina Bradley 03/17/09
Oh, poor City Boy! I enjoyed this bit of comic relief from the many dark entries this week. Great descriptions - I was immersed in the Congo along with Darrell. A bit of work on "show don't tell" would spice up your writing, but over all a very good read.
Chun-yen Stillman03/18/09
Lively story with interesting details of a missionary's encounter with a new culture.