Monday, October 20, 2014

My Stay with a Missionary Family...

     I stayed with a family in my village for several days while my roof was being re-thatched. They are missionaries from the States and have lived here for almost seven years. They are a family of six: two girls, two boys, and mom and dad. The mom and I get along fantastically and are taking full advantage of having another American woman to talk with which is a rarity here in this African village.

     We are the minority: eight white people out of 5,000 in this community. There is another missionary who stays nearby who works with this family. All of us interact the way we would in the States: family dinners at the dinner table, watching movies on the dvd player, jumping on the trampoline, and ‘normal’ conversation with the ability to speak English at a normal speed without the accent we use when speaking with the locals and without the worry whether we are being understood or not.

     The Family’s Work…The work of the missionary family and my work as a Peace Corps Volunteer are similar: we help people learn how to help themselves. The only difference I see is spreading the Word of God, which I don’t do because I work for a United States government agency.

     I was able to watch an interesting workshop my friends held at their site. They have a piggery which is maintained the way how people in the bush maintain pigs. Pigs, as opposed to cattle, take up little room and because of their smaller size they are easier to handle. Raising pigs for food adds to the limited variety of protein foods that are available in the village.

     So, I watched a pig slaughter done the traditional way. Difficult to watch.

     First was the wrangling of the chosen pig. It is not good to wait for the pigs to get too big, or they are too difficult to handle.

     I will save the rest of the details of the actual slaughter from this blog…little too disturbing for those who are uncomfortable learning how animals are killed for food. Some who witness this may say they want to become vegetarians; I didn’t choose this. Instead, I decided for now on I will always eat meat with a new kind of appreciation; this animal gave its life for me to fill my stomach. I will think that way even when eating a McDonald’s hamburger (IF I ever eat one).

     So, the villagers in training are learning a skill that can potentially make a big difference in their lives. Their diets will improve and they can earn an extra income.

     So, how can pork products generate income in a society that lacks refrigeration?

     The missionary family has the solution…sausage. Pork is ground, mixed with preservatives, encased, and then hung to dry for a few weeks. No refrigeration necessary.

     This sausage is not sold to local villagers; too expensive. Instead it is sold in the cities. This sausage is rich and considered a delicacy. The miners in town are willing and able to spend the extra money for a product that is locally made that they can serve with crackers at their cocktail parties.

     Invasion of the Dorylus species and saving kittens… My stay with the missionary family is like that at home in the States. The house they live in has indoor plumbing, and electricity. I stayed in a guest house attached to the main house…I had my own shower with hot water, and flushing toilet. Things I live without at my hut.

     I think it was my third night staying at their house. It was late in the evening, said goodnight to the family and headed to my quarters. When I entered my bathroom I saw a stream of black ants marching from the window to the sink. There were thousands of them.

     I went back to the main house to let my friend know about the ant party going on when she rushed me through the door and shut it abruptly after I entered. She said there is a snake right outside. She got her husband and we found a puff adder coiled in the corner outside the door. Puff adders aren’t deadly, but the bite is painful and can cause swelling. Unfortunately it had to be killed and her husband was successful with this task.

     Snake conquest over, my friend and I both armed with ant killer went into my bathroom and sprayed the trail of ants. We found that they made their way in my bedroom as well. We sprayed everywhere. We agreed I would spend the night in on the couch in the main house.

     These ants are of the Dorylus species. They are also known as impashi, driver ants or siafu. These ants are medium size and can travel in a row of up to 50,000,000 ants. The trails of these ants are easy to avoid, often a person has to jump over an ant trail while walking in the bush. The ants will attack anything living and bite a painful bite with their pincers and NOT let go. They are capable of killing and eating immobile prey.

     I fell asleep on the couch while my friend baked bread for morning’s breakfast. I woke shortly after falling asleep to a discerning discussion between my friend and her husband. I got up to see what was wrong. My friend said the ants are attacking the week-old kittens and their mother. I followed them outside to where the kittens were. The husband tossed the kittens away from the ants, but all six kittens were literally covered with ants. Our first thought was to put the kittens out of their misery…they were crying in such agony and their mother was beside herself while she was also covered with ants.

     My friend and I decided to at least save two kittens. If we pick up the kittens, we assumed the ants would attack us, too, but they didn’t. They continued to latch onto the kittens.

 We rushed them over to the kitchen sink, and held their bodies under the running faucet while we picked each individual ant off the kittens’ little bodies. There must have been well over 50 ants on each of them.

We were successful pulling all the ants off the two kittens, dried them with towels and placed them with their waiting mother. Immediately they began to nurse.

We went back outside…luckily the rest of the kittens were still alive. The three of us continued picking off the ants of the rest of the six kittens until they were ant-free. All six kittens were back with their mother nursing away. The mother wasn’t covered with ants like the kittens, but she did have a few latched on the inside of her mouth which we were able to remove.

I visited my friends a week later and all six kittens are alive and well. Their eyes are open now--cute as ever. So glad we did what we did to save them knowing we may risk having ants biting our hands which happened once in a while, but it didn’t matter to us.

Interesting thing about the relationship between humans and these ants…when an army moves into a hut, people tend to allow them to ‘clean’ their hut of insects the ants find inside. Once the insects and other critters are devoured, the ants move on.

Latest update... I came down with malaria this past Thursday. I am on daily malaria preventative medication, but with everything going on with my roof and living out of my backpack I may have missed a dose. My symptoms were dehydration, high fever (I felt like I was in an oven), weakness, and achy joints. The symptoms came on within a three hour period, so I got tested and was positive. I caught it early because I never developed a headache. I am fully recovered now. Don't want to get that again!

My roof is being rethatched. It supposedly wasn't done correctly the first time, so since the second time rethatching is so close to rain season, rain season began while my roof was off. So, I have to wait for the grass to dry before they put it on my roof. Some of my things are damaged, but I may be reimbursed for some things like my mattress.

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