There is an unearthly sound coming from somewhere at the top of the hill near my home. I hear it as I walk up from the pump with my bucket of freshly washed laundry. The squeals and grunts are grating, loud, raw, and forcing a rude soundtrack on my usually thoughtful, quiet walk home. Something is either in extreme pain or ecstasy, but my empty farming background has nothing to offer for clarification. When I get to my family compound, the noise has only increased and it is clearly coming from a neighoring structure.
I see my Ntate sitting in the sun near my rondavel. “Ntate, what is that noise?” I demand.
Ntate squints at the early morning sun and answers my silhouette, “Those are pigs. They are hungry. When you don’t feed them, they cry.” His own pigs are happily rooting in their outdoor pen nearby.
I have walked past him now, and set down my bucket to open my door. I think for a moment about hungry pigs, smile, and decide to risk it.
I turn and lean out from my doorway. “That’s just like me,” I say with a grin. I’m hoping for once my humor might translate.
Ntate smiles at me, laughs, and I breathe. “Oh? Do you cry when you are hungry?” He seems even a little genuinely surprised – but of what I’m not sure. Surprised that I cry when I hungry? Surprised I would cry over hunger? Surprised that I might know hunger? Surprised that I am comparing myself to pigs?
“Sometimes I cry when I'm hungry,” I reply as we laugh together, his answer and my surprises stay hanging in my mind.