I know our parents probably don’t like my snake stories very much – they would probably prefer not to think about the reptilian risks associated with our location. But, the reality is that our life is so normal and boring here that it is the snake stories that remind us of the uniqueness of living in Swaziland.
So here is today’s story:
I was up at our health care office for a data audit from PEPFAR. Basically, the largest funder of HIV services in Swaziland is the US government and we receive a good portion of our funding from them. They were coming into town to check to make sure the numbers we submitted could be verified by source documentation. In other words, it was a pretty important meeting.
When we came into the health care office, we were looking for a quiet place to sit and meet. I was pretty frustrated because as I was trying to give our guest a quick tour, our health care staff was being very loud and boisterous. I was a bit disappointed by how unprofessional they were acting. Well, if you read the title to this post, you can see where this is going. It turns out everyone was loud and rowdy because they were trying to kill a snouted cobra that had come into the office and made a home under the desk.
Our data officer (a woman in her 30s) jumped into the mix, grabbed a weighted stick (called a knobkerrie) and beat the snake to death then turned casually to join us for our meeting. As we were walking past the office to our meeting room, they were cleaning up the mess and accidently slid the snake right in front of the PEPFAR officer’s foot.
I couldn’t help but crack up laughing because where else would an important meeting with a key funder be interrupted so a meeting participant could kill a cobra in the office.
Obviously the most important thing is that everyone was safe (which they were) and it was good to know that if there had been a bite, the anti-venom was a few meters down the hallway. There is actually a good side to things like this happening when our funders are here; it makes them realize that while most of the big wigs work in air conditioned offices in the city, the real work gets down in the bush away from all the amenities.
In addition to cobras interrupting meetings, we have had financial audits where we have had to shut down the water system to run the office computers on the backup generator because power was out. We have had site visits rescheduled because a monsoon caused torrential rain to wash out the road. We have been delayed to workshops because of cattle crossings…
… it is all part of a day’s work!