Sunday, May 22, 2011


In order to achieve important (for that matter, most) things in life, connections of all sorts have to take place.

Some take a good ear.

And some, a good eye.

Actually, Ernesto and I had an interesting week last week. First, we spent some time doing health checks on school kids. We've been working at getting the new health post organized and functional, and things are going well. There's been one rather big obstacle though--there is no easy way for us to connect with him (a good 20 or so km away from the mission base) and vice versa. So if he or the school staff have trouble of any sort, they have to try to communicate via bush telegraph (aka: sending messages with people on foot).

Recently, with the arrival of Vodacom to our area, we've had better cell phone contact. In other words, we have reception in our yard and there is also reception at the mission's school and clinic. So I asked Ernesto if he still had the cell phone that he bought a year or two ago. "Yes, but the battery swelled after its last charge so it doesn't fit in or work in the phone anymore." I checked it out and sure enough, the battery was bulging. It probably didn't help that his cell phone's brandname was something like "SNARFBLAT". Apparently it was cheap. Anyway, I took it when I left and promised I'd look into getting things working again so we could be in better contact.

I guess I wasn't quick enough because the very next day, he showed up at our house on the mission base. He'd received a letter saying that he was to attend a meeting in Vanduzi (nearest hospital to us) and he wanted to arrange his travel plans.

As Dwight was about to step out of the door to greet him, he noticed a juvenile spitting cobra on the steps between himself and Ernesto. Hearing Dwight saying, "Whoa-a-a...espera, espera! Tem cobra aqui! (Wait, watch out, there's a snake here.)", is what brought me running with my camera. A snake in the yard always generates a fair deal of excitement in these parts.

The young spitting cobra, obviously feeling insecure, spread his hood and eye-balled us menacingly as he back-tracked his way up the steps.

That's him on the left.

Unfortunately this photo is not very clear and I got him with his back turned looking not very threatening at all. No spread hood or beady eyes. We did catch it on video though and I'll post that as soon as I have the bandwidth to do it!

In these parts, a spitting cobra is everyone's enemy. That's because they can either spit their venom with amazing accuracy at their "attacker's" eyes, or bite, if need be.

By the time this guy got to the top step though, Ernesto had his slingshot loaded, taut and ready. A few zinging stones, flying dust, dancing feet, squiggling snake and a fair bit of adrenaline rush later, and the connecting shot that stopped the snake dead in his tracks was fired. This is not the first poisonous snake Ernesto has killed in one of our yards. He's earning quite the reputation for himself!

Ernesto's small collection of perfectly shaped stones, for self protection of course.
He smiled when we called him "David", for short.

Once the hype of the moment was over and we finalized the question about the meeting in Vanduzi, Dwight and I headed to town. I took Ernesto's cell phone (of unheard-of-before-brand-name) and the swollen battery to an electronics shop. The shop owner had never heard of that make of cell phone before either and suggested that if we were looking at replacing the battery, why not just pay a little more and replace the entire phone? It did make sense. And if it meant we'd have better communication with Ernesto and the school staff, it was worth it. Not that I mind having him pop around now and then, especially during snake migration season...

I don't even know if there is such a thing as snake migration season but they're definitely on the move right now, that's for sure. We've found quite a few snake tracks through our yard this week. I've darkened the photos to help the tracks show up a bit better:

One of the shepherds figured this was a Python track.

I'm not sure about that one. Could be.

This track is squiggly, so likely another spitting cobra or maybe a mamba. Just as well I didn't see him.

Anyway, that was some of the excitement in my week.

But before I go, two last photos. This one is of the bridge to the landing strip. The hardwood planks are now being oiled and nailed into place. What a huge project this has been, but it's a wonderful feeling to walk on the bridge and lean over the sides. Carefully though...those side guards aren't solidly in place yet.

Today, a small group of us here from the mission went to the hotel in Garuso (located between where we are and Zimbabwe) for lunch. It was a nice afternoon after a hectic week. I couldn't resist taking a photo of the pink walls, red waxed floor, and white door to one of the suites.

But I better run for now. This post is quite long, and besides, I promised Ernesto I'd try to send a test message on his new phone and phone line. Here's to hoping the message gets through.

Take care, ttyl, and if you live in Africa--keep your eyes peeled for snakes.


Patti said...

Your blog entries are NEVER too long Lynn. Do you think you should start wearing knee high boots??

Love you

Anonymous said...

Hi Lynn!

Just discovered your blog today! It´s a good read (Obviously haven´t everything!) and the work you do looks very interesting!

Great Stuff!