Saturday, July 5, 2008


Thursday, July 3, 2008

Dear Everyone,

The thing about getting your electricity from the sun is that rainy days mean you can’t turn on your computer. But you do get grass out of the deal, so I guess it’s a trade off.

Nomad Month concluded successfully a few weeks ago. Nathan and Sarah enjoyed their conference in Accra, and while they weren’t looking, I enjoyed spoiling their kids. I also emerged victorious over illnesses great and small—namely malaria, which you knew about, and giardia, which was the mysterious “typhoid-or-maybe-a-bacteria” we thought I had right after the malaria, remember? The upside to having giardia is that giardia won’t actually cause you to die directly, just as long as you watch for dehydration from the accompanying diarrhea. The downside to having giardia is that to get it you pretty much have to eat poop. And not just any poop either. Contaminated poop. Oy. In other health news, my health practitioner—Sarah Esala: Village Nurse Extraordinaire—has recommended I switch my malaria prevention medication, as she blames the one I was taking for my inability to sleep and accompanying irritability. (But rest easy: This time my irritation was focused indiscriminately at strangers rather than at my personal friends.) Having made the switch, I’m now feeling better all around.

I was mentioning how much we enjoyed Accra, home of exotic plants like pineapple trees and grass. We visited the grocery store and pushed the carts around, and I saw Kellogg’s Cornflakes (with dried apricots) on sale for $12.30.

Another highlight of our travels was observing the tendency of Christian business owners to name their businesses as inspired by their faith. We passed “In Him is Life Electronics,” “God Loves You Beauty Salon,” “Heavenly Redeemer Paints,” “God First Refrigeration Service,” “God’s Grace Rentals,” and “Rock of Ages Fashion.” Followers of other religions no doubt name their businesses similarly, but I don’t recognize them as easily, as I have more trouble following the reference. Other exciting business names include “Mummy Day Care,” “Tender Care School,” and my favorite by far, “Ninja Security Systems.” I think they sell barbed wire.

On the mouse front, the battle is fierce, with many casualties suffered on both sides. In response to the heaps and piles of poop scattered liberally around my little house—including in my bed (and not on the plastic cover either, but under every protective layer and directly on the sheet on which I intended to sleep directly)—that greeted me on my return to Nasuan, and because it’s just a worthy habit, I set mousetraps Wednesday night. Thursday morning, I had one kill, of which I disposed under Annaka’s direction, as is our custom; so far so good. I fell asleep Thursday night to the soothing sounds of mousetraps springing, but my gleefully triumphant joy withered Friday morning when I found both traps empty and one even broken. Ugh. But the morning did not completely go to the mice, for as I went about my breakfasting, I heard distinctive mouse-in-distress squeaking from my kitchen drawer—the same drawer you may remember from my encounter with Little Mouse so many months ago. Perhaps a mouse is stuck in the drawer, I thought. I resolved to wait for a more reasonable hour of the morning to call in reinforcements; I prefer dealing with mice after breakfast and, apparently, only deal with mice that are already dead. But Annaka arrived almost immediately requesting my report. I apprised her of the situation, and she went home presumably to brief Nathan, who followed her back a few minutes later. And that’s how the morning’s mouse count came to four small naked babies. Nathan “put them in the field” (which I can only assume is along the lines of sending them to “sleep with the fishes”).

At dinner, Nathan reminded Annaka that I might have a dead mouse in the morning and that he and she could go to my house to see it caught in the trap with its head squished flat (something to look forward to, eh?). She responded with big, excited eyes, almost falling off her kitchen chair as she added to the squished head “and him’s eyes will be open,” and her little fists opened wide near her face in demonstration. Later, Nathan set a few “humane” “mouse traps,” which were essentially sticky pieces of cardstock. I have issue with these traps on several levels. First, sticking a creature to a piece of cardstock hardly seems humane, especially if you just intend to kill it later (and we do). Second, if the mouse can work himself free, then he’s hardly trapped. But I came to these realizations later. When Nathan brought the traps, I thought they sounded fine (except for the part where the mouse is still alive). But Nathan assured me he’d be over early to handle anything caught. Okay. Good plan. Unfortunate, then, that this was the night the Mice dealt their most devastating blow.

At 8:00pm, Sneaky Mouse and Subtle Mouse made their appearance in my kitchen, looking for their lost children, no doubt. I went to sleep as usual but woke at 1:00am to meet Bedtime Mouse, who, while not actually touching me, was decidedly inside my personal space, mere inches from my face as he scurried from my bed into my window. That’s when I decided the best course of action would be to begin an all night vigil immediately, 1:00am being a perfectly reasonable time to begin the day. I read a little, I dozed a little, but mostly I just watched Sneaky and Subtle scurry about my kitchen and over my previously clean dishes. Sneaky got stuck to the “humane” “trap” and dragged it around for some minutes before wrenching himself free. Subtle licked all the peanut butter off the traditional, head-squishing trap on the counter. Light and noise failed to deter them, and their progress only paused briefly in the face of a swinging broom.

I tried to sleep again shortly after 6am, but soon noticed signs of consciousness at the Esala house. So I took my pillow over there. I very clearly and efficiently explained the situation to Nathan when he answered the door—how I’d been up since 1am because a mouse was in my bed, and how I would now like to sleep in an Esala bed if one was available—except I must not have done all that well since his first question was, “Are you sick?” Oy. My second try must’ve gone better, and since no Esala beds were yet free, I slept on the couch until one became available.

Upon awaking, I rediscovered that ever-present perk of life with Esalas: While I’d slept, they combed my house—including my mattress and any other nest-friendly places—for signs of habitation and sprinkled poison liberally about. I slept in the girls’ room that night since we had guests using my house (Paul the Husband of Missionary Ali, Hannah Their Daughter, and Sco Their Friend From America, who were fully informed of all previous mouse activity before agreeing to spend the night there). Sunday morning, Sco Their Friend From America spotted Drunken Stagger Mouse staggering drunkenly across my back porch to fall off the edge and die in the dirt. I was going to investigate when one of Black Chicken’s offspring darted in, captured Drunken Stagger’s body, and fled through the trees with it clutched in her beak. She furthermore refused to relinquish her prize, despite my protests. I advised her that she should not eat poisoned mouse, but I’m not sure she speaks English.

With the addition of Backdoor Mouse, who I found Tuesday morning and chased off with the broom (he ran along my back porch rafters and disappeared in the direction of my bathroom), the Mouse Count for this month is at least 8 but possibly 10.

And that, my friends, is why I’m praying for a cat. “Lord, I know you created mice, and they, as part of your creation, give you glory just by being. So maybe it’s not polite to ask you to kill them all. But what if I asked you for a cat. Then, instead of one of your creatures praying for the death of another, it would be one of your creatures eating another for the benefit of a third. What do you think about that?”

In other animal news, my house lizards are thriving on my big juicy termites. For the past couple days, my evening entertainment has been to watch the lizards eat, some of them with bellies so round I wonder how they can move at all. Both lizards and termites seem to be enjoying my bathroom especially. We caught three lizards as collateral damage in my not-so-humane trap, and even as I type this Nathan and The Good Guard Abulai are in my bathroom knocking down a termite house. I believe Nathan’s comment was, “Cool; more food for the chickens.” So I’m not sure termites are as big of a deal here as they might be in the US.

Black Chicken and Red Chicken are mothers again, and though I don’t know how many chicks they’ve had, neither have I heard of any violent homicides. Karissa is busily naming the chicks, and, she says, if the next chick to hatch is a girl, she’ll be naming it after me. Oh, height of joy.

Sarah has forbidden the naming of our new goat. We’ve been calling her P.C.D. for Pressure Cooked Dinner, since such is her destiny. Surprisingly, Sarah is the one now having second thoughts about P.C.D.’s fate, on the grounds that “she’s so pretty.” Personally, I find her facial markings a little too reminiscent of a German cockroach’s to facilitate my becoming overly fond of her.

What I Learned:

I’ve been accidentally obeying the law for 5 months. Apparently I can only stay in Ghana for 2 months at a time on the visa I’ve got, but who knew? Turns out I have been leaving the country every two months, but I certainly wasn’t doing it on purpose. So praise God for me being legal.

Prayer Requests

1. We’re leaving early Monday to drive to Accra for team meetings with the rest of our mission group, so please pray for safe travel and a pleasant trip for everyone (especially those of us who have to make the trip in car seats).

2. Please also pray for our health all around.


Quote of Today:
“We do everything politically correct here. . . . Except spank.”
Sarah Esala, on free-range chickens, organic food, water conservation, and solar electricity

1 comment:

Sco said...

I had to read this one twice. At first I thought you were calling me Sco From America - The Drunken Stagger. And then I re-read it to find that I spotted Drunken Stagger.

Thanks again for your hospitality, and the side show, starring the Drunken Stagger. I feel a nature show coming on.