Thursday, July 31, 2008

Child's Play

Here's one way to start a week.

I arrived at the office last Monday morning to find two dead cobras, about 2 feet long each, hanging on the clothesline. One had a large frog hanging out of its mouth and the other one had a frog's foot sticking out of a hole in its side. They had been initially apprehended in the middle of the night by our office dog, GiGi, and summarily beaten to death with a stick by the resident gardener. While I was appropriately horrified, my inner child (who I've always suspected of being an eight-year-old boy) just couldn't get enough of the grisly sight. Luckily, one of my colleagues had a camera and caught the image for me to share with you. Warning: the accompanying photogragh depicts graphic violence and should be viewed only by those with a strong constitution and a desire to be thoroughly grossed out.

Actually, it was a very good week in spite of the snakes. We ended the week with a picnic at the apartment pool to celebrate birthdays, comings and goings and all of our month's hard work. After bocci ball, swimming, and some half-hearted workouts in the gym (picture women in long skirts and thong sandals laughing hysterically on the treadmill), the male staff wandered back to the pool for some more happy dog-paddling (not many having swimming lessons here) while the women gathered in a circle and asked that I join them in playing some games. These turned out to be games from their childhood which were very similar to games I had played on Mockingbird Lane as a child. Hand clapping, sing-song chants that make no sense, and lots of giggling. It felt familiar and ancient in some way. Do these games that girls play travel all over the world with various human migrations? Or are they part of a collective unconscious; rhythms and words that live in the body's memory and come to the surface wherever the circle is formed?

One of the things I love most about being here is the shameless sense of fun Africans have perfected over lifetimes of struggle. One of the highest compliments you can give a person here is to say that they "make much fun" or are "full of fun." And the fun is simple; the wit often wickedly clever but never sarcastic. Even when I don't understand the language being spoken (there are over fifty tribal languages spoken here), I seldom miss the joke which is told more with eyes and smiles than with words. Dancing, singing, jokes, and much loud, uninhibited laughter - that's what fun is.