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Interview with Bernardo Kalenga

Interview with Bernardo Kalenga

I conducted my first interview on the morning of my second day in Luena. I went to the hospital with Josepha from CAPDC and Christovao, the interpreter. We walked down a long, cool corridor to one of the rooms. Bernardo Kalenga was inside. I said hello, and Josepha spoke with Bernardo for a while in Chokwe. Then, they looked at me – waiting for me to start an interview.

I sat down beside Bernardo on the bed, and put the video camera – which was already running to record the sound – on the bed, and began to ask Bernardo questions: "Can you describe the place where your accident happened? How did it happen?" Christovao sat beside me, translating my questions from english into Chokwe, and translating back what Bernardo said.

His story didn't shock me much at the time – I was too focused on listening and comprehending what Christovao was telling me. But the situation really overstrained me – when we first arrived, Bernardo had asked us if he should put on a t-shirt, as his upper body was bare. He was continuously staring off into space, looking at some invisible point behind us, as if hypnotized...and there was a smell of rotting in the room.

We returned to the hospital ten days later – this time, to take Bernardo's portrait. We were in his room – I was setting up my camera – when Bernardo walked in. He was freshly shaven, and he'd had a haircut. He was still in a state of shock, staring into the distance. But he was already able to walk – with crutches – and he seemed much more responsive and attentive to what was going on.

I was in a better frame of mind this time and was noticing more hospital details – 4 capsules of Lidocain, or some other kind of pain killer, sitting in a small cardboard box on a small cabinet by the bed, a soiled bandage sitting next to them. This was the only evidence of medical care I saw. There was also a small oil lamp in the room, made from an empty tomato can. I think a western European with similar injuries, given the same hospital conditions, would die within a few days. At least, I think that might be their concern.