Wednesday, March 12, 2008

The Price of Living Forever

As we crossed into Benguela province, Manuel (my favorite driver) started telling some stories about the area. I always enjoy driving with Manuel because he's open about the war and his political ideas.

He talked about the heavy fight that went on in one particular area. We crossed a bridge and he said, "The South Africans never made it past this bridge. They killed every last one of them."

Then he started telling stories about the brutality of one particular commander who was especially cruel. Apparently this one commander would kill any person who slighted him in the least, so the population of the area lived in fear. As we passed a roadside market and a hill with a lone hut on top. He pointed to it and said, "A man lives in that house, and no one can ever take his picture." I assumed he meant that he was wanted for a crime or wary of technology, but Manuel quickly corrected me. "No, Leslie. There is not a camera on earth that will take his picture."

He explained that this man was so fearful of losing his life to the cruel commander or to the violence surrounding the area that he went to a feticeiro (witch doctor) and requested a spell that would make him live forever. The side effect of this spell is that he literally cannot have his picture taken. People have tried to take his picture, but it never comes out. All of his offical documents- identity card, voter registration card- are missing the picture. Not only that, but his name cannot be writen by any machine- no typewriter, no computer will spell out his name.

As a result, no one wants to be near him, so he is doomed to spend the rest of his life all alone.

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