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With the transfer of narrative from mother to daughters we are carried back to the year 1959, and from Sanderling Island, Georgia to Congo, Africa. We will now get the story of what actually happened to the Price family, told as it occurs.
The title of this section of the book is "The Things we Carried." Fourteen-year- old Leah begins enumerating the things her family carries, listing all of the seemingly necessary tools of civilized life that the Price family carry in with them to the Congo. Unable to imagine life without a thimble, a pair of scissors, Band-Aids, a hand-mirror, or Betty Crocker cake mixes (for the girls' birthdays), the family hides these possessions and others on their person (in waistbands and underwear) and in handbags, to skirt around the airline's limit on baggage weight. Before they have even reached Africa, Leah begins to realize that all of these objects are a burden, weighing her down and making her physically uncomfortable. Still, Leah is optimistic about their mission to Africa, unquestioningly sharing her father's view that they are carrying out God's work by bringing enlightenment to the uncivilized natives.
The Price family is met at the airport by Reverend and Mrs. Underdown, two Belgian missionaries. The Underdowns try to fill the Prices in on all they will need to know about their future home, the village of Kilanga, explaining that it is no longer the thriving mission it once had been. The Prices will be the only Westerners present. The Underdowns load the Prices onto a tiny plane, piloted by the unfriendly Eeben Axelroot. They fly silently to Kilanga. When they touch down, the entire village is assembled, waiting to greet them.
Five-year-old Ruth May's version of the arrival focuses mainly on her expectations and preconceptions, particularly as these relate to the natives of Congo. She tells us that black people belong to the biblical Tribe of Ham, descendents of Noah's youngest son. Ham was a bad son, she explains, just like she is sometimes bad. When Noah was drunk and naked, Ham laughed at his father and was punished with the curse of dark skin and everlasting slavery. As if this follows logically as the outcome of Noah's curse, Ruth May then goes on to remark that back home in Georgia blacks are kept separate from whites, because "Jimmy Crow," who makes the laws, believes that this is the best policy.
Fifteen-year-old Rachel is the adolescent beauty queen of the group, and her version of the arrival is told with unambiguous exasperation and revulsion. She is horrified by the stench of body odor as the Kilanga villagers surround them in a warm welcome, and miserable as they rush the Prices toward a "dirt-floor patio with a roof over it" which turns out to be the church. In the church the villagers start a large fire, and begin pounding on drums and singing in their native language. It takes Rachel a long while to figure out that what these people are singing are Christian hymns. Even though she herself shares none of the religious faith of her father and sister Leah, she feels scandalized by the realization that the natives are singing hymns, though she admits that she supposes they have every right to sing these songs.
Nathan gets up on his chair and delivers a fire and brimstone sermon, roaring about sinners and nakedness. He points his finger toward a bare-breasted woman standing by the pot of food, and all eyes follow his, mortifying the woman. "Nakedness" he bellows, pointing at her, "and darkness of the soul." He tells the villagers that he will deliver them from this place of darkness into one of light, and though none of them, except a young man in yellow, can speak English. His tone of voice is sufficiently terrifying to upset them. They had begun as a joyous audience, cheering the Reverend's words, but now they sit in silence, shifting uncomfortably. A few of the women pull their sarongs up to cover their breasts, and a few other women leave altogether without eating.
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