At 4am, finally tired enough to sleep through the music and speeches, I sleep. The crashing sound of the loudest music yet wakes me up at 6am and I know there is no going back to sleep. A bucket bath later, Mandaba and I head out to get more blood work in hopes of finding out what caused the convulsions. His tongue is so swollen, it is hard to understand him and I find myself saying, “excuse me?” more and more often and I try hard to find words around what sounds like drunken mumbling but which is caused by pain and discomfort.
We exchange money on our way back home and as we near the neighborhood where we are staying, I look over the motorcycle driver’s shoulder towards our street and see that the dirt road has been barricaded in order for the memorial service to continue. More decorations have gone up and I watch in fascination as hundreds of plastic chairs are brought in and set up under tarps and tents along both sides of the street and in the area that was built yesterday.
The gate to the guest house butts up to the newly erected tarps, so it is easy to see the traditional dancers and singers warming up. Dressed in grass skirts and white tank tops, they stomp and dance to the music of marimbas, drums and voices. They are fluid and beautiful, with muscular arms that sweat and gleam in the sun. We watch from the dining room window, not drawing any attention to ourselves. More and more visitors arrive, dressed in their absolute best with suits and beautiful dresses and head wraps filling up the chairs.
Soon, the military show up in decked-out white trucks and I see a rocket launcher, sub machine guns and something that is strapped to the base of the truck bed. They park right beneath the window from where I am spying on the service and the soldiers seem so out of place in a service such as this one, yet so familiar in the city where I am. A UN member is refused entry because he is carrying a gun so he walks away, passing the heavily armed vehicle standing guard at one entrance to the makeshift memorial service area.
Any thought of napping today is robbed from my mind, whisked away by the steady beat of African drums on one side and recorded western music on the other. I don’t know why they are both happening simultaneously but it is hard to think with the discordant sounds happening now. The storm of sound comes to a sudden stop and a gentle ballad takes over the large speakers while visitors sign a guest book. There are rumors that the Minister or the President will come to pay their respects which I know will guarantee more soldiers and police, along with sirens announcing their arrival.
Perhaps it is just a rumor, I tell myself hopefully.