Tuesday, July 20, 2010


With the field clear, Uncle Ron began digging the foundation, filling it with rocks and cement. Uncle Ron was an ordained minister, not an architect. This however, was not a stumbling block. He would build it as best he could. That's how the missionaries got so much done. They just did it. Then they lived with it. They weren't the poor me types. There were no building codes, and a white man could build just about whatever he wanted. Miracles were performed under this can do system - chaos with a mission. Uncle Totty flew in from the bush once in awhile to help; he was the official builder sent out from our mission board. The place was built without professionals, much of it done with child labor, both willing and unwilling. By the end of the year, the new hostel was up and running. We children and our hostel parents moved in. What real joy!

This house was full of children. Adults seemed superfluous. Twenty four people in all, and only three adults. It was big, it was beautiful, but mostly it was ours. The hostel was in the shape of the letter Y. The large center area was for playing games and for meetings and devotions. One wing was the kitchen and dinning area, the eating area facing the center. The other two wings, one for boys and one for girls, were dormitories with a central bath and shower. Uncle Ron and Aunt Daisy roomed at the entrance to the boys wing. An Australian spinster roomed at the entrance to the girls wing. You can guess what her job was. Keep the boys out!

This brings up the subject of sexuality. It was a huge paradox to be in Africa, while being children of strong Puritan lineage. At home, around our missionary parents and guardians, sex was taboo, while outdoors among the natives, sexuality was pervasive. You could start just by looking around, sex was being performed by every kind of insect, lizard, bird, toad, rodent, and by the pigs, goats, sheep, chickens and ducks that roamed freely. The desirable hens had no feathers left on the back of their necks because that's where the roosters grabbed them. The tropical jungle was a regular sex parade.

On top of that, the African children seemed to mature much earlier than us white children. Most girls were pregnant by the time their breasts were developed, and they went on being pregnant till they died, or passed menopause. It was very noticeable. I could never figure out why. No birth control and no restraint - a big cultural difference! The average native life span was around forty years, so short that marrying and having children early was a necessity. All the native women in their teens had children.

From a young boy's perspective, I was enticed early, as bare breasted women were everywhere, especially in the bush. Nursing was done constantly by the majority of women, and so breasts were always in view. And of course, sex had to be a constant to keep the flow of children coming because half of them died before the age of three. So many children died that a family would get two or three to adulthood out of six or seven born. So children were expected to grow up fast, and be productive as soon as possible.

We white children in comparison were kept children as long as possible. Most certainly we were kept away from sex. As best as that can be managed with sex going on all around. Africa was teaming with life and everywhere you turned their was one animal on top of another or one insect stuck to the other, end to end. It didn't take much to figure out what all the bugs, toads, lizards, chickens, goats and sheep were doing.

I always thought that the missionaries wanted to keep us children as long as possible to lengthen the time for indoctrination. For I can readily say that the most dominant feeling I had as a child was that I was being indoctrinated. The longer we were physically and psychologically dependent, the longer the adults had to structure our minds in their manner. Missionaries were good at this. One could paraphrase a famous poem and say, "A child is a child, is a child, is a child." The missionaries wanted us to be children for life - psychologically at least. They took over whole native cultures didn't they? They were expert. So missionary children like myself learned to daydream - the only mental freedom we had. No one could see in here. And I learned to hide very well. What other choice did I have? Unfortunately, years of practicing this led me to be hidden from myself.

Sometime during the year of the new hostel, I got hold of a BB gun. It wasn't mine, but belonged to a friend who didn't use it. It didn't work at the time that I discovered it, but I talked him into letting me fix it. I did get it fixed and had my mother send down all the BB's I had brought from the U.S. Every day after school I would go hunting. I must have killed ten to fifteen birds each afternoon. I also shot lizards and toads, but BB's don't kill them and they would just run away wounded. Soon I could gauge the effect of the wind and the pull of gravity, making with every shot, the appropriate adjustments. I shot any bird available, and spared none. If it came into view, I shot it. I even shot tiny little hummingbirds. In order to lessen my guilt I would give the birds, even the smallest of them, to the natives. They ate them, as they ate anything that moved. I watched them once cook a hummingbird I provided in with some beans. It added just a touch of meat flavor.

The hardest birds to kill, or even get close to, were doves. You could hardly get close to them. They were a very shy breed. There were two kinds. The "Road Dove," so called because they fed mostly along the sandy roads in small groups, and flew off at the slightest sound. Then there were the large "Gray Doves," more the size of pigeons in the U.S. One almost never even saw these. They kept mostly to the tops of the large mango trees. They staked out perches high in the trees from which they peered down. I always wanted to get one of them but I never did until one time when my sister came down for a visit.

She was out walking and spotted one. She yelled, "Come. Come, there's a big dove out here by the palm tree. I can see it." I grabbed my BB gun and ran outside. I could see the dove, it was on the ground. I put the palm tree between me and the bird and walked quietly up to the tree. The bird still did not see me. I raised my rifle, aimed and shot. Three feet into the air the bird leaped and fluttered, then faltered and fell flapping desperately on the ground. I ran out to it and caught it. I held it down with one foot and shot it through the eye. It stilled suddenly. That was a trophy. Once I killed two gray doves with a friend who had a pellet gun. It was more powerful and so we could shoot at them in the top of the trees. We cooked them and ate them. Not bad really. Just not much meat to it. After that though, I began to hunt less. I felt that there really wasn't much meat there for killing such beautiful birds.

I had very little sympathy for other animals. I don't know why. Part of being male I suppose. As I grew older and began to feel some guilt, I began to rationalized my behavior. I would tell myself that certain animals were pests, or that others were just so ugly they deserved death, just for looking that bad. But these were all just excuses. One of the ugly species I justified killing, were the local fruit bats. They fed at night in the mango trees. They made a lot of noise. And they really were ugly.

A fruit bat is very large. The wing span is often five feet. From the middle of each wing protrudes a bony hand that was once a forelimb. If that weren't frightening enough, the face reminds one of a moose, only with pointed ears and many soft folds of skin around the nose and mouth. The folds are part of a smelling apparatus for feeding in the dark. The first time I saw one up close I would not even touch it. We had shot it out of a tree just at dusk, right outside the hostel. It was wounded in the wing and tumbled out of the tree to the ground. We played with it for many hours, eventually, killing it.

We missionary kids were always forming clubs. Each had its own clandestine purposes and operations. As long as a club could keep exclusive membership or retain their secrets it survived. Once these aspects were lost, the club would falter and die. What was there to attract one, or to preserve, once the mystique was gone? The tree house clubs were the most fun. There were many formed and many tree houses built. But building a tree house was just the beginning. The real fun was fighting to keep other boys our of your tree house. There were many great battles fought when a rival gang would desecrate your club's tree house. Oh what terrible fights we got into. Sometimes they would last for months, with battles being fought every day or so. The boys that couldn't run very fast had to learn to stand and hold their ground or stay in and read.

Once in a great while you might be able to get a girl to go up in the tree house with you. If you could accomplish this, it was great storytelling. You could say you got a kiss, or played some doctor game. Your prestige would go way up. If you were actually seen in a tree house with a girl, you would be talked about and discussed, which was greatly desired by all.

Sneaking around the hostel in the still of the night was a wonderful thrill. Though it was frowned upon by our foster parents, they had to get some sleep. We boys would creep down the girl's hall in the dead of night, fantasizing all the nasty things we would like to do. One night I was dared to go all the way down to the end of the girl's wing. Not being able to refuse, due to my reputation, I went. Just when I got there, the whole rest of the gang made a big noise, clapping and screaming just outside our beloved spinster's door. Out she came in a flash, and I only had time to duck into a closet. I must have stayed there hiding for several hours. I was certain that I would be discovered. She even opened the closet door several times, but she never saw me. My heart was pounding like a cannon. I thought for sure she could hear it, and know I was there. Finally, after I felt she might have gone back to bed, I crept out. I snuck quickly back to my bed and stayed quite tame for several months. I was really upset with the rest of the gang that had tried to get me in trouble. After that, I contented myself with raiding the kitchen fridge for several months. I didn't want to be accused of something in the spinster's imagination.

This year there were several of us older boys that were approaching puberty. There was a natural arousal and interest in sex. We watched the dogs and cats do it. We watched all the animals do it. We were very excited by all these new feelings. Girls seemed unfathomably desirable. When we were with any of the girls, and witnessed some of the compound dogs mating, it was even more exciting. We would look at the girls' eyes and faces and exchange questioning looks. Sometimes we would make replicas of our genitals in the sand and the girls would make replicas of theirs. Sometimes they would blush, or look sheepish, which is a real turn on. It was all very new. Very exotic. One time we filled the whole sandbox with genitalia and then had a mad barefooted frenzy, pounding them into oblivion. We didn't dare leave them for fear the hostel parents would see them. We would have reaped a whirlwind of wrath and vengeance if we had. Luckily this never happened.

One day, when we were playing in the sand, we boys noticed that Becky would not take off her T-shirt. This was unusual as she had always been like one of us boys - a real tom-boy. This really gave us an opportunity to tease her. We did.

"Hey Becky! What's wrong with you? Can't you take off your T-shirt anymore?" I said.

"Are you a lady now?" said another.

"Don't you feel funny not taking off your shirt?"

"Are you going to get a bra soon?"

"My father said I was not to take my shirt off anymore," she countered. We teased her mercilessly that day, and for several weeks afterwards. Poor girl, she really wanted to be one of us, but her body was taking her away from us. It was only a short while after this that we began to notice little budding breasts through her shirts. When she got sweaty from playing hard, her T-shirt would stick to the little buds that stuck out of her chest. Her dad must have seen them coming. We would get her to play four square and basketball with us just so she would sweat and we could peak at the revelation inconspicuously.

As we boys that were reaching puberty, we felt more of the urge, and began to sneak around the compound at night. We spied in the bathroom windows from whatever hiding places we could find. And we would run at the sound of footsteps that might be someone out to catch us. We spent many hours waiting in the bushes outside bathroom windows, patiently waiting for any glimpse, however fleeting of any of the missionary wives or older daughter. There wasn't a single woman on the compound that one of us hadn't seen naked.

My brother and I discovered that you could get up in the attic of the hostel by climbing through the porch, which had no ceiling. We would sneak up through there and go over the girls showers and lift up a ceiling tile. We could see them showering plain as plain as day. That was great fun. We kept that one a secret. It was too good to loose by spreading the word and having some bozo get caught.

There was a pretty risqué business going on during evening devotions too. While we were supposed to be listening to the Bible readings and singing hymns, we would be looking up the girls bathrobes. The devotions were directly after showers. So we would all be in our night cloths. Some of the girls could never sit and keep their legs together. While Uncle Ron read in a high monotone from the "Good Book," and Aunt Daisy led the hymns, we boys would be peering up the girl's robes and down their tops. They were naked underneath. We boys shared a lot of pleasant sights. One of the girls, Jill, with quite voluptuous breasts, was so oblivious to our stares, that we could literally stand there and just stare at them. She never noticed. She could never keep her legs together either. One night Uncle Ron saw what was going on and ordered all the girls to wear underwear under their robes to devotions.

end chapter 15

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