Le Colonel…

Posted on March 30, 2011

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Atamato eating pancakes (made by Alan) for the first time!

So there’s a guy that we work with called ‘Colonel’ Atamato. Although we tend to just call him by his name. And despite sounding Japanese, he is actually 100% Congolese. He is the conservateur principal of the Upemba National Park (our project) and works for the ICCN (Institut Congolais pour la Conservation de la Nature), which is the national Congolese conservation body in charge of all the national parks and zoos in the DRC. He’s staying with us in Lubumbashi until we move into the park.

Anyway, I digress.

Atamato is an absolutely wonderful man. He’s very quiet, very pensive, very reserved; but very bright. And he possesses a great laugh and sense of humour.

We were talking outside the other day, at the back of the office, both eating guavas that had just been hand-picked from the tree in the garden. In the background was music from the church across the street, gospel-style music. Booming African voices, both male and female, were creating beautiful harmonies and rejoicing at life.

After a while, I started humming the tune and ‘dancing’ – for those who know my ‘dancing’ well enough, you’ll be relieved to know that the ‘dancing’ in question was merely a mild neck-and-shoulder-style swaying. So nothing too offensive.

Even so, he looked at me with a hint of a grin escaping onto his face, seemingly amused. Naturally, I felt obliged to explain that I liked the music.

His reply, accompanied by a huge, warm smile, was simple: “La vie est chanson” (lit: life is song/music)

I thought that was a beautiful, and entirely unexpected response.

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