|Adventures of Goli (Monitor Publications, 1998, 50 p.)|
By the time the sun was high up in the sky, Goli had left Adjumani a long way behind. The excited conversation of the villagers as they bade him farewell was still fresh in his mind. He knew that he was their hero and he did not want to disappoint them. He was determined to take the journey and return to Adjumani without any problem. He had strong reason to believe that the gods would clear the way for him and make the journey exciting and without any problem.
Goli always believed in travelling without much luggage. He carried nothing much save for a spear and a small gourd of drinking water. He always got his food on the way and he did not intend to make it very different this time. Travellers were always welcomed and in all the villages he had visited before, he was fed and he hoped the peoples of the south were just as friendly and courteous as the Madi people. He had heard many stories about the peoples of the south. They were known to be great warriors and many weaker peoples had fallen prey to their conquests.
Goli headed south. His intention was to reach Laropi, cross the River Nile and then go further south.
Walking through the plains that surrounded Adjumani, he only had his thoughts for company. Occasionally he came across a group of hunters and he politely exchanged greetings with them before continuing with his journey. He was known and respected throughout the land and this partly explained why he was always welcomed wherever he went. It took a man like Goli to have such widespread popularity throughout the land.
Goli carried only a spear and a gourd.
(...) sure that he did not spend too much time at any one of the villages on the way.
His hosts always invited him to stay the night but he quickly declined such invitations. Fruits and dried meat were always useful during his long journeys and so he accepted any such offers that could be of use to him along the way.
Two months later, Goli had arrived at the court of the great Londa, chief of Laropi village. The chief was a good friend of the traveller and he welcomed him warmly to the village with a heavy meal of foro (Tilapia fish) and linya (millet bread). It had been a long time since Goli had last set foot in this riverside village and so he had a lot to tell Londa. The chief always found Goli very interesting because he had a lot of amazing stories to tell and he knew of all the happenings in the land. After he had eaten and rested, Goli asked the chief to get a boatman to take him across the river.
Why are you crossing the river this time? asked the chief.
I am taking a different kind of journey this time, Goli replied. I want to go out of the land of the Madi.
The chief was amazed. And where do you think you are going?
I am going south. I want to see how the people of other lands live, replied Goli.
Londa did not take the news well. Son, I think you are becoming too ambitious for your own good, he told Goli. When you talk of leaving the land of the Madi for other lands, then I do not understand you. Don't you know that these peoples of the south fought our forefathers many years ago? If you fall into their hands, you will surely be in big trouble.
Goli was not scared at all by the words of the chief.
I have undertaken many journeys before and the gods have always looked after me. They have never forgotten me. I am sure they will be with me even this time, he said confidently.
Goli was welcomed by the Chief of Laropi village.
The chief was still not convinced. My son, it is never wise to pull the tail of a sleeping Lion. I don't see why you should try to take a journey to a far away land where you will be treated as a stranger. My son, never pay a visit to trouble before he decides to come to your hut. If you decide to cross the path of hostile warriors, you will have only yourself to blame. And you should not say that you were not warned.
The argument went on and on until Londa realised that Goli was very determined to undertake the journey and nothing was going to stop him. So he got a boatman to take Goli across the river. The boatman was called Vudra and he was known to be the best fisherman in the land. He was tall and huge and his arms were full of muscles. He never spoke much. When the chief gave him instructions, he just nodded and led Goli to his boat.
Vudra's skills and expertise made the difficult task of rowing a boat look like a simple one. Goli sat back in the boat and stared at the boatman with respect. He wondered what effort it took to gain such skill.
At what age did you learn to row a boat? he asked the boatman. His voice was drowned out by the noise of the oars. He repeated his question, shouting at the top of his voice.
I was born in a boat, replied Vudra jokingly. Goli laughed heartily. He liked the joke. It was one thing to be born in a fishing village but that someone should be born in a boat drifting in the middle of a river was simply unbelievable.
There was a strong wind from the north when the boatman landed Goli on the opposite bank of the river. Goli was very grateful and he tried to use the best words he could gather to show his gratitude to the boatman. Vudra was indeed a man of very few words. His only response was a nod and then he turned the boat around to start the journey back. Goli watched him digging the oars into the water until he eventually disappeared behind a small island.
Vudra took Goli across the river in a boat.
The sudden disappearance of the boatman made Goli realise that he was once again alone in the wilderness. And now he was no longer in the land of the Madi but in the land of some strange people who were called the Acholi. He was not sure of where he was.
Whenever he undertook his journeys, he was always guided by familiar landmarks like streams, mountains or forests. Unfortunately, this time he was in a strange land and there were no landmarks that were familiar to him. So he finally decided to just walk about aimlessly in the hope of meeting somebody or coming across a village.
Goli had not walked for long when a sudden whizzing sound over his head made him stop. Looking around, he noticed an arrow stuck fast in a nearby tree. It had narrowly missed his head. Someone wanted to kill him! He froze at the thought of it.
At first, he thought of running away but a voice inside him ordered him to stand still and fight, if necessary like a Madi man. So he stood still and waited.
Goli did not hear the second arrow. It was only when he felt a sharp pain in his right thigh that he realised that he had been hit. He let out a loud cry of pain and fell down onto the ground. It was a poisoned arrow and soon his entire limb was paralysed. The sight of his blood flowing like a river really scared him. He tried to remove the arrow from his thigh but it was so painful that he eventually gave up. It was much less painful to have the arrow in than trying to extract it.
Goli was struck in the thigh by an arrow.
After sometime, Goli felt drowsy. He closed his eyes and almost instantly fell asleep. While he was sleeping, Orobi the maker of dreams came to visit him. He dreamt that he was leading the Madi warriors in a war against a warrior race who had invaded his people and stolen all their cattle. Next, his dreams took him back to Laropi where he had just returned from a fishing trip. He had made a very good catch and Londa, the chief was congratulating him. From Laropi, Orobi carried him to Adjumani where he was attending a grand feast to honour him for having successfully led the Madi warriors against the warrior people who had stolen their cattle. He was dressed in full war dress and the children of the village were all dancing and singing around him.
When Goli finally opened his eyes, it seemed to him that he had been asleep for ages. He tried to move his limbs but failed. His limbs were firmly tied up with ropes. However, the arrow had been removed from his leg. Once his eyes had become used to the darkness, he tried to look around to see where he was. He was lying in a kind of hut with a very low roof. He wondered how he had got there. What he remembered was falling asleep with an arrow in his thigh.
He wished he could drive a spear through the heart of the man who had mercilessly aimed an arrow at his leg. Was this the way some people welcomed strangers? How could anyone give a visitor such welcome? That could never have happened in the land of the Madi people. Then Goli's thoughts were interrupted by the sound of footsteps outside the hut. There were some people coming to his prison. He hoped they were coming to let him free. He was very hungry and tired. It seemed like many years ago since he had last had a good meal. What he really needed was a good meal of kaata (sweet potatoes) and kalabi (vegetables).
The door to the hut was thrown open and a group of five rough looking men came in. They were all tall and dark skinned. They were also armed with spears.
Their leader said something to Goli in a strange language that he could not understand at all. The man spoke so fast that it seemed as if he was quarreling. When Goli did not respond, the man gave orders the other men who immediately moved forward, grabbed Goli with rough hands, and whisked him out of the hut.
Goli wondered where these rough men were taking him. His leg was still hurting and he felt drowsy because he had lost a lot of blood. In spite of his condition, he was ready for anything at the hands of his captors, including death.
The men finally placed Goli in me middle of a large arena. He was surrounded by a large number of people whom he didn't know. He took a close look at them. They were not very different from his own people. They were also tall and dark and they wore choros (loin cloths) just like the Madi people. The only difference was mat they spoke a different language altogether. They spoke as though they were engaged in a quarrel which was about to explode into a fight.
Goli noticed that at the far end of tile arena, there was a platform and a giant-like man was seated there on a wooden stool. From the way he was dressed, Goli could to tell that he was the chief of the village. He was wearing leopard skin and his head was covered with thousands of small feathers. Next to him, stood a number of warriors with long spears that glittered in the sun.
The leader of the men who had brought Goli from his prison came forward and addressed the chief in the same language, occasionally pointing an angry finger at Goli. Immediately there were murmurs in the crowd and it was clear that Goli's prescence in their village was highly detested. He wondered what they were going to do with him. When the murmurs in the crowd had died down, the chief said a few words in a high tone. His subjects maintained total silence while he spoke.
Goli was led to the Chief.
Then he called another man to take the floor. This new man also addressed the crowd in the same manner as the chief had done. From his attire and jewellery, Goli guessed he was the medicineman of the village. He did not dress any different from the medicineman in the land of the Madi.
The medicineman talked for a very long time and all this time the people listened attentively to him. He seemed to be saying something very important about Goli because several times he pointed at him, to the sky and to the north where he had come from. Goli listened attentively although he did not understand the language of these people. It was so painful not to be able to talk to people who had the power of life and death over him.
Finally, the medicineman ended his speech and the crowd immediately left. Goli was left with the medicineman, the chief and a number of his bodyguards. Goli was ordered to move forward and sit right in front of the chief. The medicineman also came closer and examined the fresh wound on his thigh that had been caused by the arrow. He then rubbed some medicine on the wound. Goli twitched with pain. What kind of medicineman was this who rubbed red pepper into fresh wounds?
When he had finished, the medicineman left immediately. The chief then addressed Goli. Much as Goli did not understand a word of what the chief was saying, he shook his head to give the impression that he was understanding. The chief spoke for a very long time.
Meanwhile, hunger was eating at the sides of Goli's stomach. When it became unbearable, he made signs to the chief to indicate that he was hungry and the chief understood this perfectly.
The medicineman examined Goli's wound.
A command was issued to the warriors who whisked Goli off to the chiefs homestead where a great quantity of food was placed before him. There was linya (millet bread), goat meat and a variety of vegetables. All this food was not new to him and so he took the opportunity to eat to his fill.
He rarely felt homesick but the good food made him feel homesick for the very first time. He had been very excited at the thought of seeing other lands although he had not expected to be welcomed by an arrow in his leg. Nor had he expected to be taken prisoner.
It pleased Goli to see that these people were no different from his own people. They dressed more or in less the same way, built their huts in a similar way, ate exactly the same food and prepared it much the same way. Additionally, they also had a chief and a medicineman who were both respected men. The only difference was that his hosts spoke a very different language from the Madi people. How this difference came about, Goli did not understand. He was curious to find out why two people who were alike in many ways should be separated by a language difference. He was well aware that the only thing that could unite these two people was a common language.
After the heavy meal, Goli was taken to the hut where the chief received his subjects. His eyelids were heavy with sleep and he hoped that the chief was not going to give another long, boring speech.
The chief put a question to Goli which, of course, he did not understand. He nodded his head in reply and then made some signs to the chief to show that he was badly in need of rest. This too, the chief understood perfectly and he immediately gave a command that Goli should be taken to a hut where he could get some rest.
Sleep overcame Goli almost immediately. Once again he drifted back to the land of Orobi the dream maker. This time, his dreams took him back to Adjumani where all the villagers were gathered around him and listening attentively as he narrated his adventures. Then he dreamt that he was before the chief of the Acholi people, asking for the hand of one of his daughters in marriage. The chief was very pleased with the idea of his daughter getting married to a brave stranger like Goli.
When he came back from dreamland, he could not remember where he was. It seemed as if he had been away for a whole month. He could not tell whether it was day or night. For a long time, he lay awake, reflecting on all that had happened in the last few days. It was hard to imagine that all this could happen to a man in just a few days. His leg still hurt, although it felt much better now.
The medicine that the medicineman had applied on his wound was working very well. He wished he could find out what this medicine was made of so that he could take its secret back to the Madi people.
Goli was deep in thoughts when the medicineman came into the hut. He smiled at Goli and said something which Goli understood to be a greeting. Goli smiled from ear to ear and nodded his head.
Goli fell asleep after the heavy meal.
The medicineman knelt down beside him and examined his wound. After he had done so, he spoke a few words which Goli understood to mean that the wound was healing. He nodded in agreement. He was now beginning to feel at home in this land of strangers. He believed that this was going to be a happy ending to a bad beginning. At first, when he had been led to the arena, he had believed that he was going to be sacrificed for the gods of these people.
In spite of the great fear that was in his heart, he told himself that he would face death bravely like a Madi man. No one was going to hear him scream out for mercy. That was for women and cowards.
The medicineman gave Goli support as he got up from the mat. At least he could walk, although with a slight limp. His leg had improved and it showed from the way he walked. The medicine had surely worked wonders.
Unfortunately, there was no way of asking from the medicineman what his magic portion was made of because he could not speak their language.
Goli followed the medicineman to another hut where a great quantity of food was placed before them by the medicineman's wife. This time it was dried fish, vegetables and millet bread. Again Goli realised that this was the kind of meal that could have as well been prepared in the homestead of a Madi family.
He was very happy to know that his people had a lot in common with the Acholi people. They ate in silence. The medicineman was a good eater and at the end of the meal he had eaten a lot of food. Goli's appetite was also good and so he also ate a lot of food. It was an excellent meal and they showed their satisfaction by belching.
Goli shared a meal with the medicineman.
After the meal, the medicineman's wife brought in a large pot of beer. It was quite a while since Goli had last drunk beer. He was very excited at the thought of drinking it once again.
The medicineman politely invited Goli to share the drink with him. Goli poured a little in a gourd and tasted it. It was millet beer alright, except that it tasted a bit different from his traditional kwete (millet beer drunk by the Madi). It was far more bitter than kwete and he was aware that if he took large quantities of it, he would soon be drunk. So he sipped the drink slowly but at the same time making it obvious to his host that he was enjoying it.
The medicineman was a good drinker like he was a good eater. He took large gulps of the beer and talked endlessly to signal his pleasure. Before long, he was very drunk. He started singing a lively folk song and laughing carelessly to himself. His behaviour was now more that of a clown than a respected village medicineman. When his wife noticed that he was behaving childishly, she immediately whisked him off to his hut for a rest. Goli was thus left alone with a large pot of beer in front of him.