Thursday, May 13, 2010

The search for Milongo

We apologize for the long silence! We just returned from a month of language learning at Lake Munkamba, and are happy to be reconnected to the world via the internet! We will try to share here some of the many things we learned and experienced this month about Congolese culture. First, we have learned that many things are edible which we never would have placed in that category before. For example, caterpillars, grass-hoppers, termites, snakes, some ants, just to name a few. We learned that April is the month where ‘milongo’ and their cousin ‘lunana’ (both in the termite family, we think) can be found.

From our observation, it is primarily children who catch the milongo within the village. Here is the process. The milongo are underground, and emerge in the evening and fly away. In order to catch them, you have to be ready: First, a small ‘house’ is built from some sticks or reeds. A small hole is dug on one side to collect the milongo.


Then, the ‘house’ is covered, so that when the milongo emerge, they are trapped under the cover.


Then, you wait for the milongo to emerge. Just as the sun goes down, they start to come out of the ground. They get trapped under the cover, and eventually move into the hole in their attempt to get out into the air. Kids come from everywhere to collect the milongo from the hole or pick them out from under the cover.

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Most kids eat the milongo as fast as they can grab them, at the same time they are collecting them in a cup. The ones in the cup can be shared with the family—either eaten live, or fried. Bob was the first of us to try eating a live milongo, and he said it wasn’t too bad! One evening when we were doing our rounds of Thiluba practice in the village, the hour of milongo came, and it turned out to be a particularly good day for milongo. The kids who were accompanying us would race off to one spot or another where the milongo were emerging, grab a few for a snack, then rejoin us for a few minutes before flying off to the next milongo site. It was amusing to watch!

The cousin of milongo, lunana, emerges from underground after a big rain. April is the end of the spring rainy season, so we had several good days of lunana. Several hours after the rain, the lunana will emerge and start to fly away. From a distance, it looks almost like smoke, or a fountain of small butterflies. Kids will flock to the site, and collect the lunana and eat them or save them to be cooked later. One day we were in the middle of our Tshiluba lessons when the lunana emerged, and we decided it was time for a cultural lesson and a taste test. We have a video of Kristi eating a lunana, but have not yet been able to upload it. We’ll link it in if we’re able!

That day, we hired a couple of kids to collect a cup-ful for us to fry for lunch. We didn’t realize that caterpillars were already on the menu for lunch, as well as fish, so we ate big that day. At the end of the meal, Bob said “I think I’ve reached my maximum of insects for the day!”


Kiki said...

Huh, well they must not have been bad if after Kristi sampled one you got kids to get you a cupful for lunch?? Hmmmm...this isn't upping my list of things to come try, though...Good thing I love you guys even if you keep mentioning bugs for meals! ;-)

You might try uploading the video to youtube (you can make it unsearchable) as I've found that's way easier than using blogger for videos.

Love you guys!

Martha said...

I just heard about you all through a newsletter I got through Congo Connections. I grew up as an MK at Katubwe and went to Lake Munkamba for vacations. Eating flying ants is an early childhood memory. It doesn't sound like some things ever change--that was probably 50 years ago! I'll email you personally and introduce myself.

I look forward to hearing more of God's work in and through you and will add you to my refrigerator for prayer.

Dr. Sue Makin said...

Bob and Kristi, fantastic reading your blogs here in South Korea. You are much more adventurous than I was in Congo. I never ate a termite the whole 8 years I was there. So I salute you for that. Road conditions haven't changed at all it seems. Glad you made it to Demba and back. One of my Congo friends told me always bring food, water, flashlight and toilet paper on any trip in Congo. I am praying for you! Please keep blogging when you can.

Jean McAllister said...

I, for one, would have reached my maximum BEFORE the first one! I'm so impressed with all your sharing and attitudes of getting close to the people in such detailed ways. I'm sure it will enrich all your work there. Am continuing to pray for the Tsiluba learning process!

Michelle said...

We are still waiting for the video of Kristi eating the Milongo! You both are so brave! our thoughts and prayers are with you! Love from the Bodwells