As was the case with the book I chose last week for Cape Verde, there are very few books from the Central African Republic that have been translated into English. The book that I and other bloggers who are reading the world have found for this country is Daba’s Travels from Ouadda to Bangui, by Pierre Makombo Bamboté.
This book is geared more to children than adults, maybe in the eight to twelve-year-old range, and tells the story of Daba’s idyllic life growing up in the Central African Republic. According to the book’s dedication, it’s based on the author’s own childhood. It begins in the village of Ouadda, where Daba lives a happy life with his parents. His father supports the family by gathering rubber, honey, and beeswax, and by growing cotton.
The action soon moves to the town of Bambari, about 125 miles away, where Daba is sent to attend boarding school. He does well in school, spends time in other villages during school breaks, and acquires a pen-pal from Marseilles named Guy. When Guy wins a trip to Africa in a contest, he, Daba, and a few other of Daba’s fellow students spend a summer teaching people in a nearby village how to read and write. As the summer ends and Guy returns to Marseilles, Daba and his friends find out they’ve been awarded scholarships to attend school in France.
The book has no plot to speak of – it’s just an account of Daba’s childhood. Published in 1970, those happy-go-lucky days are likely a thing of the past for anyone currently living in the Central African Republic, which has endured many years of civil war in the recent past. It has been called the worst country in the world for young people, and it is also the unhealthiest country, according to researchers at the University of Seattle.
Considering the dire condition in which the Central African Republic currently exists, Daba’s Travels from Ouadda to Bangui serves as a sad reminder of the country’s good old days. The author is fortunate to have grown up there when he did.
Many of the meals Bamboté wrote about in Daba’s Travels from Ouadda to Bangui were heavily meat-based, and hunting was a favorite pastime in the villages Daba visited. Food crops and fruit trees were mentioned too, however – manioc, corn, papayas, mangos, guavas, oranges, groundnuts (peanuts), and bananas. In fact, when Daba goes away to boarding school, he often skips the school meals and “lived mostly off the fruit he had gathered from the guava and papaya trees where he did his homework.”
Of all the vegan or veganizable recipes I found online for the Central African Republic, the one that appealed to me the most was the one for this sweet peanut butter rice dish that I found on the Global Table Adventure website. Apparently, peanut butter is a staple of Central African Republic cuisine. This dish could not have been any more simple to make, and it was really good. I had it for breakfast, and it was a great way to start the day!
There were no projects listed for the Central African Republic on the GlobalGiving website, so I had to do a little digging to find an organization for my donation to this country. I discovered Water for Good, which is working to bring clean water to the people of the Central African Republic through the drilling, servicing, and rehabilitating of wells. This organization works with local water businesses in order to ensure that the wells will be sustainable in the long-term. More information about Water for Good is available at https://waterforgood.org/.
After I’d made my donation, I came across a very recent article on UNICEF’s website about the vast numbers of people from the Central African Republic who are currently fleeing the violence caused by armed groups that control much of the country. According to the article, “These past months and weeks have seen horrendous reports on children’s rights violations. Precise numbers are impossible to know but we know for a fact that children have been killed; there have been incidents of sexual violence, and that recruitment into armed groups is happening. But there are less direct violations with lasting consequences – having to flee or take refuge in the bush; having no education or health care.” For that reason, I decided to also make a donation to UNICEF to help the children of this troubled country.
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