“Sometimes, reaching out and taking someone's hand is the beginning of a journey. At other times, it is allowing another to take yours.” ― Vera Nazarian, The Perpetual Calendar of Inspiration (musician, philosopher, and creator of wonder)
Every face of our world’s residents tells a dramatic story, if we look patiently. The experience is emotional first, and also revelatory and humbling. Children are the greatest diplomats.
The Ituri Pygmy (20th Century)
I scramble through jungle brush along a muddied path in the eastern Congo (formerly Zaire, now in the 21rst century the Democratic Republic of Congo) carefully watching the ground for snakes, as advised by a local guide. The puff adder apparently is especially dangerous because its dull brown outline melts into path rocks, under which the serpent patiently rests and scouts for something to bite. Thousands of Africans die every year from snakebite (30,000 – 60,000 according to National Geographic).
The pygmy group I encountered, possibly Efi or Mbuti (or Bambani, I’m not sure of their exact ethnicity), claim a clearing in the tangle of forest east of Kisangani. Several villagers are smoking “weed”, offered to me, and eye myself and my mostly younger companions with a respectful reserve, and not full acceptance at first.
The Ituri Rainforest is about 63,000 square kilometers in area, and is located between 0° and 3°N and 27° and 30° E. Elevation in the Ituri ranges from about 700 m to 1000 m. The average temperature is 31 °C (88 °F) and the average humidity is about 85% (Wilkie 1987). About one-fifth of the rainforest is made up of the Okapi Wildlife Reserve, a World Heritage Site.
The Ituri rain forest was first traversed by Europeans in 1887 by Henry Morton Stanley on his Emin Pasha Relief Expedition. They were also the subject of a study by Colin Turnbull, The Forest People, in 1962.