Holy crap! was how the past week started. A huge bird flew down to grab a chicken and fly off. Turns out the Crowned Eagle is the strongest and most dangerous eagle in Africa. My village calls it ‘docoway’ and tells me it takes goats and small livestock. a few days later I saw one try to fly off with a baby goat. The mother goat head-butted the eagle until it let go. So no goat dinner for the Crowned Eagle that day!
It has a large wingspan, and sounds like a helicopter taking off. From below it looks almost like a leopard.And it reminded me that wild Africa is in my backyard. Actually, a lot of this past week has been about wild Africa!
Besides the docoway or Crowned Eagle, there is also the Mbulu lizard. When I saw the 5+ foot long lizard climb out onto the boulder I felt like I was back in the Florida Everglades! What looked like an ancestor to alligators is the Monitor lizard. Another ‘do not pet’ resident of Zambia.
And then, the next day, I headed to Chipata to get some chicken wire for my garden. In my yard the most common menaces are goats and pigs. Yet I was reminded of other common menaces on my walk to the main road.
I have large hands, so the paw print is not of a small lion.
My host wasn’t concerned about the lion paw print. He said they don’t come into the village. He was concerned about the bird, apparently its a big problem. He also said to not worry about the 5ft long swimming lizards and that they eat small things like ducks chickens and puppies but fear dogs.
I really want Bouncer to grow super fast now. Glad I splurged on his food today.
This week I found out that I had been misinterpreting my host’s inquiries about noise bothering me at night. I always thought he was asking about people walking past on the footpath. And when he instructed me to go into my house at sundown and not go any further than the bathroom at night I thought it was a cultural thing. “Young woman, unwed, alone outdoors at night” sort of thing. He said the path is long and has problems at night. I thought he meant navigating the path, but no. It is because of lions and hyenas and God knows what else.
It was really a ‘Africa IS your backyard’ kind of thing. Hyenas. Hyenas that are the reason the goats and cow like to be right on my porch at night. Hyenas that roam the village at night. I am never leaving my house after dark again.
It explains a lot of rules I’ve been told. Like come home before dark. Keep small children and animals at home. Stay in the village where the dogs keep problems away. Also, don’t go anywhere after dark. The chim is ok if it is close to house but don’t go further than that. And if you hear strange noises after sunset don’t leave my house, call host and he will fix the problem. I.E. Bring dog and let dog chase creature away and host deals with people.
I’ve seen tracks of snakes as thick as my arm. But I haven’t seen actual snakes that big, which is fine with me! Not sure what else lives in the forest preserve next to my village but so far the animals I’ve seen or heard of or seen traces of are not disappointing. Plan to carry a large walking stick when I walk through the forest from now on.
There are other things, of course, to watch out for here in the wilds of Africa. Scarier than a giant lizard or the print of a lion’s paw is an inanimate menace that I can’t scare off with a giant stick or hide from in my house at night. Fire.
It started in the daytime, a smudge on the horizon. Dry season, harvest time has just ended, so the ground is rich with vegetation and dry grass. We watched it all afternoon. At sunset it took on a more menacing appearance.
I was told to get ready to leave. Wow, what to pack in my dufflebag and backpack?! Electronics, medicines, things that are not easily replaced in Zambia. Pack things up and then try to sleep knowing I could be told any minute to run. Run? Run where? To the paved road that leads to Chipata, where Peace Corps will come fetch me from if I have to bug out. The men spent most of the night battling the fire. And they succeeded. The village did not get burnt! Morning came with ashes and soot on everything. A gray morning, and one of celebration! We were not burned out of house and home, the village is fine, the men victorious over the flames. Interestingly, the gray day silhouetted Mama dog and she was nearly identical to the Zambian Wild Dog, her grandparent.
I am grateful that the fire did not spread to my village. I am motivated to get a big walking stick and to plan a bug-out bag in case I ever DO have to evacuate on short notice.
And I am appreciative of some of the softer things in my backyard. Amai Sophia had her baby, a little boy. So sweet and soft. We joked that he is muzungu like me, because our fingers are the same color. Happy Birthday, baby Robert. Welcome to the village, we are so glad it is still here for you to grow and play in.
And I and my puppy continue to grow into the wilds of Africa, one dawn at a time.