It's time for some more juice from the jungle and though my old foe, the office door frame, has again struck and left me gripping my head and cursing through gritted teeth, I have stories to tell so without further ado, welcome back.
Well, it has again been awhile, I came to the quiet calmness of remote Africa with grand plans to write a book and have wound up becoming totally immersed in the place, distracted by the plants, people and projects here and with only ten days left, I guess that literary masterpiece will have to wait for another time. I have done a bit of writing lately though and finally completed my Ikabulu School Garden Guide and with Laurensia's help translated it to Swahili this week. This pet project was the main reason you haven't heard from me so regularly lately. I can't remember if I have even mentioned it on here but the idea was to put the kids into their own book, which would fill in the gaps lost in translation in the gardening sessions and could be used to teach some English too. It wound up alright, so have a squiz at the pictures if you're interested.
But that's getting ahead of things and I'd better rewind a few days before the book was finished, back to our last safari to Ikabulu School. The idea of this trek was to check on the progress of the plants, mulch, complete the last stages of the compost area and get some good pictures of the kids to finish the guide. Having seen a draft of the book on our last visit, the teachers had gone to work in my absence and when we arrived they had installed a pretty impressive compost bay structure, made from tree branches, bamboo, twine and rocks. It was funny though, in their efforts to create a picture perfect example to match the one in my guide, they had piled bean pods and goat manure in the first bay which was a great start but there in the second bay, was a nice big pile of soil to represent the broken down compost from the picture… not quite the idea but we'll get there.
The day went well and with time now short in this awesome place, it is good to be able to say the school's garden is complete, well as complete as it can be in two and a half months, maybe by some twist of fate, I'll one day get to come back and see it after a few seasons of compost. I got some great shots of the kids working but still wanted shots of the kids harvesting to complete the guide and the school produce is still a way off. I had decided with my OH&S mad Australian mindset that that the journey to the camp garden was too far for the students as a school event, instead opting to invite a couple of students from a farming family that often sells produce at the camp to stop in for some gardening pictures if they were passing by but word travels fast in the village and the other Ikabulu kids weren't going to have a bar of that…
It was a Sunday when the first of the kids arrived. I was just eating breakfast, so they must have left the village at first light. It was the farming family, but with them were a few extra friends, which was a surprise and I hadn't agreed to but they had obviously gone to a lot of effort dressing in clean uniforms and bright coloured silks, so away we went. After a few good pictures and explaining some of the more exotic vegetables in the garden like basil, spinach and capsicum, we finished up with some bread and tea. I was saying bye to the group when the second wave arrived, a collection of rag tag younger brothers clearly following the main group on the spare of the moment and who had apparently abandoned the main convoy to pick mushrooms along the way. It was endearing really and reminded me of distant memories and simpler times when I did the same sort of thing, but this was now a decent crowd and over the top. The guys here and parents dismissed my concern, saying the kids make trips of six hours or more without a second thought so this was just a Sunday stroll and I am continually amazed at how well adapted people are here and how little water everyone drinks on our treks but at the risk of the crowds exponential growth I decided it best to wind things up.
I'm off my game with sequencing this blog today but back again to our Ikabulu hike. No trip to the village is complete without some sort of shwari (cool) new creature and this time around it was another snake. I was surprised when Laurensia called snake on our return trip to camp, for Kauga and I had walked across the track only seconds earlier but as the man readied himself with a ferociously serious face and a 5ft branch and I spun around in interest, it became apparent how we had not spotted the creature. We had to laugh as we approached,Laurensia frozen behind the odd looking but harmless,Tanganyika blindsnake. It was about a footlong and with its undefined head, more resembled a large worm or millipede at a passing glance, than a snake. It's a threat to termites and not much else but awesome to see none the less. While I am on the subject of animals, I was fortunate enough to have one of the elusive local bats fly into my room last night. Some might disagree that it was fortunate but it allowed me to get some nice shots of the animal and it's interesting to see the things in still detail, as they are usually too fast to see much with my failing eyesight and definitely too fast for photos.
Back at camp things have been ticking along quietly, the rumble of distant thunder and impressive lightening displays on most evenings is a subtle reminder that it is still the wet season, despite the sunny days and absence of rain of late. Slashing work is continuing on the airstrip and though the casuals are fourteen days in, they still have a way to go. It is impressive though, there are only six of them and the slashers they use don't have particularly large or sharp blades, measuring only three inches or so. It's kind of like watching someone beat away grass with a golf club and the airstrip is over a kilometre long!
Still on camp life we also bought some dried fish from a villager yesterday, not daaga (whitebait) this time but quite substantial sized fish called mgebuka. It is neat the way they were prepared, each individual fish is turned into a circle, the tail of the fish threaded through the head just behind the cheek, then pinned in place with (what I thought at first to be fish spine bones but the guys tell me are) acacia thorns. I thought the whole thing to be quiet an art but a bit labour intensive (why not just dry them straight?) until I saw how easily the bones come away when unfurling the rehydrated fish. Pretty cool and delicious when served up with uugali last night and though I was apprehensive about the collection of flies that had accompanied the cargo, I am fine today…
Well that's a pretty good update for now I reckon. The days are numbered now…