Mean and Lowly Things

The two Pygmies persuaded to work for me have reputations as the worst guides in the village.  Their cooking often includes rotting fish, which they serve cold for breakfast if I don’t finish it at dinner.  They are supposed to do my laundry, but they find women’s underwear too embarrassing to contemplate.  They won’t go out after dark, and they consider wading in the swamp to be absolute folly.  So I’m almost late one night when I fall over a log and scrape my left leg, on my way back from the swamp with a bag of treefrogs.

I think nothing of the scrape until 5 days later, when my temperature shoots to 104F and my leg swells and turns red.  Some microbe from the swamp has entered through the scrape and spread to infect my whole body.  Perhaps the Pygmies had some sense in refusing to wade in the swamp.

That is from Kate Jackson’s Mean and Lowly Things: Snakes, Science and Survival in the Congo.  It is an excellent and very fun book on fieldwork and on the topics mentioned in its subtitle.  I think of this as "a Chris Blattman book" and yes you should be reading Chris’s blog.


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