Friday, 13 June 2008

The Rat amongst the Chickens

And so it goes... I think I am quite exhausted. I say 'think' because I have lost the ability to read my body any more, but in my bones I am tired. Fifth rural community in so many months, new family, greetings, children, programs and stresses. The end of this part is also in sight; right now I cannot wait. Alas, this sombre tone cannot last; not here. If I was to end with this, I would deprive you of too many recent stories that could probably make the top 10.

Let's start with the MOTHER. I capitalise because I'm not convinced this woman could be received in any other way; Ward Councillor, ANC (African National Congress- the ruling political party) pillar, and quite possibly the scariest and most formidable woman I have ever encountered. Now I happen to think I am rather intimidating; sadly I realise I have a long way to go. (I am of course taking note from her.) She does not ask me, she tells me, what to eat, where I am going and of course when I should be getting up (around 6am, for your information.) Part of me loves her, she is almost the perfect politician, she plays the game, she is respected (feared/revered) and she looks after me in her own way, but part of me cringes and dies just before I hear the cry of 'BBBBBBBBBBBBBBBBBBBBBBBBBB- what you doing RIGHT now..' This cry is often echoed all over the community. Nonetheless we are swapping cooking ideas and I have taught her to make spaghetti bolognaise and the recipe is being passed to constituents, a big tick for cultural exchange. But please, let me share a couple of my experiences..

Day one: The family are horders; there is shit everywhere. In my room there are even two beds, 3 dressers, 2 old computers and I am too scared to look under the bed! Eating dinner on the first day we hear a noise in the cabinet.. 'oh' she says, 'it's the rat.' Correct, living in the cabinet which houses all the plates/cutlery seems to be a rat. No one moves, the rat seems to have become part of the family. I shudder, and unfortunately the rat story is not finished.

Day four: Marte and I are eating lunch at my house. The noise again. 'Oh it's the rat' I tell her, she reacts in the following, unedited manner, 'that is fucking horrible, you got me a plate out that cupboard,' 'I wiped it down' I tell her. With that she nods, this is Africa after all. We continue to eat, until suddenly we see the rat appears atop the cabinet. A big rat. For the purposes of writing I'd say it looked plague ridden but I cannot confirm or deny that. We stare, in shock, suddenly not hungry as this rat walks on top of the cabinet. Then, with little logic the rat walks towards the edge; and for reasons unbeknown to us, (or probably the rat in hindsight) it commits rat suicide. 8 foot fall was enough to take the wind out of the monster and it made some whimpering noises. I did the only brave thing I could, ran out the room and got ma GoGo. I made the 86 year old woman get up from outside (took 10 minutes for her to do this), and tried to explain to her with frantic hand gestures (she knows no english) about the rat. In the 10 minutes it had moved a few inches. We let the GoGo loose who for reasons, again unknown, started to poke around the cabinet, behind the computer, basically everywhere except near the rat. Confusion reigned until Marte and I realised she had not actually seen it. So I went over, ( well as close to the rat as I felt comfortable- read 3 feet away) and showed her. She jumped back and quick as a flash bent down, but a plastic bag on it and squeezed it to death.
I tell no lies, and the best part it's all on video camera. With me clapping in delight at the end. I will upload this cultural gem, I promise. So GoGo and the rat leave, we leave our lunch and ask again, what we are doing here.

Minutes later Marte comments that the chickens are having fun; some might say a chicken orgy. We let this thought sink in for a while; heard the one about the rat amongst the chickens? That's right folks, our chickens, as in the chickens that my family own, and we eat most day....

I have tried to avoid chicken since but when it's your own protein source what do you do? Enjoy your lunch.

And finally, in case you not feeling nauseous enough I have one more. Picture this:

6am, I am outside emptying a bucket of urine (the toilet is too far outside at night, there are too many snakes and it is pitch black). The urine belongs to myself and Marte; she stayed over as we had lots of work to do... friendship reaches new boundaries. After this chore, I start the fire on which I place the urn of water I collected from the well, so we can wash. It is surprising how natural this routine has become. Out strolls MOTHER dressed up to the nines (she sleeps about the same as Thatcher and her 4 hours) 'How is the morning B?' she shouts. 'Just super' has become my standard reply. At this stage I am 10 metres from the toilet (walls, hole, ground, toilet seat). Presuming she is heading to the toilet I turn to continue with the fire. 'B' she shouts 'there is fresh bread for breakfast and eggs too.' As I turn to thank her I see her lifting her dress, adjusting her hips in some peculiar fashion and taking a piss, 1 metre away from the toilet. Why not go in the toilet?!? Was the most horrifying thing as it was totally unexpected and I was unprepared. During this show time she asks what I will want for dinner. Well, with chicken ruled out, dinner was even more that last thing on my mind!

This is the same lady who on seeing I had not made my bed told me 'B, it is very much important you are accountable,' to whom I'm not sure, but it goes without saying my bed has been made every day since.

I wouldn't dare not too..

Sorry for recent delay I do have a backlog of updates but I thought I'd leave you this humourous interlude for the timebeing. Pomp- safe flight and email as soon as you can, am thinking of you very much. We leave on Tuesday for the Kruger National Park for evaluation etc. The following Sunday we say GOODBYE to the volunteers and I have a well deserved break. I cannot wait. I hope everyone is enjoying the English summer (or wherever you are) I am enjoying an African winter in Limpopo: a balmy 26 degrees with a light breeze.

No comments: