Wednesday, 10 December 2014

Miracle # 2: Africa, A Testament to Survival and Love

My second brush with the miraculous occurred eleven years later in the Congo. Some of you have already read this post. If you have read this you can understand why this story deserves the merit of miraculous. For those who have not read this story, get ready for a wild ride.

In the winter of 1989/1990 I had undertaken the task of riding a mountain bike from London to Capetown. Crossing Africa alone by bicycle proved to be a daunting endeavor, with each leg of the arduous journey offering significant trials and tribulations. This is going to freak me out! The reason this will prove a difficult story to recount is due to the fact, in the 20 or so years since these events occurred, I may have told this story only four or five times. As well, I have never taken pen to record the events. However, the depth of challenges which unfolded in the Zaire jungle those days long past did forever change my life.

The location of this tale was a small village about 150 north of Kisangani in the country of Zaire. Slick, undulating, mud roads which carved a path through the dense jungle (calling them roads is most generous) were horrific. Loaded with pot holes, fallen trees, deep water bogs and obstacles of all sorts meant most vehicles were lucky to accomplish 30 to 40 KM per day. Luckily, short of a motorcycle, my mountain bike proved nearly a perfect mode of transport. By example, a good day would see me manage about 75km (Yay, the only time ever I experienced a bike to out travel a truck). Two days cycling removed from the riverside city of Kisangani where I had rested for one week, I was already knackered. The jungle has a way of zapping ones energy, humidity, the constant need for vigilance, regular rains making the clay loam soil slick as an ice rink, represented just a few of the daily challenges a cyclist, minute by minute, need face. Tack on malaria, dysentery, bowel infection and an assortment of other ailments and it is easy to understand how a lone cyclist can easily be overwhelmed.

The sun, just starting to cast a red glow over the dense forest canopy, announced the end of a long day in the saddle. Fortune favoured me this lovely evening whereby as my day ended I spied a small village sitting near a river at the bottom of a long ravine. Such fortuitous village locations conveniently poised at the end of a difficult day's ride were always most welcome. So much more pleasurable it was to have the good luck to spend a night in a village, instead of just setting up a lonely tent in the midst of  the wild, dense, noisy jungle. Unfortunately, I am unable to recall the name of the tiny village. In the blur of a cross continent trip, such details needed recording in a travel log. In fact, I did at onetime have a log of this journey, however, it was appropriately stolen years later. I say appropriately, because, when crossing Africa, theft is a regular occurrence, so why not also loose the records. In any event, the names of the people, as well their quaint village respites have long since become lost in time. What remains etched in my mind are the memories of faces, smells, sounds, as well, the many lessons learned.

Coasting slowly down the wending mountain road, a mix of villagers, mostly children, started screaming out welcome. Before long, the odd shout became a small din as a throng of villagers amassed at the village square. For those who may not have traveled to similar destinations, it should be noted, in remote jungle regions like the Congo, it is unbelievable how loving and giving are the local people. Soon as it became understood I was fluent in french, the children grew rather excited. Screaming out an endless array of questions, their excitement, like a screaming teapot, began boiling over. So many questions all in one ring, made it near impossible to understand any one query. Excited as the children were, it proved only a few moments before the adults capably reigned in the cackling mass thereby enabling me to finally communicate directly with each in turn. Arriving at these remote villages, with all the attention instantly showering down, it makes you feel like a rock star or shiny new sports athlete. Additionally, you must understand this village was not unique, everywhere across the continent I was received in much the same exuberant, overzealous, star crazed, manner. The cities in many African countries are dangerous you definitely need your wits about you, but the villages are rarely short of wondrous.

Approaching the base of the hill, passing the odd thatch hut at the village outskirts, children's shouts drew the attention of the village elder who quickly made his way to the growing group. With a nod and slight wave, the elder invited me to speak. We conversed a moment, embraced, then I was invited to take a smoke before the village women prepared the evening meal. Excited, cackling children gathered around as much as were permitted. The men, amounting to a good twenty or so, sat down with the elder and myself to commune over a few pipes of ganja. In the backdrop, to our conversation, I could hear the girls and women bustling about in preparation a special feast to honour their newly arrived guest. Great debate soon swelled over the quality of our smoke. Although impressed with the ganja I had lit up, the elder, in an earnest attempt to not be outdone, shouted a few words to a boy who instantly sped off in service. Moments later, the same young boy appeared with a small bongo, a pipe, as well, about three pounds of marijuana. The elder insisted I take this gift, "so that you may remember my people, our village. Having previously found myself in similar situations, I knew enough to refuse the gesture as a gift, instead insisting, upon trading some money. "This gift is too rich I said, possibly I might gift to you some sugar, coffee beans or other market supplies". The elder agreed which was his tactful way of initiating the bartering process.

It may seem odd to be offered a gift, then find oneself bartering over the cost. However, in the spirit of Congolese trade, such a process was the expected natural progression. After a few pipes, much debate, we both felt pleased in having established a fair price for trade, which by the way, was the equivalent of nearly $12 US dollars.

Dinner was served by the fire, the elder sat next to me so that he might ensure I was amply fed and cared for. During the meal he would continually review my plate, make demands upon some of the women to ensure I sampled everything in just the right order, always piping hot. While I stayed with the tribe over the next few days, without fail, the elder continued the same process of gentle, but determined care, for every meal. We enjoyed a wonderful meal, the conversation was unique, flavourful as the food, enchanting as the village lifestyle. Having completely satisfied any sense of hunger, a freshly stoked fire proved a warm companion to hot coffee, as well as, the obligatory few pipes.

Story telling continued throughout the night, me answering, as well as asking, countless questions in a mutual effort to learn of each others lifestyles, habits, customs. Well into the evening, the forest ecosystem created a subtle din against the backdrop of stories, the effect was surreal, otherworldly in so many ways. The recanting of rich village legends provided fodder for a night of amusement one truly could not find anywhere else in the world. Clearly, I can remember the full moon as it cast a lovely glow on the flora, the sensational vista adding to a very euphoric sense of goodwill.

Late in the evening, one by one, the villagers headed off to bed. By the time the chief decided he had enough, there were maybe a half dozen of us left. Standing up, rubbing his belly with a sense of great pleasure, he urged me to follow him to the hut his wife had prepared for my evening sleep. Opening the wooden door to the small hut provided me. Probably only one of five or six village huts that actually had a door. The hut floor clearly freshly swept, a small but robust blanket lay neatly folded at the end of the crafted wooden bed. Like the door, very few of the huts actually had a bed, mostly, the villagers would sleep on a woven mat.

The huts round, crafted of straw and woven leaves of some unrecognisable sort, were sturdily held together by mud. Each village hut seemed rather small. Mine was a bit larger than the average. one inside, I made note, it was large enough for the wooden bed, next to the bed a makeshift table. Either side of the bed about two feet or so to spare, as well, three to four vacant feet at the foot. Quickly, in answer to the cool night air, I unfolded my sleeping bag, then settled in for a fitful night sleep. Prior to dozing off, the compulsory orchestra of jungle fauna lulled me into a warm reverie. The sounds of the midnight jungle is something I would so love to hear again.

Morning comes early in the jungle. About one hour before sunrise the birds wake seemingly happy to commence the AM orchestra. Not long after, the monkeys join in the chorus, Undoubtedly, the monkeys feel it is their ordained task to ensure not one soul, human or otherwise, is left dilly dallying in dreamland. Once all the critters join the morning jamboree, any person with a heart would agree, there truly is no better way to greet the day. Lounging in my bed, I hear a steady flow of little feet bounding around my hut, chirping banter with endless giggles. What a wonderful accompaniment to the forest choir of equally restless critters. Anxious, the children are, to take advantage of the early hour. Each morning of my stay, their hope is for me to show my face prior to the elders catching up to their shenanigans with a demanding refrain to leave me rest in peace. As if anyone could peacefully rest beyond the howling monkeys.

We take breakfast as one great family, everyone enjoying coffee, fruit, baked assortment of cassava treats. Rounding off breakfast is the passing ganja pipe. With the men resolved to chatter away an extra morning hour over a second cup of coffee and three or four pipes, the women chase the children to chores, as well, busy themselves with various early morning tasks. This first morning, the men were excited about the prospects for an afternoon hunt. Village scouts had reported much game on the move. I very much wished to participate in the hunt but was not offered and would never presume to ask.

I did however have the opportunity to join in the late morning village prayers and dances. Offerings to the hunting Gods were made by each of the men, with thanks, for a successful and safe hunt. Looking into their eyes as they offer up prayers, you can see the manifestation of intent. Such concentrated focus would be the envy of any, new age, intention group around the globe today. It worthy of note, the villagers did not offer prayers in hopes of success, instead choosing to offer prayers of thanks. This is a very important part of manifesting intent, any good Shaman would tell you, it is not right to beg or ask for something from the Gods. Instead, one must first know the Gods will give you what you want, which is why you give thanks for their blessings prior to actually receiving the bounty. Many years later, I remember reading the teachings of don Juan Matus, a great South American Shaman. Tears came to my eyes when I read, in the Carlos Castaneda series of books his illustration of the identical manifestation process.

In lieu of attending the hunt, I made afternoon arrangements to join eight of the young village girls on a fishing trip. The trip was quite the learning experience for me, as much as it was for the young girls, who by the way, were thrilled to be able to spend time with a foreigner. Their excitement makes more sense when you understand, that their status as girls, rarely allows themselves such privilege. Awesome and beautiful as village life is, it is very misogynistic. The men have enjoy the best of life, the boys next, thirdly the women, finally the young girls. As a result, young girls expect little more than a continual stem of chores. The time they get for pleasure, is almost completely spent among themselves. Exciting events like one on one contact with a traveling visitor is almost solely the domain of the men, when they are occupied the boys would be next in line to gain the travelers attention. The women would get the pleasure of serving the guest, in doing so gain contact. The girls, well they almost never found themselves in such a spotlight.

Knowing the lowly status of village girls, it is easy for one to imagine how extremely excited they were to have me along for the fishing trip. Making our way down the river, maybe a kilometer or so, the girls were dancing, singing, giggling and frolicking for all they were worth. Having arrived at just the bend in the river they wanted, they started their afternoon fishing with a welcome swim. I was anxious to discover what they had in mind for fishing gear, especially as they had no fishing poles nor nets, no hooks nor line. By my reckoning, all they had were half a dozen five gallon plastic buckets.

Perplexed as I was to engage in their technique, while the swam I spent a few moment gearing up with my rod and reel. I had brought my mini tackle box, enough gear I figured to catch most smaller fish. I anticipated on maybe hooking up a few worms or bugs if the fish didn't hit one the artificial lures. Having rigged my fishing line with the most likely lure for success, I started a pipe, then waded into the river for a brief dip in hopes of cutting through the early afternoon heat. The girls were, pretending to be rapt in swimming. However, for the most part, they seemed more transfixed in amazement by relishing the chance to witness my every action.

I thought to myself, maybe they expect me to catch the fish so that together we might fill those empty buckets. Well I cast and cast my lures, trying all kinds of widgets and gadgets but all to no avail. The girls found the entire scene very amusing, delighting at my expense, we all had fun. After about an hour of this, one of the girls brought me some fresh papaya. The fresh papaya is fantastic fruit for reviving the senses. I lit up a pipe relaxing by the shore watching the morning sun dance across the river.

Well don't you know it, the girls started working, they were here to fish after all. At the apex of the elbow was a small marshy area about 25 feet in diameter, they were using the buckets to dam off a small part of the river and fill the marsh area. Understand, this is no small feat, there were nine girls, seven were bringing in the buckets of mud/sand so two girls could construct the small dam. It took about two hours of steady work until they could fill and seal the marshy area. Like all the villagers, the girls refused to let me help. So I sat back reading my favorite book, smoking my pipe and enjoying the jungle fruit brought to me with regularity. They all took a lunch break with me when the work was done.

We sang songs, ate lunch, then splashed around in the river laughing and giggling. Work recommenced just as the sun was passing its apex. Phase two of the fishing trip involved the girls using the same buckets to empty the gooey swamp. Singing song of praise and thanks, they labored tirelessly for about two hours until all that was left was a quagmire of mud knee deep to all but the eldest girls. One girl was assigned to maintain the integrity of the dam while six others skittered about yelping and screaming with joy and excitement as they seized their prey. The other two girls remained steadfast in bucketing the mud onto the banks looking for anything that might flop. The day ended with the dam being broken up allowing the river to ebb into the quagmire, in time clearing the debris for the next fishing expedition.

For their rewards they caught about 150 fish, the largest maybe 4 or 5 inches. They had managed to fill about one third of a five gallon pail. Making their way back to the village you would imagine they had caught 200 pounds of fresh salmon. The joy, gratitude and thanks those girls exuded that day brought then, as it does now, tears of love to my eyes.

The men were back from a successful hunt, the girls were bouncing with excitement for the coming festivities. Ladies, who had busied themselves most the day preparing all sorts of breads and side dishes were now setting the evening feast. The entire village was abuzz with excitement.
Indescribable was the meal in it's vast assortment of tastes and textures. After a hard day watching the girls fish this was just what I needed.

We migrated back to the fire as the evening began to cool. A pipe and a few stories was to segue into the Sunday evening commune. The Chief, or elder if you like, asked I join him in offering prayers of thanks for the bounty the earth has provided his humble village. We sang and prayed under a canopy of straw, the breeze passing through the un walled building offered up an aromatic pleasure making everything seem surreal. Looking around I could see the entire village about 60 or so of us on benches before the altar, the 150 or so villagers without a seat crowded around the perimeter of the structure. Sight, sound, smell, sharing, my world became a euphoric paradise of love.

We settled back to the fire for a few stories and pipes. One of the men asked about my fishing trip inquiring of my success. I admitted I had no luck but extolled the success of the girls. Everyone around the fire found it quite amusing ( as if they didn't already know ). We talked about fishing in the area and they told me of a sacred lake. I mentioned, I wish I had the time to go there and try my luck, to this comment was more laughter. Perplexed, I asked what was funny. They said you can't fish there, it is forbidden and you would not catch fish if you tried. My reply was why? I was told that this is a very special and magical lake, if I were to cast a net or a line the water would run away. Please explain I said. He told me the water would always run away from you. If you try to approach the lake for water or food it will surely run away and give you nothing. To this I replied, I need a few more pipes. The fire almost consumed, wood has become coal leaving now ash the end to what was a perfect day.

I woke early embracing the love of the few who stirred, I felt sorrow in the knowledge I would soon leave this beautiful village family. I say village family because all the elders treat all the children just as their own. As well, all the children respect and love all the elders considering each as a parent. The result of this is confusing at first when you hear one man speaking to twenty or so children calling each one my son or my daughter. Conversely each child would refer to each elder as father or mother making it appear like one child has many fathers.

In fact this is the essence of their demeanor, they truly are a family of 200. Imagine, if all people around the world treated their neighbor as a sibling or a parent! How easy it would be to find love replacing the corporate fear paradigm.
I digress..., the morning passed in a flash with a meal and, you guessed it, a coffee and a couple of pipes. With my bicycle panniers packed I bade a sorrowful farewell to my new family, or so I thought.

Shall I continue, I hope I am not boring you...

For those who may think this cycling thing sounds like paradise, and are considering buying a Trek 900 mountain bike with the intent of crossing Africa, let me say. You have no idea how grueling it is. In Zaire alone I suffered malaria, intestinal infections, bowel infections and dysentery so bad, I would shit myself at least four or five times in a days cycling. When I saw my doctor back in Canada he told me my insides will never be the same, twenty years later he is still right.
For those brave souls who disregard my advice, you will find, a divine synchronicity between your survival needs and the graceful love with which these villagers are prepared to offer.

Back to the story....

The sun has just passed its apex as I start the climb out of the ravine, looking back I see bright faces and waving arms. The road is in good shape here, so close to the village it gets used often. I appreciate the relatively smooth surface as it appears to be a good two kilometers to the top. My muscles feel good from the re hydration of my body over the last two days. The recent abundance of good food has helped to curb the dysentery, so all is about as good as it gets for a days ride. Half way up the mountain a couple of young men, in their twenties or so, offered to help push me up the mountain. ( For those who don't know it is an extra source of income derived by the boys and young men by pushing trucks, land rovers and motorcycles out of mud holes. Cleaning of said vehicles after muddy ordeals is another service often provided. Providing of fruit and food while the pushing and cleaning is done is yet another opportunity to get, what I call, sugar money )

I was happy for the assistance, especially because my muscles were not yet warmed up. We progressed up the mountain around a couple of bends. It was in the last few hundred yards from the top I heard a metal ping sound. Something metal had dropped from my bike landing precisely on a large rock. I looked behind me to see only one man was standing on the road about twenty or so feet from the bike, where was the other?

I looked closely at him, for some reason he looked scared. As my eyes spied the panniers I noticed they were all open and emptied. In stealing my belongings he had dropped my spoke key. It is a fairly heavy solid steel tool and probably one of the only things in my bag that could have made such a distinct noise. Anything else falling and I probably would have never discovered their plot. Or even if it had fallen in the mud or dirt the alarm would have never been sounded. I looked at him, he looked at me, then he bolted running down the road disappearing around the bend. ( reader please note I had been robbed seven other times in Africa, once at knife point in a nasty little cafe in Tetuan Morocco. Three of those times in Lagos, good reason why the consulate warns you about Lagos )

Instinct kicked in and I dropped my bike running after the culprit. He had a good head start, I never expected to catch him but I had to try. As misfortune would have it he made a very poor choice. He ran down the hill, around the bend and yet another 100 yards or so to second bend. There, he was standing on the apex of the bend looking intently to see if I was to come. Why he didn't just get around the corner and hide in the jungle I will never know. Ten feet in the jungle and he would have been a ghost.

Even at that distance I could see his eyes light up in fear as he saw me barreling toward him at full speed. He made a second mistake. He stayed on the road running down the mountain, again the jungle would have still kept him free. I crested the corner where he once stood. Realising that I had made up more than half of the distance I doubled my effort. If he buckled down and ran hard he probably would have gotten away, instead he kept looking back, by doing so, slowed himself down. I was just about to grab his shirt when he finally dove head first into the jungle. I was so close I just followed. The ground fell from beneath my feet and I found myself tumbling down the mountain head over toe. I came to rest about 100 yards down the slope landing firmly on my thief. ( Please understand reader I am not a violent man, to this point in my life I had been involved in only one fight, and that was on the hockey ice. )

I am ashamed to say we fought and I beat him until I could no longer raise my hand. I took off his belt, tied his arms behind his back, and told him he was going to drag me back up this hill. We made it back to the road and up to the bicycle. I had some rope in my front pannier which I used to retie his hands. We were both fatigued and sweaty, my guard was down and he jumped on my mistake. He slipped his hand free and lunged at me biting my lip. My God, we were attached! No matter what I did, I could not get him to release him maniacal grip. I poked and pushed my fingers in his eyes, no use. I grabbed him by his pants, literally lifting him up and kneeing him in the balls, three four times, no use. I grabbed his forehead and his chin and yanked my lip out of his mouth leaving behind a large chunk of my lip. I fell back and he came at me again, a vicious attack with his teeth. I put my hand out to prevent him from clamping onto my face again but he managed to get my finger. I yanked my hand as hard as I could, breaking my finger and leaving a nasty chunk of flesh behind.

He got up leaving me on the ground soaked in blood. Again he started to run down the mountain, but now it was more like a stumble. I was defeated, I rolled over watching as he fled. I noticed the rope, which I had firmly tied to the one hand, was trailing behind him as he ran. I picked myself up and began pursuit. I was closing on the rope. My eyes were fixated on that rope bouncing in a weird pattern off the dirt road. Time seemed to slow, I bent down, picked up the rope, and drew in the slack. As soon as the slack was taken up, I did with a most malicious intent, yank on that rope for all I was worth. His arm made a loud pop as it dislocated pulling him horizontal before collapsing in agony on the ground.

I jumped on him looked him straight in the eyes and said " Tu est mort ". I wrapped the rope around his neck and pulled with all my might. Just at that moment two young boys shouted " Arretez, Arretez ". I woke, just then, to the dreadful realisation I was killing a man. I let go of the rope, rolled him over, hog tied him and told the boys to take him to the village. I walked back to my bicycle, sat down and wept. Recovering my composure, I made my way coasting down the hill. Before I had a chance to reach the village many were running up the hill. My white T-shirt was covered in blood, a good part of my lip was missing and none of us could comprehend what this event would bring to this loving village.I was led to the same hut I had used the past two days and given two squares of gauze and a mirror. I looked into the mirror and saw a horrible mess. My vanity set in, all I could see is a future with a messed up lip, then I thought.

What is all this biting about?

My lip and my finger, no punches just teeth. Does he have aids? Zaire is dealing with a national aids crisis right now. Have I been doomed to their fate? My friends, I was loosing my mind.

The elder opened the door to my hut, we talked for a long while. He was grief stricken. He told me of the great shame his sons had brought on his village. He wept as he told me quick interrogation of the captive had disclosed there were three working together. He mentioned that he had dispatched all the men and boys to search the jungle until they find the other two. As well, he had sent their quickest boy to a larger village twelve kilometers away to get the Gendarme ( police ) to take the thieves away. He had food and drink brought to me asking that I rest until the police arrive.

The afternoon passed, a poultice was made for my lip. What ever it was, it performed excellent in stemming the bleeding and promoted quick mending of tissue. As well it froze the area a bit, like at a dentist, but not quite as much. I ate what I could for dinner but my demeanor was very solemn. It broke my heart to find myself involved in such an affair. But also I was hurt and very angry at what had befallen me. I was a bundle of confused feelings, none of them good.

Where was the love and euphoria of yesterday?

After dinner I sat with some of the elders over a few pipes, the mood was very somber. The chief elder asked that I pray with him and a few others. We went to the prayer lodge asking for blessings of grace. The chief later turned to me and said, " although I have lost three sons, one is of my blood ". " His position in the village is one of great responsibility. His sin is one I cannot forgive, he is no longer my son ". Tears welled in both our eyes as the gravity of his loss set in. We returned to the fire, smoked in quiet for a while then parted for the night. Making my way back to my hut the moon was still full but the glow on the flora was not to be seen. I was trying to read and just as I was putting out my pipe the Police knocked on the door. I scurried like a child hiding my weed as I answered their call. The night was late, they were not happy (As it turned out the only vehicle in their village is the police chiefs land rover and he was away until the next day, so they had to walk all the way, 12 km to answer this call.)

They asked I join them in the elders hut for a discussion. I was asked what happened, I told them everything, including my attempted murder on the thief's life. They asked what was missing and I lied. I told them everything that I knew was missing, but I also told them five hundred dollars U.S. was taken. There was no $500, I wish I never said there was. No matter what, I wanted those three to pay for my lip and pay for the aids I might be carrying. I didn't want the police letting them go because I was just a tourist out of his depth and they were locals, so to speak. The police informed me the village men had captured the second thief and will surely get the third, as he has no where to go. They told me I would have to attend the police chief in their village to file a proper report. As well he suggested I should rest as we will leave mid morning.

I returned to my tent, tried to read or sleep but neither was possible, I laid there victim to my thoughts. In the background echoing throughout the village was the screams of the two men as the police tortured them for information and a confession. The night grew on, I drifted off to sleep in a eerie silence, it seemed the entire jungle was holding it's breath.
I woke about two hours before dawn to stomach cramps, nothing unusual if you make the toilet in time. My finger throbbed and my lip ached while my stomach was doing the two step. I placed my feet on the hut floor ( which is the ground ) and gathered my composure. I felt a couple of bites on my foot, then a few more on my leg. Damn these buggers really bite. I lifted my feet up and reached for my handy Zippo lighter. A flick of the Zippo illuminated the floor showing a steady flow of army ants, or whatever they are called. The entire floor of the hut was moving. The only way you can get them off is by picking them off. Trying to sweep them away is useless. In all the commotion I shit my pants, damn not again.

I got myself sorted, took extra underwear and pants and made my way to the toilet. For those who don't know, it is a concentric circle of thatch with a large hole in the middle and two sturdy logs across. You should have a picture of me standing on the logs with my ass sticking out dropping a load. And that is exactly what happened for the first few minutes until the log broke. Yes my dear readers, I found myself covered from head to toe in shit and piss. I vomited, like I have never vomited in my life ( even worse than when I pounded back a fifth of tequila to celebrate my 25th birthday ).

When I finished vomiting, I vomited some more. I started climbing out the hole. However the shape I was in with my broken finger and pounding head I couldn't get out. I fell back submerging myself no less than three times before finally extracting myself from the excrement. I made my way down to the river stripped off and tossed away my clothes, I guess at least I didn't have to clean the shit out of my pants, that is never fun friends.

I cleaned up,making my way back to my hut just as the birds were getting up. I smoked a few pipes and before I knew it the police were knocking on my door to go. They were able to recover about 80% of what was taken but the $500 and some odds and ends were still missing, albeit with the promise all would be recovered. The one thief admitted the third guy has my money.

The police led myself, the thieves and the chief to the village ceremonial square. In the harsh light, I could see heavy bruising on their legs, torso and arms. Since neither could stand in one place for more than a second, I assumed the soles of their feet had also been beaten. Moreover, the damages I had inflicted on the thief who I fought had not been tended. To this day, I cannot imagine how much emotional and physical pain they were in at that time. Nor, could I ever imagine then what was yet in store for us all.

A goat was led into the square and a villager took a large knife cutting it's throat in one swift motion, I nearly puked. Then and there he gutted the goat and tied it around the neck of the man I fought. Around the neck of the other thief he tied a sack with all the retrieved belongings they took. To this man's waist a live goat was tied. All of us stood back in utter silence as the ceremony was performed and accusations were announced. The chief said a few words denouncing from the tribe all three villains. All I could think of was that somehow I was the, real, third villain.

Ceremony complete, the police ushered the two thieves away with me following about 50 yards back. As we left the camp the eerie silence was broken with the sounds of great sorrow and loss. Soon the sounds faded as the jungle engulfed our group. It was a most arduous journey my friends, 12 km through a hot jungle. I was spent from the day and night before, I cannot conceive how the thieves could move, let alone walk with a load. We took breaks, but not enough. As the thieves stumbled, they were beat with sticks until they regained their footing to continue. I let them get a couple hundred yards ahead, so I wouldn't have to experience the violence up close.

How did any of us make it?

I don't know. I passed out in the infirmary as soon as I arrived, the other two didn't have that luxury. I regained consciousness jolted by the screams of the tortured men. I looked at the I.V. in my arm and slowly regained the realisation of the nightmare. In my brief absence, the two men were tortured by three different police officers. They were going up the rank comparing notes as they went. By the time they were done, neither thief could speak. I witnessed this as they were dragged to the village square semiconscious. The bright sun made it feel like a cheap spaghetti western. I watched them tie the two men back to back against a large tree. The tree was big enough they couldn't see each other. The chief of police walked out into the courtyard greeting me with great interest. He went on to rant to a growing crowd.

"How terrible these men are to the reputation of the government of Zaire. No mercy should or will be spared in retribution."

I could barely stand up. My head was spinning while my stomach was dancing the Cha Cha. The chief, noticing my unsteadiness, grabbed my arm making apologies for keeping me in the sun. He ushered me into his air conditioned office. The cool air steadied my senses allowing us to proceed with the task at hand, the deposition. I dictated to him the events as I knew them, trying in some way to reduce the damage my lie about the money would inflict. He would have nothing of it, he assured me they would find the $500 dollars. Or, he would meet me later with recompense from the government coffers. About ten or so minutes into the interview the thieves began to scream, the torture had begun anew. We took two hours to compile the whole story, typed in triplicate with the aide of carbon paper. The report was typed one letter at a time, the chief liked to type that way.

When all was done, the chief ushered me out of his office to proudly present the defeated thieves. Off and on during the interview this very large man (one of the biggest men I have ever seen) used a heavy hemp rope with knots tied in it to flail the two men. Rendering them unable to respond to the chiefs questioning, even after buckets of water were thrown on their lifeless bodies. Defeated, dripping unconscious in blood, the crowds started to disperse, the show was over.

I was ushered to a room in a small hotel, if you could call it that. I was informed that missionaries who heard of this event were prepared to take me as a passenger to the city of Bunia where I was receive proper medical help, and inform my consulate. The chief said he would meet me in two weeks when he must travel to Bunia for business. As well, he had me over for dinner. His property was lavish as was the dinner. However, his pride in brutal justice along with constant boasting about his new prison was difficult to bear. He insisted on giving me a tour of the prison, the conditions were dreadful, he could not have been prouder because of it.

Back at the " hotel " I laid my head down and slept like never before. The next morning arrives with the do good missionaries fulfilling their mandate to rescue my sorry soul. They seemed odd, by example, they had a land rover with some luggage on the seat. Instead of moving the luggage to the back and offering me a seat they asked me to sit in the luggage area. I was not about to complain, riding a land rover bouncing around in the back is still far better than walking. We arrived in the village, I collected my gear and bicycle loading it into the land rover under great protest. The missionaries thought I would leave my bicycle. It took about 10 minutes to convince them the bike was essential. After all, there was plenty of room for everything.

They relented, so with a few words to the elders and some pictures I was off. I knew the trip was about 150 km which I suspected would take about two or three days even with a land rover. The cold demeanor of the missionaries was a caution, but what could I do? I was an emotional and physical mess. I couldn't ride, not with my finger broken, my lip and a litany of other health issues. Dehydration alone could do me in. No matter if I could ride or not, it soon became apparent I was not going to be able to maintain the company of my compassionate missionaries.

It went like this... The passenger started berating me about flaunting my rich lifestyle in front of these savages. How are they supposed to refrain from the devils work when evil people like you are acting as temptation? Then the driver chirped in with his barrage. On and on this went for about and hour. I tried to argue my point (which is something I could do well) but my brain was just not working. Instead of reason, I started yelling and screaming obscenities about their probable propensity for young black boys. The land rover came to a quick stop, soon after I found myself assembling the parts to my bicycle.

The first three days on the way to Bunia was all a blur. I remember sleeping in a ditch under the stars the first night. After that, I can only remember the focus it took to make sure the next peddle is pushed down and the constant pain, even my hair hurt. Willing my legs to continue turning the crank, I fell of my bike many times. Each fall felt like a dream, I was far beyond the pain one receives when falling of a bike. Get up and turn the crank I would say over and over in my mind, just keep it going. I persevered until I passed out unconscious in the ditch.

I have no idea how long I was out for, all I knew was that it was now dark and I had passed out. I was very, very scared. I thought I was going to die here in an African jungle miles from nowhere. I began thinking about the love for my family and friends back home. I imagined what it would be like for them to get consular news of my death, never knowing what happened or how much I loved them.
I cried and cried, then I prayed like I have never prayed before, or since. I begged God to give me the strength of my brothers and sisters, of my parents and my friends. I begged that their love and energy should come to my aid so that I may find the strength needed to survive.

At that very moment, a wave of peace and love came to me. I was still a mess but somehow I knew I would make it, I knew God was with me.

(Later I came to understand it was my own Godself power which I had accessed)

I righted the bike, fixed my light on the road and recommenced turning the crank. The entire rest of the journey to Bunia was surreal. As if it were a dream that cannot be remembered. As I have no recollection of what transpired, I cannot explain or comprehend how I made it, how long it took. From the very moment I remounted the bike, my GodSelf completely took control of my reality. For all I knew, I could have flown on the wings of an angel.

I know the first few days were slow maybe 20 - 25 kilometers per day, that would have left about 75 to 100 km remaining. I guess, if the same pace were maintained it would have taken another three to four days riding as a spirit. How many more days of cycling did it really take? Did I sleep? Did I eat? Everything was and still is a complete blank slate.

I arrived in the city around dusk, immediately coming to the attention of a police officer. He had spied me across an open courtyard quickly determining I required assistance. I remember looking at him, wondering, why he looked so concerned? He asked me my nationality, I told him Canadian. At once he said I know where to take you, they will tell me what to do.

He guided me to a home about a block away where a representative of the Canadian government lived. This gentleman was establishing a new agriculture project for the city. In addition to his job, he acts as a vice consul representative. (I may have the term wrong, in essence, he acts in the capacity of the consulate, fulfilling some duties but without the title.)


We stood on the stoop as he rang the bell. I was in a haze, but I will never forget the look on my saviors face when he first saw me. He picked me up, took me to the living room calling his wife. He was asking the police officer all sorts of questions, but all the police officer knew was that I was Canadian. They phoned a doctor who lived near to visit. Within minutes he was there prodding, poking and asking questions. The doctor suggested they watch me closely through the night and to call if my condition deteriorated. His assessment was I would be okay, but it would take time to heal. I was to see him at his office the next day to x-ray the finger, sort out the lip and clean up my dysentery. Stitches could not be used as it had happened too many days past. The next day the doc fixed me up some more, he said I had to wait three months before I could get an aids test, then another test after six months determine my fate.

I cannot describe to you dear readers how this man, his wife and two children saved me. They own a beautiful home with servants who love their work. Their garden looked over a gorgeous vista of jungle groves. The smell of of their garden was heavenly. They had many books for me to choose from, most importantly they had all the old tunes I love. I had the house to myself. The servants were so gracious in putting up with Leonard Cohen over and over and over.

I cried and cried, my heart felt like it was ripped apart. As my health improved I felt guilty for surviving this ordeal when it was likely the other two or three men were doomed. I kept seeing the fight in my mind. I could not shake the image of his face purple with the rope tied around his neck, knowing how the anger raged through me unabated. The many images of torture; from the butchered goat to the 12 km march, ending in the final beating tied unconscious to a tree. The screams of those two men rang in my ears almost every moment. I felt like I was loosing my mind, I just wanted to die. The love of this remarkable family was the only thing which kept me from a psychiatric ward. They cared and loved me like one of their own. They fed me, cried with me, cleaned dirty bed sheets, and comforted screaming nightmares. They led me gently back to health. Before leaving, I was speaking with the father. He told me how pleased he was to see me recover. He admitted that when he first saw me he thought I was a ghost. In his words, "there was nothing there, nothing in the eyes."

I met with the police chief two weeks later as planned. He said he would be able to have some money for me in a couple of days. He winked at me, with a wry smile he said, "one of them is dead, the fighter". " He killed himself with a knife in his cell. The other one will suffer the same and the third we will find. " I got up and without a word left his presence, never to see him again.

I left the company of my saviors the next day. I had imposed on their hospitality enough, as well, Uganda was calling me. With great sorrow and joy I looked back on the town of Bunia as it faded into the jungle. There was road ahead, people to see and lessons to be learned. Down goes one leg, up goes the other, the crank starts to turn, man in motion.

The events of that time took many years to resolve. I still have difficulty keeping it all in perspective. A couple years ago my wife bought me Lenard Cohen for my birthday. We were eating dinner as the music began and I realised it was the same album that kept me sane in Bunia. I tried to hold back the emotion but ended up breaking out in sobs. We learn compassion from the strangest of places. Our heart breaks from the oddest ordeals. Souls dance with us in loving synchronicity, giving up their very existence on this plane so that we may discover our true nature. I cherish the three thieves and pay greatest love and respect to their memories, all who danced with me during those days. The miracle which occurred in the Jungles of Africa was not the surviving but rather the three day or four day trip my GodSelf spirit made on my behalf to ensure my safety. I have absolutely no recollection of how I managed to ride a mountain bike covering nearly 150 kilometers of the most difficult African terrain. In perfect health, I could not have managed such a feat of endurance. How did I do it? Impossible to say, unless you accept it was in fact a miracle.

Post script. I ended up loosing my diary which had the names of all the party members. As a result of post traumatic stress ( and maybe too much weed ) my memory for recollecting the names was hopelessly lost with the diary. I did not like referring the the elder as the elder, the thieves as the thieves or the family who save me as the family. In this omission I mean no disrespect and have for years felt terrible that I cannot honor them all by name.


  1. thank you for visiting! i am catching up on your beautifully written, ever engaging anecdotes of your life experiences and thought processes, and enjoying your recent entries...
    wishing you a joyful day

  2. Namaste, my sister, a pleasure to have your company. Thank you for the kind words. Your beautiful art always inspires me, so I take pleasure in knowing my meanderings are enjoyed by you today. By the way everyone take a look at Sonja's work it is very beautiful.

    In Lak' ech, sister Sonja, love is all there is...

  3. dear brother, this is very revealing indeed. i know now from what great depths your heart pulls compassion and love. i can very well sense your inner struggle especially during the moments that you learned that the men who had wronged were suffering far more than what you had envisioned them to get .. sometimes Life teaches us via a difficult route. thanks for sharing.

  4. Now I see that you have truly known the rigors of the road Christopher. Traveling around with your feet near the ground was fabulous field work for your head. You have a great life experience in that trip brother. Thanks for sharing it.

    I will bring it up often in conversations to come.

    Signed, hobo

  5. An absolutely incredible story. Fascinating. I hope you will consider writing a book someday about all of your experiences. This is a very special tale.

  6. Namaste, brother Sito, life does have a funny way of teaching us. Keep an eye for the fourth miracle Sito, I will post it in two days time. I think you will like that story the most of the four.

    In Lak' ech, my dear brother, love forsaking all else...

  7. Namaste brother Ed, a pleasure to have your company. Above and beyond the call of duty, Gods roared in the jungle of Africa til' only whispers and memories remained.

    In Lak' ech, my brother Ed, strange love...

  8. Namaste my sister C.J., very much my pleasure to enjoy your company. I am in fact writing a trilogy entitled

    " Dancing With God "...a search for unconditional love

    For you amusement my sister here is the forward.

    Suspend reality, imagine sitting in the comfort of your home, the peel of your doorbell captures your attention. You attend the call, opening the door in mild anticipation. Before you stands an old woman in rags claiming to be God. She asks you for a glass of water. Unhinged by this experience, you dawdle in response. Fumbling in an effort to buy time, you ask her to wait while you hesitantly fulfill her request. Closing the door, you make your way to the kitchen feeling culpably insane. Nonetheless, you find yourself with glass in hand, pausing, as you reopen the front door. Your brain is telling you, call the police and get some help for this poor deranged soul. Your heart resists, it's just a glass of water, help her out.

    You reach for the knob, slowly turning it left until it turns no more. Light filters through the widening gap to reveal the woman patiently waiting. Your offering is graciously accepted, the empty glass is passed back with a loving smile. Unexpectedly, you see her gesture toward you with hand extended. Her finger, pointed and bony, is moving ever closer to your face. You want to pull back, but find yourself caught in a trance. Transfixed in the moment, you watch intendedly until you feel contact a few inches above the bridge of your nose. In a flash your world changes. You fall to your knees, connected to the GodSelf truth of unity and unconditional love. Tears flow from the depth of your being as you embrace the eternal source of love without separation.

    Do we truly know love, or is love the most misunderstood word in the language of humanity?

    Dancing With God, offers for your consideration a search to define love. The most beautiful thing we all have in common is the inherent desire to share love. Is it your wish to better comprehend what love really is? If so, may these words offer you a bridge to the bliss of love without condition.

    Our goal is to discover, scientifically and spiritually, a new world which has been intentionally hidden from our view. This new world will dazzle and amaze us my friend. We will find magic, adventure, thrills and chills we could never have imagined possible. When we discover the power which lays dormant at our feet, we will never again see the world as we do now. In this new world, we will learn of a bizarre reality indicating we are truly immortal Gods. I am not asking you believe in the many marvels we will discover together. If truth is to be found in the alternate world we observe, your heart will know. My only desire, is that as we visit these foreign lands, take everything which will enable you to discover and embrace unconditional love. Hold your breath Dorothy and grab Toto, everything is going to go upside down.

    Dancing With God, is divided into three separate and distinct books; Our Mind In Chaos, Our Mind Beyond Illusion, Our Heart Embracing Love.

  9. " Our Mind In Chaos ", is dedicated to determining exactly how humans create reality. Our purpose will be to investigate the key ingredients which form the recipe for defining self. How do we interface with our environment? How much of a role does our environment play in perceived reality? Once we establish a firm grasp of how we create reality, we then will evaluate if societies role is just and beneficial to the development of personal and planetary well being. Unraveling the stitching of society can be very disquieting. I believe we live in times where most people have, at the very least, a gut feeling something is not right. Our planet is considered by modern society as some kind of floating confectionery. We all understand Earth is not to be consumed like products on a Wall Mart shelf. She is a conscious living being, her Greek name is Gaia, derived from the root word Ga, meaning land. There was a time we called her mother. We offered her respect and love, cherishing her lavish gifts. Today, she is no longer entitled mother, her status of " being " is callously dismissed. Look about you, she lies weeping in the garbage dump of material obsession. The daily choices of ignorant consumers contribute to this great injustice, what are we to do? The only sensible recourse is to first restore her title of mother. We then teach the next generation to love, honour and respect her magnificence. In order to bring about such significant change, we must first gain an appreciation of the role our chaotic mind plays in the destruction we see before us.

    Have you ever wondered why thoughts of fear and dislike endlessly play in the backdrop of your awareness? Displayed in the medley of main stream media, sound and picture bytes feed us a steady diet of fear. Images, flickering at mesmerising speed, establish more definitively the templates we use for judgment of ourselves and others. Casting stones from the doorsteps of glass houses, we fail to see the damage we invite and proliferate. Great leaps forward occur when we accept, the corporate fear machine represents an attack on our well being. It is only by defining and knowing the enemy that we can overcome the yoke placed on our minds.

    Careful investigation of how external elements determine our reality will certainly aide in our efforts to regain directional control of our lives. If we are to find success in limiting the impact of said elements, will we then find solace of the mind? Most people who integrate this information indicate a feeling of empowerment comes from finding a new way to contain the damage and frequency of mental horribilising. With that said, our goal is not to limit damage cycles. We should, and will, strive to eliminate the problem entirely by searching deeper into causation.

    The aforementioned inquiry will lead us to discover our minds are beset by an internal demon. This tangible force is far more influential and damaging than all external programming combined. Within the hearts and minds of all men there lurks an enemy so powerfully deceptive the scope of it's influence has yet to be fully determined. For thousands of years, this beast has been the subject of endless conjecture. Poets, philosophers, psychologists, clergymen and laymen alike have pondered its origins and mechanisations. Countless are the names we confer to it's presence, some call it the devil, Lucifer or Satan. The name I prefer is somewhat less odious, ego. Once we understand how ego works, we will then be able to see how it uses illusion to confuse and dis empower personal expression. Closing thoughts of the first book give us an appreciation of why we have so little control in how our future unfolds. One might suspect such revelations to make us feel powerless. This is not the case, by pulling back the curtain to reveal the puppet master, we find his powers can be circumvented. Such fantastic revelations become the impetus for discovering ways we may live beyond illusion.

  10. Book 2 CJ

    " Our Mind Beyond Illusion ", represents the next logical progression in our quest. Having discovered the puppet master, we must learn how he spins deceit. If we are to fully move beyond illusion we will need all the support modern science and ancient spirituality can muster. No trick will be left unexplained, nor stone unturned as the mystical spells of all illusion are burned away by the harsh light of science. Carving a new reality free of fear and ignorance cannot be accomplished without blending spiritual and scientific truth. With this goal in mind, the second half of book two will endeavor to match spiritual gnosis with empirical data. If the quantum physicist defines matter as light, the biblical phrase, " and God said, let there be light...." makes more sense. When we are trying to understand the spiritual expression " as above, so below " we can ask a mathematician to explain the Fibonacci sequence, or a biologist could tell us how fractal geometry defines all life to be formed from a single geometric template.

    Remember, our ultimate goal is to prove there lies beyond the curtains of illusion verifiable fact our true identity is eternal GodSelf consciousness. If we are to successfully navigate our way to the top of this mighty peak, we will need to rely heavily on our ability to assimilate cutting edge science with the wisdom of ancient spirituality.

    By affecting such a two tiered approach to gathering knowledge, we guarantee both the left and right hemispheres of our brain become active in the discovery process. Too often, we allow the left brain to dominate our thinking process. More to the point, we fail to massage the right brain with imaginative or philosophical gymnastics. Deductive reasoning is effective, however the creative juices from the right brain augment reason by instilling inspiration into the mix. So how important is inspiration? In the words of Thomas Alva Edison, Quoted in Harper's Monthly magazine,September 1932.

    "Genius is one percent inspiration, ninety-nine percent perspiration."

    To me, the 1% is when the heart speaks truth, the other 99% is the brain catching up to what the heart just said.

  11. Book 3 CJ

    " Our heart embracing love " is the final book in the " Dancing With God " series. The sole purpose of this book is to determine how to live our lives solely from the GodSelf perspective. We have not vanquished ego, however we have the tools needed to charter a course to freedom from mental enslavement. We now learn that Ego has always played the role of teacher, patiently offering corrections as we navigate unknown waters. Ego can be a tough teacher, especially when we do not comprehend his language or the lessons offered. We start the book by redefining all aspects of our reality from the new perspective of GodSelf truth. We no longer see ourselves as separate from others, instead we accept the divine concept of unity consciousness. The drums of fear dampen until barely audible, love replaces the old paradigm as serenity warms the cockles of our heart. Our focus becomes pointed as we embrace the sole desire to love and serve all. In this new reality we finally understand what it means to love unconditionally.

    Imagine if every person on the planet lived their life with these thoughts, feelings and emotions. It can happen! In fact many archeologists, historians, philosophers, scientists, spiritualists and laymen alike believe we are experiencing the last legs of a dying civilisation. They go on to suggest, our species will evolve to develop a new unity based perspective of consciousness. If this were to happen by the predicted date of December 21 2012 what would our new world look like?

    The last leg of this trilogy will be dedicated to creating a vision of how this new world might possibly manifest. No one knows the future but it sure can be fun spending time dreaming. We will following a few select characters as they go about coping with the final weeks of this crumbling civilisation and the first weeks after the evolutionary shift in consciousness.

  12. I embrace all that you are, Namaste~

  13. Namaste Lightworker, thank you for your visit.

    In Lak' ech, love beyond...

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