Sunday, January 22, 2012

Ace of Base Called, They Want Their Cruel Summer Back

Bamshane with a chameleon

my friend Phephile showing off the green mamba she killed at my bus stop (I ran away)

The group on our camping trip to the Gorge

A chicken eating a black mamba on my homestead after it was killed

Yay, mango season!!!

I never thought I would use “hate” and “summer” in the same sentence, but dear God, summer in Swaziland has some truly dreadful aspects. It’s not all bad, but the bad is highlighted on a sunny day with temperatures nearing 40C. Specifically, in the low veld. What is a low veld, you ask? As my friend Libby so eloquently puts it, “hell”. As Kyra describes it, “Mordor”. Not only is it hot, but many of us have tin roofs, rendering your house an oven. Transport is also bad. There is nothing worse than a crowded bus with the sun beating down. Also, for the few of without electricity, fans are a distant memory. My site is not in Mordor though, I call it “Lonely Mountain”, being atop the plateau, I have the luxury of a breeze coming and cooler temperatures than many in Lubombo,  and with mosquito net screens, it can be pretty nice on a breezy day. But it is hard to justify opening your windows when your homestead is teeming with snakes.
The snakes hibernate all winter and wake in the summer. I had only ever seen one snake in my life before coming here, hiking in Georgia, big and black and coiled up in the trail. It was scary, but it’s unlikely you have a fear of snakes when you never encounter them in your daily life, and most are harmless. Moving here, I wasn’t aware that Swaziland is known for its green and black mambas, puff adders, spitting cobras, and pythons. To quote many boMake, “Eish!” Some volunteers have had truly scary encounters with snakes in their homes, especially at night. I have employed pretty OCD tendencies to combat this, like a nightly snake check and never leaving my house without my snake stick. I also rarely leave after dark anymore. Fortunately, most snakes are non-aggressive, and very afraid of humans. Only when cornered or surprised would they attack. Scorpions are also around, but they won’t kill you. To control these issues, Babe and I went in on a couple of geese, Jay-Z and Beyonce. I had heard they keep snakes away, and maybe I’d finally have a lovable pet. Wrong. I am easily more afraid of the geese than the snakes, these things are completely vicious. Which is good because  I think they are helping. Or because they shit everywhere and snakes apparently hate strong smells. I never thought I would miss squirrels.

The geese playing nice...for now

Third life for a box I was sent!

Summer can also be fun :)

OK, its not all bad. The rains, which have been sparse this season, have finally been coming. My water barrels are all full! And better yet, the fruit trees are blooming. Mangos, peaches, plums, lychees, pineapples, everything is abundant and fresh. It’s nice to eat fruit that fell off a tree and doesn’t taste like it was forced to ripen in a warehouse somewhere a thousand miles away (or make sangria with it). The weather has been awesome for camping and hiking too, especially in higher elevations. Also because summer is so long (starts getting hot in mid-September, ends maybe in April) I have had a chance to start a garden, have it all die, and start another one. And plus, I have a deep, deep love and appreciation for winter now

Random Swazi Fact of the Week: As Elle Driver says in Kill Bill Volume 2, ""In Africa, the saying goes 'In the bush, an elephant can kill you, a leopard can kill you, and a black mamba can kill you. But only with the mamba is death sure.' Hence its handle, 'Death Incarnate.'" Pretty cool, huh?" Black mambas can stand up, sometimes over 3 meters tall, and they can also “run” faster than a human. Fantastic.

1 comment:

  1. Actually, I have a question about that chicken - is it still alive today? Is it safe for other animals to eat venomous creatures? Anyway, good thing it's killed. Because if not, that picture might show a black mamba snake eating a chicken. If you're interested in black mamba snakes like me, you might want to take a look here: