Translation:Medal "For Courage"

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Medal "For Courage"  (2008) 
by Viktor Pinchuk, translated from Russian by Wikisource

For the fifth time, an armed cordon appeared in the headlights, blocking the road with car tires piled in a pile. People in camouflage habitually looked into the back of the truck, then, lighting up the cabin with flashlights, tried to find something inside, among the trash. "What are they looking for?" I asked an elderly Black woman who was riding next to me. "Weapons and ammunition," she replied in a calm voice, spitting seeds, "In our area, many are armed."

Before going to Kotido the capital of Karamoja region, one of the most dangerous areas of Uganda, I once again asked several aborigines how reasonable it would be to visit this area. They amicably confirmed the information I had, but they talked about it as if they did not recommend watching the movie "Friday the 13th" at night.

From the town of Lira to the village of Kotido to about 12-14 hours drive. Late in the evening, in the light of the moon, bypassing all the patrols, the truck arrived in the capital of Karamoja. I answered the driver's question about the final destination of my journey with the usual wish to stay in the cheapest guest house. "You will live next to me," he said proudly and really settled in the next room.

Due to the late arrival of customers, the person from the reception personally filled out the guest log. I quickly dictated my passport details to him and, believing that the procedure was over, automatically asked in Russian: "Where's the toilet?" He wrote down the last phrase as my last name, it turned out something like: Wheresyt Oilet.

Early in the morning, with a camera on my shoulder, I went in search of those who had been stirring my consciousness and not giving me rest for the last three years. At first, passers-by did not understand me when I tried to find out how to find the Karamojong tribe. After a couple of unsuccessful attempts to establish contact, I guessed what was the matter: the English word "tribe" can be translated not only as "tribe", but also as "nationality". Realizing the potential absurdity of his question, inquired about "savages in ethnic clothing". Having figured out what it was about, the guys explained how to get to them. It turned out that the village of Karamojong people is located just one and a half kilometers from the center of civilization of the state with a bank and a post office.

After half an hour, I saw exotic-looking individuals with a burden on their heads. They were not dressed at all like the settlers of Kotido, (who sometimes even dressed in a classic suit and tie) and looked very much like the tribe I was looking for. And indeed, soon a small "savage" settlement appeared on the horizon. The huts are woven from the branches of some kind of shrubbery, around each - and sometimes two or three — there was a fence that protected the dwelling from uninvited guests. The door was an opening in a fence about fifty centimeters high, through which the karamojong, who were by no means pygmy in stature, entered, bent double. Some of the "gates" were on the "lock" — a large thorny bush lay in the opening (trunk inside the yard, spikes out) and blocked the way to everyone, except, perhaps, yogis.

Karamojong people gladly accepted a penniless guest with gifts a la "Santa Claus from the garbage dump". I took out of my duffel bag and handed them earrings without a pair, shiny military buttons with a star, and medallions, made from defective CDs on laces. Most of all, however, they liked the comb-brush with metal teeth, which I, being at the pioneer age, combed my hair in 1980.

Having disassembled the souvenirs, the Karamojong people willingly posed in front of the camera: apparently, visiting exotic lovers have not had time to get bored them yet.

"Under the curtain," a decrepit old man, probably the leader of the tribe, came out of the largest hut, the entrance to which was decorated with a goat's skull. The aborigines parted, and I remained in the center of the semicircle. The head of the community came up to me and solemnly presented with a medal "For Courage" as a reward for the fact that I was not afraid to arrive alone in their remote places. Grandfather showed me with a sign that the medal should be worn in the nose, like an earring. I explained that I didn't have an award-worthy hole in my nose yet, and thanked the elder with a bow. The medal was made of some strange material, similar to wood, and weighed very little. I remembered how famously the coins were checked in the old days "by the tooth", but refrained and put the gift in my pocket.

That night, having completed all my plans, I was returning to Kampala, the capital of Uganda. Sitting in a truck shaking over potholes, I took out the award once again to get a better look at it, but found that it had broken in half. Looking at the place of the fault, I finally realized what it was made of: I was granted a piece of pressed manure!

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