Friday, September 2, 2016

"Precisely the least, the softest, lightest, a lizard's rustling, a breath, a flash, a moment - a little makes the way of the best happiness." — Friedrich Nietzsche

     If you live in most parts of the world, like here in East Africa, you live with critters not of your own choosing.  In the industrialized west, people live in hermitically sealed homes and pay good money to keep them free of every living thing that they don’t want in their home.  Insects mostly, but reptiles and others as well.  Here, where all the homes are pretty much open to the outdoors, we live with critters—little ones mostly.  Because of our four outside watch dogs, we don’t have to worry about snakes because the dogs kill or scare away whatever the snakes would eat.  Over eleven years only two or three snakes (nyoka in Swahili) have made it into the compound only to be killed by our workers.  There are some really deadly snakes here, but the ones killed in our compound were brown house snakes that had the misfortune to be snakes because the locals hate all snakes—maybe with good reason as snakes kill lots of children.  Every village has bare ground that is swept daily.  I once asked the headman of a village why they kept the ground swept so well so often.  He said, “Clean ground, see snake.”  That was that.  What we do have in every room in the house are geckoes.  Lizards that live on the insects that make it into the house only to become the gecko’s dinner.  They are very territorial and stay in just one room, so every room has at least one.  If the gecko is small, that’s a good sign because it means there are only a few small insects for it to eat.  If the gecko is big, it is eating well on big bugs and that’s usually a problem.  Ours are all small and almost translucent.  They don’t like to be seen and hide in dark places during the day.  Only by turning a light on are they caught out where you can see them and then they disappear rather quickly.  There are the occasional encounters.  These lizards don’t have long, sticky tongues but can bite like a grown man, so they can hurt if you try to pick one up.  I once put on my hat only to discover a gecko had been hiding in it and he (or she) dropped onto my head and began running to get away which made me throw off my hat and hop around yelling a lot until he (or she) made good his escape.  People still talk about that little episode.  Just the other night, I was pulling some curtains closed and a little fellow dropped onto my arm.  He ran back up my arm and back up into the curtains so fast it made me wonder if it really happened.  Still, they don’t make any noise, only poop once a month (and just a tiny bit at that), and keep all the bugs away.  Sometimes, a really big beetle will get in the house (there are some truly giant beetles here) and Karen saw one big beetle actually chasing the lizard away.  Those big beetles we just escort back outside where they really want to be anyway.  
     We do sometimes find a good sized frog swimming in a toilet, but Rachel is very good at using tongs to remove said amphibians.  You can’t flush them away as they are excellent swimmers (it’s how they got there in the first place), so they have to be physically relocated.  It is a bit disconcerting to start to sit down and discover you are not alone, but it only happens once a year or so.  Those frogs have caused some terrifying screams to come from our bathrooms, but no real harm is ever done.
     If a gecko kills an insect too big to be eaten, tiny little ants appear out of nowhere and in less than an hour, the bug has been dismembered, taken away, and the ants vanish again.  It’s like having our own little removal company that we don’t have to call.
     Don’t like living with little critters?  Don’t live in most of the real world, ‘cause critters are part of what God made when He said, “It is good.”
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