National Geographic : 1991 Nov
walls, broken linoleum, bare wires where there had once been lamps, and the most enormous cockroaches I've ever met. Being deluxe, the cabin had a bathroom, but it hadn't seen scouring powder for quite some time, and I needn't describe it in any great detail. Suffice it to say that thick, brown river water occasionally issued from the tap into the stopped-up tub but not into the sink or toilet. Still, I was traveling in relative luxury. First-class passengers-mostly military offi cers, civil servants, boat-company employ ees, and their families-spilled out of small cabins with shared bathrooms into the pas sageways and even camped in the crawl space above. Everyone else had to put up with terrible crowding and the fetid latrines of the barges. Third-class cabins and passageways on the barges' lower decks were occupied by mer chants who virtually lived afloat. "This is my cabin, which I share with five others. And this space here in the aisle is only for me," a merchant named Malu told me. We were sit ting on the barge Bangalasurrounded by his bundles of used clothing. "It is very hard to get a place on the barges, but when you get one, no one else can have it. I have had the same place for two years, going up and down the river on every trip." "For me it is nine years," a man named Ludingo called out. "For others even lon ger." He was setting out drugs on his little table: tetracycline, Flagyl, antimalarials, vials of penicillin powder, hypodermic nee dles, and piles of brightly colored capsules. I asked Malu how it was possible for the hundreds of merchants to make a living when they all seemed to sell the same things. "There are very few jobs, so people have to become traders to feed their families," he replied. "Like me-I was at university in Kinshasa for three years, but I ran out of money and couldn't finish my degree. I tried A comforting hand seems to get the brush-offfrom a traumatized baby chim panzee, whose mother was shot and eaten by a forest hunter who then hoped to sell this orphan as a pet. Asking price: $13 U. S. Cute and entertaining when young, pet chimps often end up chained to trees or abandoned when they grow too big and strong to be kept at home.