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The Things We Learned. Kilanga, June 30, 1960
(Cluster 1. Leah develops an appreciation for the Congo language and people, Ruth May breaks her arm and discovers that Eben Axelroot is smuggling diamonds, Rachel sees Anatole as a moderator between the people and her father, and Adah brings a scare and a triumph to her father when she unwittingly escapes a lion attack.)
The girls have learned the names of many African plants and animals and have virtually memorized guidebooks left behind by former missionary Brother Fowles. They and their mother receive a bit of pleasure from the recognition of trees like bougainvillea and hibiscus, which also grow in Georgia.
Leah gets acquainted with some of the people, recognizing most of them by their clothes. She believes her fatherís teachings and finds herself at odds with Tata Boanda who has two wives. She has been taught that polygamy is sin, but there seems to be no solution that would be fair to Tata Boanda and his wives as well. The older wife is already "too sad" for him to kick her out, and the young one has babies who need their father.
Poinsettias bloom prolifically in July, making Leah wish that she could live in the Congo forever. She covets the Congo language, noting that Adah "ran away with the prize" for learning foreign languages when she mastered French ahead of everyone else. Leah is supposed to babysit Ruth May, but she often uses terrifying stories to frighten her little sister into staying at the house, thereby escaping to explore the jungle and spy on Eben
Leah longs for a way to communicate with the African children, but Ruth May gets the jump on her in that regard by teaching the children to play "Mother May I" one day when Leah has left her behind at the house. After the game, a boy named Pascal stays behind and soon becomes the childrenís first real friend . He teaches them more Kikongo words and cuts sugar cane for them to chew. Leah realizes the extreme distance between their priorities and Pascalís and feels embarrassed at his ease in building a six-inch house made of twigs.
Ruth May Price
Unknown to her sisters or mother, Ruth May wanders in the jungle where she climbs a tree to watch the passage of African "Communist" boy scouts. She falls out of the tree and breaks her arm on one occasion. Axelroot transports Ruth May and her father to a hospital in Stanleyville where doctors set her arm and put a cast on it. On the trip, Ruth May has to sit on a pile of brown bags, which she discovers to be full of raw diamonds. Axelroot threatens her with a curse if she ever tells anyone what she has seen.
At the hospital, Nathan and the doctor discuss the political situation and the name Patrice Lumumba comes up although Ruth May does not understand the significance. Upon returning home, she shows Leah the pear tree she had been climbing and shows that she can climb "just dandy" with only one arm.
Ruth May also unwittingly upsets her mother by asking questions about the color of "mayonnaise" and other American commodities. She likes the African animals and tries to catch everything except the snakes. However, she assumes that she will never have much education because of her fatherís statement that "educating girls is like pouring water into their shoes." Ruth May interprets it literally, believing that in college, people actually pour water into girlsí shoes.