One last portrait, made at home, at night, beneath a single bare bulb. A family of the old kind: first wife, second wife, husband. Beyond the frame sit children and grandchildren and the children of neighbors, who are also relatives, for everyone in this dark little neighborhood is kin. Outside, cicadas wail in the trees and dogs bark at lightning which lopes, all leggy and purple, down mountains toward the river. Between flashes every single star seems visible and not so far away. // Nyapon is telling of days before the British arrived, before Jesus, too, when he lived in the rainforest with Awing, who sits beside him, and Eteng, who stares at the floor. Boar hunts, deer hunts, the quiet delivery of children. Time un-clocked and unkept. Life was like a dream, Nyapon says, and the women nod. In their dreams, ghosts would visit and offer advice, or give warning. In their waking, omens were delivered by birds and one watched their flight carefully, to the west, to the east This tree or that. The strangler fig, the palm. Nyapon says, When I was young I used to climb the mountain to see sunrise chase away the mist. Those things are like the river and they will never change. But we change. We have grown so old. // Around us now in the house have gathered several young people. Having never known the forest, they smile in amusement. Someone pours out cups of apple soda. Hot dog rolls are placed before us on a plate, pale as paper. Eteng, the first wife, raises a hand. Heavy bracelets clatter at her wrist. She says something about money and spirits and silence, but the translation is unclear. A grandson, trying to be helpful, says No one lives in the forest anymore.
On assignment for @natgeo with @carstenpeter