We attended a meeting of the Village Committee. The singular purpose of the meeting was to discuss the assignment of a piece of village soil for the use of the DuBrules as they build their hut and plant their Cassava. Wait, what? Yup, it seems that the easiest way to delineate your lot from the neighbor is to plant a crop. Hey, Joe Bruton, can you please send me a pair of bib-overalls?
Anyway, this meeting is a very solemn affair with the gathering taking place in the hut of the Committee Chair Person. Formal greetings were exchanged and the subject of the meeting broached. There was much sucking of teeth and furrowing of already seriously wrinkled brows (these are the elders of the village after all) and then the decision was made to hold another meeting on Monday to announce their decision of assigned location. Now what I didn’t know is that the meeting on Monday is a “lunch” meeting. Everyone (and I mean everyone that can even remotely associate themselves with the Committee) will gather and have a meal. Naturally, we get to supply the chicken(s). After the meal, we will be escorted to the assigned location. We’ll stomp around in the elephant grass and make some effort to assign the boundary lines. This, of course, will begin the customary land grab by neighbors on the three sides as they try to insure that they get whatever they can of the plot. Real Estate ownership is a somewhat haphazard concept here! Cornerstone Surveying probably wouldn’t stay in business very long!
Now about the Committee. As I understand it the Provincial Government of Luapula province is overseen by the Chief. We have to go and kneel before the Chief next week, so that story (and the sacrifice of another two chickens) will come later. The Chief has Headmen in each villageand every headman has a Deputy Headman, unless the village is too small, or too big. In this case there is assigned a Director. Generally speaking the power of the Deputy Headman and a Director are about the same, though to say so in their presence would likely spark a heated debate. The Deputy Headman (or Director) is often too busy with major affairs of state (politicking) to execute their regular duties, so they create committees to act for them. We are dealing with the Committee for the sub-village of Center, in Fimpulu village.
So anyway, the political wheels are in rotation and now the real work begins. Since Trish and I have some pretty fixed ideas of what constitutes a viable plot, Bethany will now go to several of the committee members and discuss our needs. These would include things like level ground (we really don’t want to build on top of a quarter acre anthill, though the cell reception might be improved by the altitude), proximity to neighbors, type of neighbors (there are some serious partyers in the village!), proximity to B+J, cell phone reception (please! please!), quality of the dirt (hey, we’re farmers now!), access to the main cart track without having to pay to cross a neighbors plot, ground that doesn’t flood during the rainy season (the mud bricks used to build here will melt if they’re submerged for any period of time) and so-on, etc. Between now and Monday at fourteen, Bethany will let the folks know so that there is no loss of face in the event that the selected property is unusable. More chickens, or at least a couple of bags of meal, will likely be sacrificed during these discussions.
The meeting ended abruptly as Bethany was called to provide emergency transportation to the hospital.