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Tuesday, May 12, 2009

from Claudine's diary...meeting the Po

We could not start the new-year without giving our best wishes to the Ilonga-Pôo population.
We left for two days of navigation on the Lopori and the Matoku Rivers, to reach the harbour for the village of Boso-Ngubu. Alas, as we had no motorbikes we had to walk the 6 kilometres, zigzagging through the village to the house where we were awaited by the groupment chiefs, the “Nkumu” and the “notables” as well as a delegation (mainly men) of the population and tens of children.

The welcome was a usual: warm-hearted. We each gave our best wishes and I made my promises to the Pôo for 2009. The women had prepared fish and duck for us, accompanied by cassava flour cooked as shikwange, a real delight! Following that, thanks to a superb full moon, we stayed discussing may different things with the youngsters and the elders as we sipped on raffia wine, which was a little too alcoholised for my taste.

We spent the night protected by our mosquito nets in a room that the mistress of the house had arranged to make it as comfortable as possible for us. At dawn, the children, already up and about, ready to go to school, were waiting for us impatiently, hoping for yet another photo from Maman Titi Ô. A meeting was planned for 7:30 am. This meeting was supposed to be “informal”, but there were already over a hundred people present. The chairs were all lined up and we soon heard the ringing of the Nkumu’s small bell. He was wearing his necklace bearing 32 leopard teeth. Following him were the more notable members of the population, the school headmasters, the nurse and others yet…

I repeated my best wishes, for those who might have missed them the previous night and I expanded on the ABC’s three promises for the Pôo villages in the coming year. Firstly, the network to allow for a cell phone signal in Boso-Ngubu, (an engineer from Vodacom, who was with us to get his bearings using a GPS device, confirmed that it was going to be possible). I repeated once again the Vodacom was offering the necessary equipment, but that only the technical side of it all would reveal if the forest is too much of an obstacle for the airwaves or not. Wisely, they said they would wait to hear the verdict.

Then came the turn of the nurse (in charge of the two health clinics) to give us the list requested the previous night in order to fulfil our second promise, to give the women a little more comfort when they give birth, starting by a little solar powered lamp and some plastic covered mattresses, much easier to disinfect than the current grass mat. The list wasn’t excessive and I was already planning to post it on the Internet to ask for support from our many far-off friends.