Saturday, May 29, 2010

Creepy Crawlers

There are almost two months to recap so here goes...

After the snake incident I was very wary for a while but thankfully there have been no more reptilian encounters. The bats in the toilet, however, are another issue. Every time I go to sit down on the pot, the squeaking and fluttering of wings sends shivers of apprehension coursing through my body because I really don’t want bats flying up my bum. A fellow volunteer friend described his experience with a bat that did just that, and it surely would be memorable but not necessarily a memory I would want to have.

The interactions with wild creepy crawlies do not stop there. Skinks and geckoes hide in the cracks, spiders scurry up the walls, and every so often there will be a giant ongongololo (millipede) undulating its way around the homestead. And during the end of the rainy season, the Mopani trees are rife with omagungu (caterpillars) chomping away at the distinctively angel-wing-shaped leaves. The appearance of these finger-long spiny creatures is a huge deal for the Owambo people. For the whole of March and April, Meme Emilia and the kids were out in the bush veld every day harvesting the delectable ‘worms’ as they are called. The caterpillars don’t have eyes and just blindly munch their way through the leaves, leaving swathes of bare trees in their wake. But it’s a good thing because the caterpillars grow incredibly fast and that means more good eats for the people.

It’s extremely easy to find them in the trees and all you have to do is just pluck them off while avoiding the surprisingly sharp spikes that adorn their redwhitegreenblack backs. The next step is to squeeze out the innards along with the partially digested leaf juice, so you pinch the head and run your fingers down the body which expels some lovely green jelly. In a single afternoon, pails upon buckets are gathered and then the cooking can begin. Sometimes they are just boiled in a pot over the fire, but the preferred method is to bury them in a pit in a sandy treeless stretch and roast them by making a huge bonfire on top. They make for quite a tasty snack and are sold, bought, given, transported, and of course, eaten for the rest of the year. After the caterpillars are cooked, they keep very well, but I much prefer the fresh ones, although the day I decided to eat 30+ of those babies was a sad day for my digestive and excretory systems.
Another item for the Namibian menu is right out of The Lion King from the scene where Pumba is showing Simba what non-meat things are to be had: GRUBS! I really don’t have any idea what an enkagali is, but it suffices to call it a grub of some sort. One evening I went with Mwingona and Egumbo to put the goats in the corral and then they showed me what was for dinner that night. They proceeded to take some hoes and dig around the cow pie-caked dirt and unearthed a bunch of these pale white goobers that were so fat as if they were about to burst. Which is exactly what they then did, helped along by two strong hands and a sharp stick. The jelly this time wasn’t a pleasant lively green as in the caterpillars but instead it was an inky deathly black. When it was time to return to the homestead to cook up dinner, the puncturing block was slathered with the aftermath of a massacre. Fried up with some salt and tomatoes, they were actually quite tasty if you could forget about their origins.

I just returned from a month long vacation but my internet time is up now so I will have to write about it next time. Brief overview: bought a donkey, walked 90 miles, showed Himba children how to juggle, sold the donkey, swam in the river, hitchhiked to Botswana, floated in traditional mokoros (canoes) for three days in the Okavango delta, hitchhiked back to Namibia, real hiked up Waterberg plateau, deathdefyingly climbed some boulders to capture some awesome juggling pictures, tracked baboons, and made it safely back to village in time for school.
More to come… stay tuned

Meme Emilia all gussied up

Emilia, Niita (grade 8), and Tillie (Niita's daughter - more on that later)

Mahangu bending under the wight of its nutrition

Collecting fully grown stalks so the birds have less access

Notice the headwrap, ostrich eggshell necklaces and waistlaces, leather belts, etc.

Pump Plumpkins

The star of the latest horror movie

It's on the attack!

Mwingona with caterpillar

Pails upon buckets

Hexagonal egg balls

Squeezing the leaf juice

In the Veld

The spiked ones


Stretch bodystrong

Peanut butter and green jelly

Boiling up a snack

The massacre in action


How appetizing is that?

Meme Emilia and Niita on their way to church

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