Perhaps an inevitable post, but yes this one is about cows. More specifically about dowry prices, which I find a fascinating topic, particularly from an economics perspective.
Recently the project I was working on in South Sudan acquired a new driver who is Dinka, a tribe in South Sudan who value cows very highly.
On his first day on the job when he was driving me home, we were stopped in traffic by what else, but cows crossing. And yes, as the title hints, some decided that rush hour in Juba was indeed the perfect time to stop and copulate in the middle of the road. I on the other hand felt that this was neither appropriate nor traffic friendly. But funnily enough they did not seem to care either what I or the other hooting drivers thought.
My driver’s reaction to all of this was “those are not good cows.” So I decided to ask him what did constitute a good cow. He went on to explain the differences in weights, heights, horn lengths etc… Yes, there are differences in cows I could never even imagine. He went on to inform me that the government of South Sudan had to actually cap bride prices at 30* cows between Dinka and non-Dinka marriages because otherwise non-Dinka tribes may not be able to afford bride prices set by Dinka tribes. Intra-marriages between Dinkas had been set at 100* cows to try to curb cattle rustling, which is not only common but becoming more violent too. Again fascinating economic principles at work.
Following these explations (whilst we were still standing behind copulating cows) he turned to and said:
Can I ask, are you married?
Usually this question would always be answered with a yes, as experience has shown that the truth may often be followed by a marriage proposal (Senegal, taxi driver, 32 cows, South Africa, bar man at the World Cup fan fest in Durban, 40 cows, South Sudan, man in Lanyia who sold me an orange, 344 cows – yes,I keep tabs).
However, since we were now working together I could hardly convincingly pursue the ‘I’m married’ angle for too long.
So I confessed that I was not.
Oh good! he said Now I know I do not have to call you madam.
So much for that then.
*Numbers are taken from my memory of the conversation, so forgive me I don’ remember them exactly