The Bayaka in my heart

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By the time I returned to the village, three days had passed without seeing them and I already missed them. I was happy to return and they were happily waiting for me. When I returned, it was like coming back home, as if I had never left. I sat on the floor outside of Louie's house, and right away, I had all the kids on top of me playing and that's what I did during my last 3 days in the village. There I began to understand how much I was going to miss them.

I remembered what Louie had told me in one of our conversations when he said: - "I feel that what they gave me is much bigger than what I can give them". If in such a short time I could feel the love of the Bayaka, it is not difficult for me to understand why Louie found in them a family.

Of course, not everything is rose-coloured, and it is not my intention to idealize and present them as a kind of perfect society where everything is idyllic. It is not. Life here is extremely hard and the Bayaka certainly have a history of suffering. Until not long ago, the pygmies of the whole region were traditionally slaves of the Bantu, who bought them as objects and put them at their disposal. Today, alcoholism among men is an epidemic, as are venereal diseases and others like tuberculosis. Hunting, their ancestral means of survival are made increasingly difficult by the pressure that poachers have placed on the local fauna. This forces the Bayaka to have to make longer and more strenuous expeditions into the jungle to find animals and still, many times return empty-handed. Consequently, they are forced to settle closer to the villages and need money to buy some essential foods. With the proximity to the village comes alcohol and all the sort of vices that corrupt the traditional life and thus, the vicious circle extends.

However, despite all the difficulties, I leave this corner of the world as it is with many other places in Africa, with a full heart because although the difficulties do exist and are huge, these people have that incredible gift of making them less dramatic and compensate them with smiles and a life without constant complaints or lamenting. Once again, the traditional African life gives me a lesson in life.

I take the pygmies with me deep inside my heart. The time in this small remote corner of the Central African Republic has given me much more than I imagined. Adventures, beauty, but above all things, affection, and that is what I value on top of all the other things. This is one of the most difficult farewells for me, with the whole village present to come and say goodbye. I hug Louie and Agathi very tight. I can see the enormous sadness in the faces of Toto, Mame and Esanga, who had become very attached to me, and I to them. Farewells are ugly, but how beautiful and priceless is the gift that I take away with me from here today. I can only wish that they feel at least something similar for having had me in their lives.

Now there's a jungle from which I have to get out. On the other side of the Sangha, Cameroon is waiting for me.