Wednesday, March 10, 2010

Animal House

Hello there and welcome to another installment of my weblog. Today I’d like to share with you all things that go bump in the night…and day. A lighter side of my blog.

So, for those readers that don’t particularly like bugs and creepy-crawlies or pictures of such, this is your warning for the content ahead. Don’t say I didn’t tell you, so….let’s begin!

We’ll start off pretty cute and cuddly. What’s so harmless about a baby chick?P1090770240x180_thumb4 Nothing. Absolutely harmless. It’s the momma you gotta watch out for. See her eyeing the camera down? Evil, pure evil.P1090780240x180_thumb5 That’s all the warning she usually gives me before she freaks out and attacks me. Yeah, she confronts you with no reservations, cussing you out! Even if I’m just trying to squeeze by, she goes berserk. I’ve had my run-ins with Momma and she doesn’t take kindly to me. If no chicks are around, she’s no threat. However, once they’re hatched…boy, watch out. I’ve actually been charged by her a few times (not kidding!) …wings flailing, running and screaming…(that was me, not Momma). I’d say I was the bigger chicken.

Next in line is my pal, the rooster. When I first arrived, it was very obvious that he was very apprehensive of me. For the first few weeks of me moving in, many times I’d be sitting outside; I’d see him peak his head around the corner, then just stare at me, checking me out and eyeing me down. I swear he saw my soul. I’ve never had a bird check me out that intensely. But that’s all over now.

These days, we have a love-hate relationship:

P1100039240x1802_thumb5he loves to cockadoodle-doo, and I hate it.

In all honesty, I actually do have great admiration for him (I know, he’s just a bird, but still…): he is able to crow (actual verb is crow, not cockadoodle-doo like I thought) at roughly the same time every morning…without a Timex! It’s uncanny. Nearly 5 o’clock in the morning, every morning—every morning—rain or shine, he’s up and ready to wake me up, too. I have no idea how he does it, because the sun’s not even out yet. I think he must be counting or cheating somehow.

And I gotta give this guy even more props: he defends his hens and his turf to the extreme. I’ve never seen so much determination. I got to witness a cock-fight between him and the neighboring cock at the Mongwaketse residence (my host family’s surname). Guess who won. Yeah, Mongwaketses: 1, neighboring challenger: 0. Get outta here, cock. Get off our property.

P1090707240x180_thumb4 P1090708240x180_thumb4

He’s also pretty generous, too. When searching for food in the yard, if he finds something, instead of hoarding it to himself, he immediately clucks in a certain tone and all the hens come running, he backs away and points with his beak what he found. Chivalry is not dead.

(Please note: I do not spend my days observing roosters. But, they are pretty impressive. I don’t have a name for the rooster yet—any good names to offer?)





Goat-farts are funny.




Seriously, they are one of the funniest sounds I’ve ever heard in my life. I can’t help but burst out laughing like an immature, 12-year old boy that just heard a whoopee-cushion go off. When I walk down the road and hear a goat-fart, I lose it. They brighten my day.P1100678180x240_thumb4

Donkeys are everywhere. And their crude behaviour is almost as funny as goat farting, but not quite. When they bray, they stick their jaw out and expose their teeth like idiots. Then, they chase after some other donkey with their face posed like that—not menacing at all, just freakin’ hilarious.

I haven’t been able to take a donkey seriously yet.





This little guy is pretty funny looking, too. Like someone decided to make a life-sized stuffed-animal.





This khudu (Setswana for tortoise) became my hissing, peeing friend after my neighbors found him on the road and said I should take him back. I tried to keep him in our fenced in yard, but I found out the next day that tortoises can dig. He no longer lives in the yard.






Ahh! Lion!




No, we don’t all have lions living in our back yards or as pets. This one was just very well trained. He can hold a pose for…well, forever. You never have to walk him either.

This is my family’s newest lion. His name is Takeaway and as a puppy, was extremely disproportionate. He’s grown out of his awkwardness now. (For reference, takeaway is the South African term for “carry-out.” His brother’s name is Mealie Meal, a South African corn meal brand.)


OK, on to the creepy crawlies…again, the weak of heart and strong of grossedoutness should turn away now and stop reading.


This one you’ve already seen/read about in the previous vacation blog. My elementary learners actually just found another scorpion (pepe) the other day on the school grounds and were taking turns killing it. How nice.


Dung Beetles: what a weird concept—a beetle that needs to roll a piece of dung for hours on end, upside-down at that! How do they know where they are going!?


What a strange looking bug. It looks like it should be in a sci-fi movie or something. I wish I had spikes coming out of my back like that. No one would mess with me… It kinda reminds me of Beetle Juice in that one scene where Michael Keaton gets all spiky. This one was sitting on my front door screen today.


Black mamba…spectacular. But, I just thank God that I have 12x optical zoom. I didn’t feel like getting much closer. I didn’t think we’d be good friends. Just a hunch.




This one will take some explaining…

This is called a Solifugae, or Sun Scorpion or Sun Spider.

The story starts before I ever met the likes of this beast. When I first arrived, I found two small solifugae that went zipping through my house a few weeks before. I was fascinated with them, so I grabbed the can of bug spray (called DOOM, here--it seriously does damage. It could kill a small mammal) and went after them. I killed them and kept them. I don’t know why, maybe I wanted to practice taxidermy or something weird like that, I don’t know. But really, any unknown African insect is pretty cool.

So for weeks I was believing the ones I found were big insects...but none compared to this one I found, pictured here. This one was as big as the palm of my hand!!

I was outside at night, chit-chatting with my host brother, Tebogo. I saw something running by the wall and thought it was a mouse. Once we realized what it was, my host brother stunned it by stepping on it. We thought it was dead. I took it into my house and…(somewhat embarrassed to say), I started photographing it like it was a runway model (how else would I have gotten these photos?); then it started twitching. It came back from the dead. I sprayed it with Doom. It still twitched, even more this time. Then, it's beak-like claw-teeth started moving and pinching. I Doom-ed it again. It started moving it's legs. That's when I Doom-ed it yet again. It wouldn't die!!!

I finally got done taking pictures and covered it with a bowl and sprayed some Doom under it to leave it for the morning. It was dead when I woke up. But, believe it or not, it still wouldn't give up that had one more trick up it’s sleeve.

I thought this giant insect was pretty fascinating, so I mounted it like wild game on the wall (I know that sounds extremely weird, but I have to explain that I live alone and everything I do is a good, normal idea by majority vote). I thought I was pretty cool for having defeated a monster-insect. Let me just tell you now that it didn't go without a fight, even after death. I was told these things are harmless, which I found is mostly true. This is how the final battle went down between man and beast:

The next night, I decided to watch a movie. My prize was mounted on the nearby wall. (Mistake #1.) Earlier that day, the window was left open for ventilation, letting some flies inside. (Mistake #2). To get the full effect of the movie, I turned off the lights. (Mistake #3.) All was going well in the movie, when I heard, then felt, a buzzing around me. I hate flies. I mean, I really hate flies. I always imagine they can sense when I'm most aggravated and that's when they dive-bomb me like a kamikaze pilot or land on the back of my neck, tickling me in a very flirtatious way. (I don’t like being flirted with by a fly.) After about 15 minutes of clenching my teeth out of irritation, I got upset. (Mistake #4.) In the darkness, I swatted at the fly with my hands waving violently like a madman--stupid and pointless, I know. (Mistake #5.) At one moment, when I thought I had him located on the wall, I whipped my hand against the wall as hard as I could--SPLAT! Nope; I didn't get the fly, but it did go splat. I got something else instead...Had I been paying just a little bit of attention to my surroundings, I would have remembered my prize mounted on the wall. (Final mistake…)
Not only was it a mess on the wall and on my hand, but I found out through experience that these solifugae have tiny thistle-like hairs that stick up all over their body. AND, I also discovered that these remain irritating even after the creature is dead.

So, for the rest of the night, I watched my movie with the lights on while carefully plucking out tiny, thistle-like hairs from the palm of my hand, which was now sore from both the impact with the wall and the irritating hairs that buried themselves into my epidermis.

I threw the solifugae outside and a chicken ate it.

It won the battle, but I won the war; that stupid bug is no more. The End.


P1110736240x180_thumbI had the joy of waking up a few times with small, individual, mystery blisters (I'm now up to 7 over a few nights). If you’ve ever experienced the same, then you've been visited by the Blister Fairy!

This harmless-looking, flying bug came in small numbers back in the end of January. Now they’re here in masses, buzzing around the back yard in the green brush all day. At night, they like to come inside and visit me. They are busy whispering sweet nothings into my ear and trying to tuck me into bed.

Also known as the Blister Beetle, these little pests secrete a liquid that causes a chemical burn on your skin. Totally harmless, but really freakin' annoying.


P1110834240x180_thumb7Since they only like me when I'm sleeping, I never knew what they looked like. They're a flying insect about an inch long at most, and have a skinny body with a red neck and usually a red head.


So, all of you in South Africa, join me in the fight against blister beetle terror: get out your can o' Doom and have at it. I know I will--they're a pain in my skin.


P1110843240x180_thumb8These aren’t insects, below, but probably one of the most despised plants I’ve ever encountered. These are small thorn-pods that fall off the bushes growing in my back yard (on the path to the pit toilet). Whenever I walk to the toilet, I end up tracking dozens of them back into my house under my shoes.


P1110836240x180_thumb10They then sit and wait in my carpet or on my cement floor until morning when I’m nice and groggy as I roll out of bed. Almost daily, I stand up directly on one of these in the morning and it feels like you are putting full pressure on a miniature tack under your foot! And the barbs are irritating even after you pluck it out. What a way to wake up. Who needs coffee?


This was a pretty neat looking moth. I affectionately named him Mr. Confetti.






Final story for this post…

As I was getting some eggs out of the carton for my Sunday morning pancakes, I reached for them on the floor under my cooking table (we can keep our eggs unrefrigerated out here, don’t worry, they last); I saw this scorpion sneak away, inches from my fingers and run under my mini-fridge! Haha, WOAH! freaked the heck outta me! So, I did what any stupid person does and went after it to catch it (alive!). I did, however, arm myself by taking off my sandals (they call them slops here, and yes, I was wearing sandals when initially confronted by the scorpion) and put on my leather shoes in case he decided to make a run for my toes in a moment of panic (most people go for the toes when panicking, so I’ve heard). I thought to spray under the fridge a few times with some Doom to try to coax him out. He didn't want to show. So, adrenaline kicking in, I tore away the fridge, armed with a glass jar and two big size-12 shoes on my feet... just in case :) I found him cowering in the corner, which made it really easy to put the glass jar over him. P1110855240x180_thumb5Then, I flipped the jar over and then I had a jar of scorpion. He got really upset when I put him in there. tail striking the jar and everything. But he was still a bit dazed and confused by the bug spray. In the end, I was outside of the jar and he was inside. So, I won.



PETA’s going to come after me, I swear. ◊ Salang Sentle—Stay Well

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