Yebo - Joey and the Deltones

In a way, this song kind of represents me at my best. It is a snapshot of me at my most idealistic, dreamy, and hopeful.

Thursday, November 29, 2007

Pigs - I'd Rather Eat Them Than Catch Them

Raise your hand if you've ever been peed on by a 2 day old piglet while being chased thru tall grass and thorn bushes, running over logs, rocks, and small children who couldn't keep their footing, by a larger than you ever imagined mama pig who is intent on taking a big bite out of any piece of flesh she can get her teeth close enough to latch on to of yours.

I guess I should set up the scenario first.

It was a slow day at the farm a few days ago, and I was coming out of the kitchen looking for a tomato to eat. I didn't find any. Tomato picking season has just ended here.

As I came outside, I saw Lindy, 13, carrying a baby pig to the stoop to show Sophie that one of the pigs just popped out a few piglets. It still had the umbilical cord dangling from its underside.

Very attractive.

Lindy was sweating a good bit. I asked her why. She said she had been running. Odd, I thought. Her friends weren't around, just a few young boys from the compound next to the farm. She doesn't usually play with them. I wonder why she was running?

Lindy asked me to come with her to get the rest of the pigs on "that side". I agreed to go with her. I assumed the pigs were all laying
around in the pig cages on "that side" of the farm, where the pig cages are. I assumed she just wanted an extra hand to put them in a different cage.

Well, off we went - me, Lindy, and 4 or 5 younger boys to "that side", past the pigs cages, over the railroad tracks, across the sugar cane fields of the farm next to us, and into the thicket of reeds and thorns and tall grass where I soon found out mama pig was hiding out with her 6 remaining piglets.

You may be wondering, why do we have to get the piglets anyway? A few reasons. One being that anyone can steal them when they're out there, also, mama pig and her youngins can't get fed out there, and I was told a few others that I don't remember. Whatever. Two reasons are enough, right?

We were supposed to get all the piglets, then get mama pig, then put them in an isolated cage on our property, where mama can take care of them without worrying about the bigger pigs eating the young ones. Because that does happen. Quite often I'm told.

Back to the story.

As we approached the thicket, all the boys and Lindy began picking up stones and holding them in their shirts. Lindy told me to pick up a stick. So I found a small stick about the size of my forearm and continued walking. "No! You must get a big stick!" Lindy said. Somewhat confused, I blindly followed her directions and found a stick about a meter long. I also found a piece of rubber pipe about the same size and thought it might do the trick. What trick? I wasn't really sure.

I felt left out though that everyone else had stones and I didn't, so I retired my rubber pipe and stick before I got to use them, and picked up about 3 or 4 stones and walked into the thicket with the kids towards mama pig.

First thing I noticed was that the kids were just guessing where to throw their stones, hoping to hit mama pig and get her moving a bit. Second thing I noticed was that once mama pig started grunting, none of the kids got closer than 20 feet from her. It was soon told to me that it would be my job to grab any baby pig I could reach while the kids threw stones at mama. Ok, I thought, doesn't seem too hard.

Famous last words, right?

I entered the thicket. The baby pigs didn't seem to be moving too fast, and mama was about 15 feet away from me and them. So I dropped my stones, reached down, wrapped my right hand around the closest baby pig, and everything went white momentarily. The next thing I knew, both me and the baby pig were having a panic attack.

The baby pig's panic attack started because it was being stolen by a scary looking white man with a beard, and the attack took the form of it squealing its head off (the most god awful sound I've ever heard in my life - it sounds like demons escaping from the depths of hell, the whole way up, scratching their nails on an infinitely long chalkboard, yelling obscenities at each other in a language more harsh than anything that my ears have beheld on this earth) and writhing around in my hand like it was spinning around in a blender. My panic attack began when my eyes and ears honed in on the sight of mama pig dashing towards me like an over sized dark orange/pink cannonball, grunting loudly and persistently, breaking branches and hurdling stones in her path. My attack took the form of me yelling, "SHIT!"

I froze momentarily to grasp what the hell was happening, and the next moment, all I remember was dashing out of the thicket by the clearest path possible, hurdling logs, rocks and kids who couldn't run as fast as me, the baby pig over turned in my right hand, still writhing, while I yelled at the kids "GIJIMIA!GIJIMA!GIJIMA!GIJIMA!GIJIMA!GIJIMA!GIJIMA!GIJIMA!"

English translation = "RUN!RUN!RUN!RUN!RUN!RUN!RUN!RUN!RUN!"

I've never spoken siSwati so fluently since I've been here such as I did that moment.

Mama pig eventually gave up on her chase about 50 yards from the start. I was out of breath from my sprint, as were the kids, and we were all laughing. The kids were laughing because of the sight of me running away with the pig in hand, yelling siSwati to them to run the hell away. I was laughing because of the hilarity of the situation, the adrenaline rush I got, and due to the relief that it was all over.


"No!" Lindy said. "We must get the others too!"

I handed my pig off to one of the kids, asked them to take it back to the farm, and then gave Lindy a quizzical look. I thought we only had to get one. But no. Ok, so we have to get the others. Silly me. I hatched a plan to get the process over and done with as quickly as possible.
I asked Lindy to translate to the younger boys for me. The plan was, the kids would again throw rocks at mama, getting her away from her piglets, I would swoop in, and pick one up. Mama would then chase me as I ran away, and as I took her further away from the rest of the piglets, the rest of the kids would go in and get the remaining 4 pigs, and we'd be done.

I thought it sounded like a great plan.

We sprung into action, though this time I picked up the big stick I had thought unnecessary during my first run. I considered briefly the rubber pipe, but then thought better of it as I picked it up and it flopped over in my hand. All I could think was, I don't need my tool going limp on me when I need it most.

I looked at the kids, shook my head and decided that no one would get the joke there, so I dropped the subject and the rubber pipe and went on with the mission.

So here I went again, into the thicket, armed with a thick branch (my "pig stick") in one hand, my heart pumping harder and harder, and my right hand ready to do some pig snatching. The kids started throwing stones, and I kept my eyes on mama pig as she began grunting and moving away. I noticed that this time around, the piglets were moving with mama. I wanted to get mama further and further away, so I picked up some of my own stones and started throwing them at her. Hard. They bounced right off her, as if they were nothing more than spitballs. Eventually she turned her back long enough for me to bend down and get my hand around a piglet. Again, the squeals were deafening, and my heart started pounding as I saw and heard mama pig start to charge.

There was no clear exit this time, I was too deep in the thicket. And mama pig was only about 10 feet from me. So instead of a clean get away, I found myself running thru sharp grass as tall as me, breaking clean thru thorn branches and tall reeds, getting swatted in the face by thin tree branches, stepping into divets, nearly tripping on hidden stones, getting my foot briefly stuck in mud, all the while mama pig gaining on me, and little piglet peeing down my arm. I was hoping to lose mama thru the thicket, but she proved much more arrow-like and agile than me, and as I emerged into the clearing, I turned around to see if the kids were getting the other piglets.

To my horror, I saw two things that I did not want to see. The first thing I saw was all the kids running the complete opposite direction as me, empty handed, piglets nowhere to be seen, pointing directly towards me as they ran. The second thing that horrified me turned out to be what the kids were pointing at - mama pig right on my heel, no more than a foot away, mouth engaged to start chomping.

My eyes were as big as dinner plates. I managed to narrow them enough and I let out what I was the most vicious and aggressive yell I've ever managed in my life. At the same exact moment, I swung the stick in my left hand as hard as possible, and clocked mama pig right across the face as she opened her mouth to take a nice size chunk out of my balls.

It stunned her enough for me to get a few steps on her, and I was gone like the wind.

I regrouped with the kids, half angry that they didn't get their share of the pigs, half ecstatic that my balls were intact, and half feeling like a hardened outdoorsman for clocking mama pig at the most crucial moment of our previous engagement. That's a whole person and a half worth of emotions.

I started pointing at each of the kids individually and saying half-seriously and half-mockingly, "Uyasaba, uyasaba, uyasaba.... etc." Translation "You're scared, you're afraid, you're a scaredy-cat etc." "Angisabi!" (I'm not scared!) each of them answered. "Bamba tingulube!" I fired back. (Then grab the pigs!)

Three pigs left.

Same process. Rock throwing, me approaching, stepping thru mud and getting cut up by sharp tall grass, searching in vain for the remaining 3 pigs who were surprisingly mobile and staying very close to mama.

This time around, me being newly emboldened by our last encounter, and mama pig being angrier than ever, we had a short game of chicken. We faced each other, looking each other square in the eyes. She would not budge, despite the barrage of rocks being thrown at her, and I would not leave without another piglet. She made a few mock charges, and I countered with my war cry and by whacking everything around me with my pig stick, almost daring her to try something.

Again, she foolishly turned her back for just a second, and I grabbed the closest piglet. Again, over the river and thru the woods, mama close on my tail. My footing stalled in a mud patch again, thus giving mama a chance to chomp my calf, but fortunately I was in too much of a hurry not to get bit to let that happen. I regained my footing, got out of the mud patch, turned slightly to my left, let my stick fly, gave mama a good whack across the noggin, stunned her, and again I was gone, and mama was left behind feeling beaten and embarrassed for the third time in a row.

The kids again were empty handed, and I gave them a lot of crap for being scared again. Not that I blame them - mama pig is the scariest creature I've come across in a long time - much scarier than any snakes or spiders I've met up with here.

Two pigs left.

Same process, although now three kids were gone with the three pigs we had taken up to that point, so it was only me, Lindy, and one other boy. They threw rocks like they meant it. I told them to try and chase mama out to the clearing so I could grab the last two pigs with relative ease. That didn't happen.

Face off again.

This time, I could see the two piglets standing side by side, halfway between me and mama. I decided to take a risk. I didn't yell or hit anything around me with my pig stick. Instead, I dropped the stick to my left, and like something out of an old western, I readied my hands to spring into action. I could feel my heart pounding... my veins throbbing, swollen with adrenaline, my pulse making its presence known thru my arms, hands, feet and neck. Instead of grabbing a six-shooter and firing off a couple rounds (I don't own a six-shooter), I leapt forward, grabbed the two remaining pigs with both hands, jetted out of the bush, and was treated to their squealing in full surround sound as I carried them above my head, half in a declaration of victory, half in avoidance of the sharp grass and thorns leaving their traces on my exposed torso. (I don't wear shirts most days here - those of you who know me probably aren't very surprised) I must've looked like the Flash thru this whole process, because mama pig didn't have the slightest chance to catch me. I left her so far behind, eating my dust that I half wanted to go back and lap her again. Kinda like the Tortoise and the Hare. (I'm aware the Tortoise eventually gets the upper hand on the Hare, but this Hare had more brains than the one in the fable)

I handed the last 2 pigs off to the two kids and started walking back.

"No! There are more!" Lindy said.

After a small exchange of me saying no their weren't, and Lindy saying there were actually three more I told her I'd suck it up and go back and check.

I wanted to leave on this high note, but I decided to swallow my pride and fear, and face off with mama one more time. I picked up my recently discarded pig stick, as well as an 8 foot hardened reed that I would use like a lance to keep mama at a safe distance from me. As I looked around the ground for more piglets, yelling at mama, trying to keep her away with my reed-lance, I found nothing but a mother pig with nothing left to lose. She charged me not once, but TWICE within the 30 seconds I was there. This time, it was mama pig who was like the Flash, because both times she charged, I barely had time to react. My reed-lance proved useless as I couldn't move it effectively once mama got around it, so again and again, my pig stick saved my balls from certain destruction and a life without children, as I knocked mama clean across her snout when she was right on top of me.

Mama turned around, dejected, I and walked away victorious.

Chasing mama back to the farm was a simple process being that she had no more babies to protect. Only after I returned to the farm did I find out that normally, the baby pigs are put into a burlap sack immediately after capture which makes them stop squealing practically instantly, thus confusing the hell out of mama, and making the process so much easier. It would've been nice to know that beforehand.

Getting mama pig back into the cage with the piglets is a whole other story all-together involving transferring skittish chickens from here to there, baiting mama pig around the yard with her piglets, keeping the alpha male pig, Boss, in his cage, and holding cage doors shut with all my body weight as mama slammed her self against it, much like the scene from Jurassic Park when the Velociraptors are trying to get into the main control room when the auto locks aren't working and no one can reach the gun because it's just 2 inches too far away.

I emerged from the whole experience covered in baby pig urine, my feet caked in mud, my torso, arms and hands scratched up from all the sharp grass and thorns I tore thru, and my entire body head to toe, itchier than I have ever felt in my life.

But I was victorious, and all the pigs are where they're supposed to be.

I kept my pig stick and intend to take it on all dangerous missions from this point on.

Though, to be honest, I hope there are none. :)
Posted by Picasa

Thursday, November 15, 2007

So Hot Right Now part. 1.

As my hands lay on my laptop at this moment, my palms are dripping with sweat, which I am feverishly wiping away from the key pad as it puddles beneath my wrists. Anyone who owns a laptop knows that laptops get very hot when left on for a long time - that's why you don't actually put them on your lap. In fact, my mother's biggest fear is that my brother and I will forget this rule, overheat our family jewels, and she will be cursed with no grandkids forever, thanks to portable technology.

My laptop is hot enough at the moment, but add that to the 43 degree plus (celcius - we do the metric system here) cloudless weather, and you've got a recipe for sweaty palms like only a skinny junior high boy with a shade of a mustache at the homecoming dance can compete with. The pillow I'm sitting on is becoming increasingly damp, the longer I sit here, and I can feel the start of a heat headache coming on. So I've been drinking H2O mixed with an electrolyte mix called Energade like a fiend. Also, I'm as close to fully nude as possible, without actually being so. I just don't want to make any surprise visitors uncomfortable. Or the cats. They look at me with such judgmental eyes.

There is an obvious haze hanging throughout the air - you can see it on the edges of the mountains, and it filters the sunlight a bit, making it appear whiter and hotter than normal. I've come back to my house mid-day - no one does anything during the day on days like this I'm told, and I can completely understand why. This is the 4th very hot day in a row, and we're all hoping for a spell of rain to break it up a bit. But as I look out the window here, it doesn't look promising. The weather can change in a heartbeat though, so we can hold on to hope for a bit.

To get anything done on a hot day here, you must wake up before sunrise. Because even as the sun comes over the mountains at 5:15 am, it has a nasty tinge of hotness to it. Waking up before 5:15 am is nothing I'm used to, and to be honest, I don't see myself getting into the habit of getting out of bed that early. So, I must make a plan for days like these, because apparently, this ain't nothin' yet. Everyone keeps saying, "Wait till January/February. You'll shit, it's so hot." Why the heat would induce any sort of bowel movement, I'm not quite sure, so I'm guessing it's just an expression they use here. But I'll let you know if there's any truth to the expression come February.

Nothing helps to cool down on a hot as balls day, like a cold cold cold shower. Take one in the morning, maybe midday, and then before you head to bed. Three showers in a day may seem excessive, but I think on days like this, I wouldn't mind even 4. However, as there is usually some sort of twist to "would be nice" situations I bring up here, I will say that all the water that comes to my house is pumped from an exposed water tank on a hill, carried thru black pipes laying on top of the ground, to the intake hose at the back. The water in that tank is just basking every minute of the day, soaking up every degree of heat the sun throws at it, which is then made even hotter when carried thru the black as nite pipes to the house. Technically, you could still shower in these conditions, but I personally think the situation is better cut out for a more daring experiment. I would create a life size replica of myself, made entirely of uncooked pasta, stand it up in my shower, turn the water on, and see how long it would take to get just past al dente. I'll be taking bets starting from now. I'm putting money on between 4 and 5 minutes.

Seriously, the water = very very very hot. Cooling down in the shower is not an option.

So instead, I'm sitting inside, with all the doors and windows in the house wide open, with my oscillating fan fanning me as it oscillates. That's actually a lie. I have it standing stationary right next to me on full blast. I won't let it oscillate. I want the full breeze. All the time. I can tell my beard is getting a bit bushy because I can feel the breeze coming thru it, tickling my face slightly. I should probably take care of that and take the bushiness down a bit.

So what have we learned today?

1- It's too hot
2- Drink H20 with Energade
3- Get naked (if you don't own judgmental cats)
4- Sit next to a window
5- Don't try to shower
6- Do try to make life size replica of yourself out of pasta
7- Get an oscillating fan, but don't let it oscillate
8- Shave your beard if you have one
9- Shave the cats if you don't have a beard

I'm sure at some point I'll have more commentary on the heat here, which is why this entry is labeled with "part. 1.".

For now, all of you back home, please enjoy the fall weather, the leaves changing colour, and of course, the cold water in your shower.

Posted by Picasa

Tuesday, November 6, 2007

What a Difference a Day Makes

This past weekend, I went shopping to get some things for my house/room that I have been looking to get since... well, since I first got here. I'd just like to take a moment to explain how much of a difference certain items can make in one's daily activities.

I like to think that I'm somewhat of a minimalist. That's not actually true. But I'd like to think it. If I had my choice, I'd own a lot of little things that make life easier/more enjoyable, like a grilled panini press. They make sandwiches so much more delicious, it really blows my mind as to how it's physically possible. But of course, being broke on top of the fact that I live in Africa, limits the amount of things I can actually buy or own to make up a somewhat luxurious lifestyle.

Being a minimalist here, then, means simply that you can get by just fine without much of anything. That more accurately describes me. I can get by without much, I just don't prefer it.

My living situation is relatively cozy. Before this weekend, my room consisted of a single bed with a thin, soft mattress (though I prefer harder ones), a white wooden chair (not quite sure why it's in here), a very small dresser, one bag of luggage with my warm clothes packed away, a lockbox to store expensive items in, two boxes of books and Peace Corps bound informational packets (a lot of them), the small Peace Corps medical kit, a flyswatter (best investment ever), and a one square foot cardboard box that I keep my snack food in. The walls are decorated with a map of the world, a map of Africa, small holes where someone tried to hang up pictures, and the remains of formerly high pitched buzzing mosquitoes.

As of this weekend, I introduced 3 items to my room which have made all the difference in the world - especially when it comes to nitely activities. The three items include:

1- A CFL bulb where there formerly was just an empty light socket.

2- An oscillating stand up fan.

3- A screen for the one window that opens.

Previously, when coming home at nite, if I wanted to read, or write in my journal, or kill crawling insects, I had to keep my headlamp on for the entirety of the process. It was doable, but it eats up batteries like whoa, it makes my forehead sweat and get itchy after lengthy wearing periods, mosquitoes have learned to avoid the light's glare, hiding in the shadows of the room, and it attracts moths directly to my face - exactly the spot where I don't want them.

To sleep in my room, I would close my curtains to prevent very big bugs from flying in at nite (not always a successful endeavour), and close my door to keep the cats out, thus creating a stagnant, overheated cave to sleep in/lose weight in from all the sweating that occurs throughout the nite. Again, it was doable, but not ideal.

Well my goodness, the afforementioned 3 items have truly made all the difference in the world. I cut the portion of steel screen for my window with kid scissors from a large sheet that was borrowed to me, and luckily I had my straight eyes on, and managed to cut it relatively square and accurate. I attached it to my window using all purpose Prestik, or Sticky Tac, for those of you playing the home game. It works for now.

The combination of the screen, fan and light, made for an incredibly enjoyable first evening with all three. I wrote in my journal, with my room light glowing, a cool breeze coming to and fro across my body from the oscillating nature of the fan, all the while listening to the {tik.... tik..... TAK...} of bugs both large and small attempting to fly thru my screen, much to their dismay, and to my immense enjoyment. I smiled every time I heard one of their failed attempts. The best part was that I managed to sleep thru the entire nite without waking up to kill any mosquitoes, thanks to the tag team of the fan and screen.

I bought a shower head to screw in so my showers don't feel like someone is peeing on my head, but unfortunately, I haven't had a chance to try it out, because we've been out of water this side for the past few days. I'm anxious to try things out when the situation rectifies itself/we decide to fix it.

Next up is fashioning a screen door from reeds - luckily I have some contacts stateside who can walk me thru the construction process. Then I can simultaneously keep the cats out, and have a cross breeze coming thru the room. Just like heaven should be.

Catless and breezy.

Just kidding.

Only kinda.