Insects, Roosters and Donkeys

Beetles, spiders, grasshoppers and unfortunately cockroaches come in all shapes and sizes here. I’ve seen grasshoppers the length of my hand, beetles the size of my big toe and spiders almost as flat as a sheet of paper. And I am fascinated by all of them. The extra big cockroaches and I do not live in peace. But luckily there is a can of Doom (the Raid of SA) in each and every room. Unfortunately this means the kitchen too. Often Doom is stored in cupboards right next to the food. One of my peers was so unfortunate as to sit down to her morning bowl of oatmeal and find that it was laced with bug spray.

We've seen a vast number of interesting new bug bites and rashes. Mosquitoes have been a constant pest and have proved to be my greatest annoyance out of the insect kingdom. We are not in a malaria area, however, so thankfully mosquito bites cause no more annoyance than they would in the states. This also means that I don’t have to take malaria medication major side effects of which are nightmares or intensely real dreams and increased sensitivity to the sun.

I will say that I am fortunate to be in a house that is kept very clean and in which we close up the house early in the evening so we don’t receive unwanted visitors. (This also means that it takes the house a long time to cool off on hot days.) Others have not been so fortunate. Another one of my peers stays in a house with insulation—a nice exchange to the heat from the tin roofs, but with consequences of its own. The insulation is exposed allowing for all sorts of insects to roam about it freely and thus fall below especially at night when the lights go out. My peer spent the first three weeks of home-stay being eaten alive at night—problem finally solved when we received our bed nets.

Life in our village also means farm animals and lots of them. There is the chorus of roosters that crow at midnight and then again at three and then again at five and then periodically throughout the day. There are the hens with their chicks that run freely from yard to yard, but are smart enough to know who to come home to when they are hungry. There are the dogs who are the family pets, and then there are the dogs that are the family scourges. Our dog is a “naughty” dog because he attacks the chickens. This means he stays chained to one of the trees in the backyard and is generally treated very poorly.

My favorites of the farm animals are the cows and the donkeys. Cows here are a sign of wealth. Every morning one of the herders drives a group of about ten cattle (including calves) up the road past our house, and every evening he drives them pack. I especially enjoy this herd because of their cow bells. I enjoy the clank-clank as they pass by. But cows do not just roam the dirt road by my house, they can also be found on the main roads connecting the villages. We frequently have to slow to a stop because of cattle in the road. Amusingly there are many “cattle crossing” signs about, but I have not once seen cattle cross at the crossing. They tend to cross everywhere but there.

On stressful/bad days, the donkeys can make everything better. I truly think they are the silliest animals on earth. They don't actually do much but graze, stand, and roll around in the sand, but all those actions just seem comical. They're cute but ugly all at the same time, and really their rolls in the sand are quite hysterical to watch. I think in personality our donkeys are somewhere between Eeyore and Donkey from Shrek, but they bring me joy just the same.

I can't wait to have enough bandwidth to post pictures of all these creatures for you to see. There not quite the fauna I was expecting to find in Africa, but I enjoy them all the same.