Though most of the time Chaka and Christian treat us as queen’s cats, pampering, feeding and taking us around – way much more than we feel comfortable to accept, there is always a field where all the rights of taking care are given back to us. It is in a local bar. Then the guys look into the distance and whistle towards the sky while the waitress brings us the bill. Quite similar to what we saw in Kenya, I cannot help to feel myself as a sugarmama for the boys.
One of those times is on the day when we’re waiting for our visit to the King. Been told by the Prince to come back later in the evening, we head to a local bar for some beers. Tipsy enough, paying a bill of a few thousand franks doesn’t seem to be a problem. With our newly illuminated minds, merry vibes and legs a bit soft, we finally arrive to the King’s palace.
The floor of the palace is made of sand, like all the floors here and when I ask for a toilet, a guy from the court specifies:
“Big or small?”
He gives me a torchlight and points me towards some walls. There’s nothing there, just the sand.
“Yeah, yeah, right there. Anywhere.”
Finally it is time to enter the hall of reception. Following Chaka and Christian, we take off our flip flops and continue walking. But that’s not how you enter a King’s palace! To King’s palace you have to crawl!
So the four of us go crawling across the hall in the end of which there’s a canapé with a well-padded man sprawling on it. This guy in his white clothes and a cowboy hat seems to be the King. We kiss the floor three times as the boys do and drag a cross along our upper bodies. Our asses towards the sky, the priests sitting at our backs and drinking beer must have a pleasant view. In the hall with pillars, we are given a permission to sit in the four white plastic chairs decorated with flower reliefs.
We sit there as wooden dolls not knowing what to do next. We are counting on the guys, as usually.
The King observes us for a second and then he starts:
“Why are you here?”
Chaka suddenly jumps off the chair, kneels on the floor and starts explaining how we are there for a short interview. Then Christian jumps off the chair, just next to Chaka, and really fast makes up a beautiful fairy tale. We are from Estonia, big writers and scientists and we are here to make a research on voodoo.
“Go on, ask!” says the King not in a too friendly manner.
This is the moment when I realize that we are sitting in a King’s palace, that we are presented as important scientists but in reality we are rather drunk and have completely forgotten to prepare any questions. Moreover, it becomes clear, that a visitor can only talk while she is kneeling which in turn is quite difficult to accept in the knowledge that the King is wearing a cowboy hat and the priests are belching from beer at out backs.
It’s again the boys, who take us out from trouble. I whisper my ideas in poor French to Christian’s ears, he translates it into a well-structured sentence, hops off the chair and delivers the result to the King. And so we go, while Christian is telling my question and the King is answering, Terje explains Chaka her question and once Christian is done on the floor, Chaka will kneel down. We, of course, sit on the chair and try to look smart. Embarrassing, but works. For at least 40 minutes. But then the King gets tired:
“If they ask so many questions, they will have to pay a juicy price,” the King is laughing his greedy laugh referring to the visit fee we’re supposed to pay.
To pay? To pay! F*ck, to pay! Terje, how much money do you have?
I remember the careless way of spending our money in the bar and how well the beer tasted. The one that has left quite a bitter taste by now.
“2000,” whispers Terje. I have 0. I ask Christian. 0. Chaka? 0. The same time as the King is answering to our philosophical questions about the position of voodoo in the changing world, our boys have started panicking: soon the visit will be over, but the girls have nothing but some poor coins.
“You, there in Europe, speak only bad about voodoo..,” I can hardly hear the King saying that as Christian and Chaka are fidgeting. They are sitting on the floor and trying to figure out the question: where to get the money from?
“Why do you think that Christianity is better that voodoo?” continues the King and we answer to this with nodding out heads. We try not to get too disturbed by the boys who are now crawling somewhere in the hall. Chaka is in between two lines of chairs, kneeling in front of a priest. He comes back with a horrified face:
“We should give the King at least 5000. 5000!” Where are we going to get the 5000 from?!
“Voodoo is a religion like any other..” the King talks as if there was nothing wrong.
Now Chaka crawls back to the priests. We are still pretending that everything is absolutely fine.
“…We have our traditions and customs, we are praying for good things, just like you.” And after finishing that sentence a really strong and loud “Voila!” is following as the King starts yawning. It must refer to the fact that the visit is over and it is time to make the payment of 5000 francs. We have no clue where to get it from when Chaka is finally crawling back from the priests. The timing couldn’t be better.
There he crawls, the most respected man in town, having connections with the underground as well as the elite, scared of nothing, obeying to no one, and puts a punch of coins on the King’s table. Suddenly the fairy tale of big scientists and writers shrink into a humble story of poor students wanting to see the world but not really being able to pay for it.
Embarrassed up to the smallest toe, we thank the King and crawl out from the palace.
But the most interesting piece of information doesn’t come from the King but from a guy standing in the courtyard: “It is an European ambition to explain everything by logic. To make systems, create structures, divide into categories, follow the rules. For get it! Voodoo is vibration.”