Its summer in Swaziland. All of the hills are lush, green and in full bloom. It’s a beautiful view from the plateau. With all the beauty, a few natives have crawled, or slithered, from their holes in the earth, to soak up some of the summer sun. many of the other PCV have had snake sightings over the last few months, and I was starting to believe my homestead was somehow immune. The week before my vacation, this denial was shattered.
I returned from a short trip in town and there was a buzz on the homestead. “zethu! Zethu! A black mamba!” I thought they were trying to joke with me, as they often tell me crazy stories to try and freak me out. However, they walked me over the the fire, where a 3 meter long, black mamba was engulfed in flames. Insert the sound of breaking glass here… apparently this, not so, little bugger was hiding in the corner of the kitchen building. Probably the most frequently used building on our homestead. Babe was able to lure it out somehow and kill it. How you kill a 3 meter long black mamba, only the deadliest snake in the world- a snake that can kill you in under 2 hours if you are bit- was a mystery to me.
I had one night of sleep, dreaming I was now in a snake free zone, before reality….again… got the best of me. I was in my hut with Kelley, who had come to visit when I heard the screaming. Bonigile ran to my door, “zethu! Zethu! Snake! Snake!” not sure what she expected me to do about it, but I was curious so I went to investigate. It took 3 different, pointing fingers for me to see the narrow, green head poking up from the foliage, his skinny, but impressively long body wrapped around the base of a poi poi tree. Yup, thats a green mamba- the second most deadly snake in the world. We stood staring at each other for a while, as it’s head bobbed in the breeze. I was perfectly content to spend the rest of the summer in my hut with the windows and doors locked, but luckily Babe appeared. Shirtless and in flip flops he rounded the corner of my hut and approached the tree from behind. He picked up a good size stick as he wandered over. Then with one burst of force he whacked the tree. The snake immediately fell into the shrubs below, and Babe blindly swung over and over again. Once the snake dropped, I ran back to the safety of my hut, and peered out the window, only catching a glimpse of debris flying through the air after a hearty grunt from Babe. The snake had disappeared but Babe was sure it wouldn’t be back. He had defeated the mighty green mamba.
That night my sleep was a little more restless. With a flashlight under my pillow, I checked every thump in the night- if I were that snake i’d be pissed. And by noon the next day it had returned. Again the screaming from Bonigilie, and again it took multiple pointing fingers for me to separate the green snake from the leaves of the tree it had climbed into. (I, like you I’m sure, am also concerned I can not spot these snakes, even when someone else has discovered them first….). This time the snake had climbed a ladder by the garden, and was wrapped several times around the top rung. Babe again appeared- shirtless, in flip flops and with a stick. There was no way to sneak up on it this time; its beady little head was raised off the ladder, and it was staring at the group of girls huddled together several feet away. Without warning Babe swung his stick. It took a few hits for the snake to fall, but eventually it leapt from it’s perch. I leapt from mine too, running into the families house and shutting the door, I watched from the window. The snake didn’t put up much of a fight, as Babe chased it a little and then beat it to a pulp. He spent 5 minutes swinging at the lifeless thing, that now would flop and fall with every strike. When there was no hope left of a second escape, babe poked it a little, and then picked it up by the tail, swinging it around over his head like some primitive warrior and tossed it down into the valley. I clapped and cheered as Babe wiped the sweat from his forehead and casually walked back into the house.
The next day was the beginning of the moz vacation, but reports from the homestead say it has been snake free while I was gone. This doesn’t stop my imagination. I am constantly searching the grounds, the trees looking for snakes (although I still don’t have much faith I would see them if they were there). At least I know what to look for now, and that my Babe can heroically save me, armed with nothing more than a stick. Those mambas don’t stand a chance!
In other news, 2012 is going to be a quiet year. My family has just returned home from Zambia, where they were spending the holiday with Babe’s family. They have choosen to leave Bulunda, my little swazi sister there so she can attend boarding school. She scored very well on her final exams last year, but funds are tight on the homestead- so the best education for the money is in Zambia. This is a great opportunity for Bulunda, however I will miss her lots! She will only come home around Christmas time, because it takes 4 days and 1000 rand to travel the distance home. In addition, Hacheema will be moving back to Siteki for the school term which begins on Jan 24th. He will come home on some weekends, but will stay with his older brother in the city during the week. This means that Bonigile will be the only “kid” on our homestead- which makes me kind of sad. I will miss the loud mornings, and goodnights. We are gonna have to find some stray children to adopt- thats really all there is to it…sigh…