Posts Tagged ‘snakes’

Another Snake Story

February 1st, 2012 1 comment

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!

Categories: Swaziland Tags: , ,

Some Swazi Firsts

March 18th, 2011 No comments

I was able to get most of my "firsts" taken care of during our last trip to Swaziland: first time to Africa, first time driving on left side of the road, seeing my first zebra and croc, first time eating impala and warthog, etc.  Even still, there have been plenty of new "firsts" for me this trip:

First Black Mamba Sighting – The Black Mamba is the fastest snake and can kill a full grown human in less than hour.  Thankfully the one I saw was from the safety of the car and it was a small one.  Mambas are the most common snake in Swaziland – luckily they tend to avoid confrontation. 

First Swazi Funeral – Unfortunately one of our staff members had his mother pass away this week.  We didn’t stay for the whole funeral, but we did attend part of it (similar to visitation/wake in the States).  Very humbling.

First time picking Tabasco chilies – Cabrini raises chili peppers that are then sold to Tabasco.  On Saturday morning we headed out early with the children at the hostel to help with the harvest.

First siSwati Mass – On Sunday, we went to the traditional service at the mission.  It is entirely in siSwati, but was still very meaningful.  The dome structure of the church makes for excellent acoustics.  The sound of the singing will stick with me for a long time.

First housing contract that included the phrase "Concubines are strictly discouraged." – While it may seem very unusual to us, this is actually an issue in Swaziland where many people still practice polygamy.

First food delivery in the bush – On Tuesday we had some gogos (grandmothers) come asking for assistance.  These women could hardly walk, but made it all the way to the mission (probably a 15km trip).  We took them back home along with some World Food Program provisions.

First time watching cricket match (on TV) – Not only did I watch, but I actually learned to enjoy it.  In case you didn’t know, cricket is a pretty big deal in a large part of the world.  This week the ICC World Cup is taking place (it only occurs every 4 years).  The Aussie volunteer I was staying with is a huge fan and took the time to explain the basics to me.

First time hanging clothes to dry – Here at Cabrini they have washers, but not dryers. With the heat and dryness here most of the year, clothes dry extremely quickly.  Surprisingly, I have never really had to hang dry my clothes until this trip.

First Swazi thunderstorm / power outage – On Tuesday night, after a week of hot dry weather, we had a heck of a storm roll through.  We got at least 3 hours of heavy rain and an amazing light show for a good hour.  We also lost power.  Things are pretty simply here so lack of power is not a big deal – people manage – but it did mean no fans and no water. 

The next day I got stuck in an afternoon storm and ended up spending about 45 minutes in the local marketplace.  After the rain subsided, there was a beautiful rainbow over the mission.

First time watching Al Jezeera – After Al Jezeera released tapes for Osama Bin Laden in 2001, I had always assumed they were a radical fringe new agency.  Not the case at all.  Of all the news outlets available here (CNN, FOX, BBC, SKY, etc.), Al Jezeera is the most professional and provides the best "hard" news coverage.