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Children In Eastern Congo Meet A Giant White Male For The First Time!
March 6, 2013 1:22 AM   Subscribe

Professional MMA fighter, UFC veteran and Christian advocate Justin 'The Viking' Wren visited the Mbuti Pygmy tribe of Eastern Congo last fall. It was the first time children in the remote parts of Eastern Congo got to see a giant, hairy white man and an iPhone.
posted by triceryclops (38 comments total) 8 users marked this as a favorite

 
Cool. About 8 years ago in China I met a group of North Korean kids who were in the process of being smuggled to the South. I was the first white person they'd ever seen, and my blue eyes freaked them the fuck out - it was a pretty amusing encounter.
posted by moorooka at 1:34 AM on March 6, 2013 [6 favorites]


Heh heh! This brings back very similar memories for me. When I was in Benin City, Nigeria, in 1980, on my strolls through the town I was almost always followed by a gaggle of giggling kids, many of whom had never seen a white person before. More than a few of the really little ones would cry when they saw me. I pretty much couldn't go anywhere without being the center of attention among the young set. Which, since I was there for a good 8 months or so, actually got pretty wearing, tell the truth.
posted by flapjax at midnite at 1:38 AM on March 6, 2013 [2 favorites]


I'm was just wondering how long it would take one of them to notice that if you rubbed his arm hair a lot the next person you touched got a mighty jolt of electricity. "Dude, I thought you were Christians! Why did you send Thor?"
posted by Tell Me No Lies at 1:40 AM on March 6, 2013 [1 favorite]


Like he says, it's not so much the white skin as it's the arm hair. *Sigh* I have friends' kids in the remote parts of Needham, MA who will tell you that.

Plus, I'll bet those kids could have figured out that they should put the iPhone in landscape mode.
posted by benito.strauss at 1:42 AM on March 6, 2013 [6 favorites]


A friend of mine married a Japanese woman and the courting process included some unexpected moments, particularly surrounding his red hair.

One morning his fiancee's grandmother seemed anxious to get into the shower just when was done. She went downstairs a few minutes later and announced "Yep, they're red too!"
posted by Tell Me No Lies at 1:45 AM on March 6, 2013 [16 favorites]


When I lived in PNG it was not so much my white skin (though even in Port Moresby, I would have kids and women scoot up to me in the grocery store, touch my skin and run away. Usually they were just down from the Highlands for the first time) but my straight smooth hair. And my hair is dark brown not blonde. Where I lived were quite a few African families, and the little girls would want me to come over just so they could play with my hair.
posted by Megami at 1:46 AM on March 6, 2013


Wife had similar japes being a redhead in rural Japan.
posted by GallonOfAlan at 1:47 AM on March 6, 2013


having also been a white guy with lots of arm hair in a location where neither white guys nor arm hair are common, nthing that people can be weirdly fascinated with arm hair.
posted by empath at 1:53 AM on March 6, 2013


Techno-Viking would be HUGE(er) there.
posted by ShutterBun at 2:03 AM on March 6, 2013 [1 favorite]


moorooka, that sounds like it was an interesting occasion. What was the situation around that meeting? (Of course don't answer if it'd get anyone in trouble.)
posted by JHarris at 2:13 AM on March 6, 2013


Jharris, the situation was basically thst I had a very short term english-teaching job in a little Korean school in a part of China where a sizable community of South Koreans lived and worked, as well as another community of Chinese people from the Korean-speaking ethnic minority who hailed from the northeast part of China near the border with Korea.

The boss of the school had some connections - I dont know the details - with some people in the border area who would send refugee children from the North to the school, and he'd then be able to arrange the paperwork so that they could travel to South Korea where they'd get asylum. I'm not sure but I think he was able to get some adults across as well. Unfortunately, I was only working there a few months before the Chinese authorities cottoned onto what was going on, shut the school down and kicked the guy out of the country. It was sad.
posted by moorooka at 2:54 AM on March 6, 2013 [1 favorite]


Reminds me of the time I was checking into a hotel and the Houston Rockets arrived while I was standing at the desk. Giants are a fascination for everyone I guess.
posted by three blind mice at 2:57 AM on March 6, 2013 [5 favorites]


All the kids are male?
posted by 3.2.3 at 3:01 AM on March 6, 2013 [1 favorite]


My blond kids (an infant and a 2 year old) were instant attractions when we lived in Korea. More so for women, and especially for grandmother types. The fact that my wife had long blond hair made the interest that much more intense. Walking in one of the parks would result in a small crowd following closely and, when we stopped, someone would typically come up and ask to touch the kids, my wife's hair, or to hold the baby.

The best photograph I've ever taken is of my youngest son being held by an elderly Korean woman, he's all smiles and she is just beaming. She was so taken with him I began to wonder if she would give him back...but, she did

This is a neat little video... too bad the kids aren't cute... ;-)
posted by HuronBob at 3:12 AM on March 6, 2013 [1 favorite]


3.2.3 - I thought so too, but I'm pretty sure I spotted a girl in there.

Might be a societal thing - girls might not be permitted to be outgoing as the boys clearly are. Or perhaps Hairy Giant just visited the boys' classroom.
posted by OHSnap at 3:17 AM on March 6, 2013


That was a fun video.

In rural China, my blond hair was always a hit with kids. Got to be annoying at times, but in retrospect was rather amusing. One time, my super tall friend and I were walking down the street when a small kid saw us and basically freaked out. He pointed at us and screamed, like in Invasion of the Bodysnatchers, until we were out of sight. His mom was giggling the whole time, all smiles, obviously finding it as funny as we did.
posted by gemmy at 4:00 AM on March 6, 2013 [1 favorite]


I hope he's not going out there to do any proselytising, however.
posted by GallonOfAlan at 4:15 AM on March 6, 2013 [2 favorites]


My wife was resigned that women in parts of Mexico would nonchalantly stroke her long blond hair whispering, "Huera, huera..."
posted by jim in austin at 4:28 AM on March 6, 2013


I hope he's not going out there to do any proselytising, however.

For MMA. In 10 years, you won't be able to walk through that village without being met by gangs of very tough young men wearing fluffy yellow sleeves who just want to stroke your forearms.
posted by pracowity at 4:53 AM on March 6, 2013 [9 favorites]


The encounter reminds me of this article on what to do if you should happen to be the first person to come into contact with Aliens. Basically the onus of making a good impression on behalf of our kind weighs pretty heavily on you, my friend. Some years ago, in Eastern Tanzania, I found myself in a region where white people like me where regarded as "Mumiani" or vampires. This belief had grown up - I believe - because, in the 1930s, white people had turned up and asked for blood donations without properly explaining why.
posted by rongorongo at 4:57 AM on March 6, 2013 [8 favorites]


on my strolls through the town I was almost always followed by a gaggle of giggling kids... I was there for a good 8 months or so....

Even this video's few minutes of children squealing and laughing with delight lifted my heart and stretched my smile to my ears. Eight months of being trailed by children giggling would change my life.

... actually got pretty wearing, tell the truth.

I can understand that, too. After a few years in Tokyo, constant public attention of any kind got to be a bit much. Kids with sticky fingers popping up out of nowhere to touch my freshly shaved butter-soft scalp or yank on my long wispy red beard, I know the deal.

Still, kids giggling! I'm gonna go watch this again, it's my new morning tonic!
posted by Ice Cream Socialist at 5:28 AM on March 6, 2013 [2 favorites]


My brother and his wife did a couple of round-the-world backpacking trips before they married, and one of my brother's favorite stories involved a kid in Nepal; my brother had a Walkman with him, and had the impulse to show it off. He persuaded the kid to put the headphones on, and then turned it on.

And the boy went nuts, wildly looking around to see where the hell the music was coming from. When he understood that the music was coming from the Walkman, he thought it was the coolest thing ever - and actually spent a couple minutes trying to talk my brother into giving it to him. (Bro declined, as gently as he could.) The next day, though, the kid came looking for him, and gave my brother a walking stick to thank him for letting him hear that.

The other kind of attention my brother got in Nepal, though, was a lot of giggling taunts because he'd not had a haircut in quite some time, and so his hair had gotten quite....poofy.
posted by EmpressCallipygos at 5:30 AM on March 6, 2013


My wife and I experienced this in Chennai, well, except Tamil style.

Tamils are etiquette minded as it is. So when Tamil schoolkids encounter a European for the first time, they're so eager to demonstrate that they know the proper protocol for addressing someone in English that you will die of diabetes on the spot.
posted by ocschwar at 5:32 AM on March 6, 2013 [6 favorites]


A friend of mine went with the Peace Corps to the Central American highlands sometime in the late 60s or early 70s. He was 6'5", very pale, and very hairy, and his mere existence was a delight to the villagers he was visiting (digging wells or some such). But what REALLY fascinated the children in particular was his penis. Every time he had to go to the latrine, village kids would follow him and hide in the bushes and giggle and whisper, "Is it really white?" "Wait and see, it's white like the rest of him!" He complained it was difficult to pee while people giggled about your penis.

My sister, who's tallish for an American woman, and pale, has a million pictures of herself with Chinese teenaged girls; when she visited China as a teenager herself, they all wanted pictures with her because they thought she looked like an American TV star. (They're all making the peace sign in every picture.)

My two kids, who are 3 and 18 months, are FASCINATED by a friend of ours who has dreadlocks and want to touch her hair every single time she comes over. They just cannot get over it. When the little one sees her he reaches up towards her head and asks, "Hair? Hair? Hair?"

I have a vivid memory of being 7 years old and having a new student arrive from somewhere in east or southeast Asia (I think South Korea, but I'm not positive) who, on his first day at school, speaking almost no English, came into the classroom to meet us all, saw my red hair, and burst into tears. It wasn't totally clear if he thought I was a demon of legend or if he was just tired and overwhelmed by the strangeness of it all because his mother's English was also not great, but he had to be convinced I had real hair and it wasn't going to hurt anybody. Also I prefer to think of myself as a demon of legend.
posted by Eyebrows McGee at 5:36 AM on March 6, 2013 [13 favorites]


My eyes glanced over this and my first thought was that they found Moby Dick, the great white whale.....
posted by C.A.S. at 6:12 AM on March 6, 2013


Try being fat and going to China. Not only do you get people clapping in delight, but kids run up and touch your tummy.

Very gratifying. Although when the street walkers in the Beijing red light district (long story, not involving actual procurement of services) brought their kids out to give me a prod, it did get a little silly.
posted by Devonian at 7:55 AM on March 6, 2013 [4 favorites]


the sight of all those children fascinated by the arm hair reminds me of myself with hairier fellows i've dated (i have no armhair).
posted by fuzzypantalones at 8:09 AM on March 6, 2013


3.2.3, if you look when the camera pulls back, there are at least three or four children wearing dresses--start at 1:15, for example, and look at their clothes when the kids scatter backwards a bit. Definitely not all male.
posted by MeghanC at 8:38 AM on March 6, 2013


Reminds me of Bad Day to Go Fishing.
posted by kickingtheground at 9:42 AM on March 6, 2013


In Japanese junior high school, they don't just stop with the arm hair - they also go for your balls!
posted by KokuRyu at 10:13 AM on March 6, 2013


I am a tall, fat, white (very pale), blonde and straight-haired, blue-eyed American female who studied abroad in Cameroon for one semester. In the capital, people were somewhat blasé (although I did have a posse of guys on one corner that yelled, "Oh, la blanche! La blanche!" at me every day), but in the small town where I lived for a while, I was handled and poked and prodded quite a bit, mostly by children, but sometimes by adults. I got several marriage offers too.
posted by candyland at 10:40 AM on March 6, 2013


I hope he's not going out there to do any proselytising, however.

That's precisely what he's doing. From his web page:

His mission is to share Jesus’ love with a semi-nomadic group in Congo, the Mbuti Pygmies where only 1% have heard of Jesus.

From a MMA site:

don't go to the Pygmies to force anything on em... I don't "force" anything on anyone.

I just share my personal experience. I shared at a prison two weeks ago and afterwards instead of hanging out with the Christians in the jail I hung out with the Muslims because they invited me over for conversation and lunch... Green hamburgers! Lol...

I respect every poster here... I just know how real God is.


He has another, and genuinely moving, post about helping bury a pygmy child, but it also shows him as being out-of-his depth. He desperately wishes to help these people, but doesn't know how.

I think his heart is in the right place, but he certainly seems to have gone out with the idea of, at least in part, helping them by introducing them to Jesus. Keep in mind, the Congo is 90 percent Christian, thanks to endless amounts of missionary activity, and according to a Pew Research Center study, the Congo is in the world’s top 10 nations in the number of Christians. So it's unlikely that these Pygmies actually have never heard the words of Jesus before; I am not sure where he is getting his "only 1 percent" statistic from. Additionally, they actually have their own religion.

I am not sure a naive professional fighter who hopes to go into Bible school is in any position to really help these people by going into the jungle and "sharing his experiences" of Jesus.
posted by Bunny Ultramod at 11:18 AM on March 6, 2013 [2 favorites]


That scene played out almost exactly the same way as the time they brought in a huge pet snake to my 2nd grade class.
posted by loquat at 11:57 AM on March 6, 2013


In Turkey, in the far southeast, for the first (and probably last) time in my life, I literally stopped traffic. I'm an average looking Asian-American guy. In Urfa, there was this guy who stopped his car in the middle of the street and backed up to get a better look at me. He had this expression on his face that was like a five year old kid seeing Santa Claus in real life. And both little kids on the street and grown men would stop in their tracks, point, and shout "JAPAN! JAPAN!" Although it did get a bit tiring at times, I met some of the most genuinely friendly people in the world over there.
posted by pravit at 3:50 PM on March 6, 2013 [1 favorite]


MidSouthern Mouth AKA GrumpyMcCriticalPants sez:
Sigh, is unselfconsciously basking in ahistorical privileged phenotypical anomalousness more stuff white people like?
posted by MidSouthern Mouth at 4:21 PM on March 6, 2013


Judging from the video it's "Stuff Mbuti Like". Is that a website yet?
posted by benito.strauss at 4:51 PM on March 6, 2013


Not to be a downer, but this just made me think of a certain Tim Horton's coffee shop we stopped at once on the way to Montreal in the middle of nowhere, Ontario. It was a buddy of mine and our two girlfriends -- except for my friend, who makes albinos look swarthy, we were all quite noticeably not from around here. The looks we got were priceless. Not exactly negative looks, but being looked at at all was quite disconcerting. I think the three of us were the only non-blond, non-blue-eyed people there.

Weirdness -- it's not just for the other side of the world.
posted by The Hyacinth Girl at 6:20 PM on March 6, 2013


I didn't realize arm hair was a european thing. Huh.
posted by vibratory manner of working at 1:38 AM on March 7, 2013


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