Written by: The Bridge on Tuesday, March 25th, 2008
March 8, 2008
It was bunnies on my mind, that bright and early morning when I got up to go to breakfast. The second bell rang and I went to the dining room to sit and wait for the people to come like we have to every morning. No rush in Africa. Children are always there first and they were singing morning songs with Eddy Vetter. I had almost finished my chunk of white bread and peanut butter, washed down with a good cup of sweet tea, by the time most people showed up.
After breakfast Inemesit and I went by motorbike to Abak, the closest town. Motorbikes are the main transport around here, and driving with one is quite scary. It may sound like fun to cruise around with the motorbikes, but in town it is stressing, actually, and so I prefer going with one of our vehicles. Most of the bikes smoke blue from the exhaust, bad fuel Brian says: they mix diesel and gas or something. The traffic in town is nasty; to me anyhow, I’m used to Canada. I thought the traffic there was bad, but it’s a walk in the park compared to here. Everyone here drives pedal to the medal and no less. They don’t know how to drive slowly. The roads are so bad, holes, sharp edges of pavement, but no mind! Just go 50mph at all times. And when you need to brake, just slam ’em! So it’s bump, bump, careen, screech, and floor-it over and over! Despite that I have to admire how smoothly they can navigate through traffic in the face of the over-crowded, speeding, elbow to elbow bikes and cars.
Anyhow, we went to Abak and stopped at one of the houses to see their rabbits. They wanted 1000 Naira a rabbit and Inemesit bargained with them and got them for 900 by saying that he would come back to buy another one someday. We bought three, a male and two females. So into my small box they went and it was back home. I kept them in the house for a few days and they became quite tame.
Palmgrove had had rabbits once upon a time; Ed bought some a while back when he was here before. When we came, they only had two left. A week ago, one got out and ate the women’s pumpkin leaves in the garden: needless to say they were not impressed. Then it was caught and put back in, and it just so happened that I was there checking it and the goats it was living with and I looked under a dark place where they liked to sit and low it was dead as a doornail! I couldn’t believe it. Just no luck or something. It’s not like we can take it to the vet and find out why it died.
So I had my bunnies to take care of and Ed decided we would get some more, and I would be in charge of looking after them, so then at least he would know it was being done. The puem who were taking care of the broilers and baby turkeys would assist me, Emman and Ubong. They are doing well with the broilers, as there are about 100, and there are about 12 turkeys that they raised from babies. The turkeys are about a foot high already.
So on Tuesday, March 4th, Inemesit and Glory and I piled into Palmgrove’s funky van and set off into the jungle to buy some more. We didn’t want to take from the same place as before, because it is no good to breed rabbits that are too related: we even took the male along and exchanged him for another one for 100 Naira. It was a windy, bumpy road we followed through the jungle. Beats me how Inemesit didn’t get lost. Of course, they don’t have signs or anything, and they don’t even have those in the towns. When we arrived at our destination, we followed the owner to his rabbit house. It was a real, unfinished house. He had the rabbits run free in two of the rooms which were quite smelly, I assure you. If he ever wants to live there it will smell like rabbits for a long time. He had many big, small, skinny rabbits, and we chose three, making sure they didn’t have the red eyes which some of them had and is a sign of inbreeding. The owner was very friendly and showed us his guinea pigs, which were fat and happy in a little mud hut. Then he showed me his “work shop”, where he does metal work, and showed me this huge trap. I asked what on earth he trapped with that monster, and he said people buy it to trap big animals like antelope. I was incredulous, but at home Ed assured me that there were miles of uninhabited jungle where many large animals roamed. Then I saw this huge tree where they were growing these huge ‘things.’ They said they were called figs, and I said, “ no it’s not a fig. I know what a fig is.” But hey, if that’s what they know ’em by, it’s no use arguing I tell you. Another name some of them had for it was “victory fruit.’ Glory told me they were very sweet like pineapple and I said I wanted one. So the owner jumps up, gets his machete, and climbs up like a monkey and hacks 3 down for us. (We tried to eat it at home, but found it much too sweet, so we gave it to the children. Glory also said they cook the large seeds, and they are good, but I haven’t tried them yet). Then of course they all wanted to pose with the fruit.Then the owner asked if we wanted to see parrots and of course we said yes, so we piled into the van again, and continued lurching through the jungle.
In time we arrived at another house where there was a very friendly family all willing to show us all they had to offer, which was almost a zoo of animals. They had rabbits too, doves, a bush animal which they caught and it looks wicked but it didn’t bite (they kept it in the round cage at night), a squirrel which bit, chickens with ‘pipeleh,‘ pigs with piglets, guinea pigs, and as we left the guy he said he had camels which he would show us one day, but I’m skeptical about that one. Oh, it turned out that they didn’t have parrots anymore: they were all sold already, shucks. These are some coops for the doves. When I saw it, I laughed and laughed! It’s an old TV which they emptied and stuck up here for their birds. I had to snap a picture of it. The pigs were kept in a basement, (why a basement, I have no idea. One would think it would fill with water in the rainy season).
Then we drove back to the first house to drop off the owner who had come with us. When we had driven through the jungle at the very start of our trip Inemesit and Glory had told me about this “evil stream” which we had driven past. I asked why it w as evil and said I wanted to see it. They said a mermaid lived there, which apparently made it evil… it’s hard to get facts from them because they don’t understand the question and I find it hard to understand their answers most of the time. For some reason a mermaid, which is fictional, is evil to them. Don’t ask my why she was living in this stream. Anyhow, as we drove back to the first house to drop off the owner, we stopped and walked into the jungle to look at this evil stream. Turns out, there was no stream, anyhow not now. It was dry and full of deep groves which were carved by water. In the rainy season it would be filled. It was a cool and peaceful place, filled with bamboo, ‘abangamah,’ growing big and tall. We walked a ways in and there was a hole filled with water.I found this interesting, maybe there was an underground stream? Dunno. But the whole place would stand in water once it starts to rain. When I saw the hole I said, “ah! This is where the mermaid is!” They said don’t say that and actually sounded scared…tsk.. such superstitions.
On our way out of the jungle I just had to take this picture to show to our mommies at home. This is the playground for a kindergarten of some sort. Imagine letting your Lorretes’, Kellies’, Kenzies’, and Lees’, etc play on this!! The “see saw” and barrel are so corroded and rusty with jagged holes: the children would be ‘doshnipflet’ in no time. Maybe the black children are tougher than ours….. but I doubt it!
At home I settled the rabbits in one room of our house, while we got the barn ready.With much prodding and assisting, Ed got Ubong and Emman, the chicken puem, to make a barn ready for the rabbits and I moved them down. Every day after breakfast I go to check them and see if they have food. In the evening I go there too. One day when Ed Vetter and Anna from Cascade had been here for a day or two I wanted to go to the barn before supper when it was still light and I got Glory and Anna to come along. I proudly bragged about my bunnies, and we gave them something to eat. Then we as we were slowly walking back home we looked back. To my horror, there was a skinny dog wiggling its way through the bars on the windows of my rabbit barn! I ran back as quickly as I could in flip flops and yelled for Glory to come with me! I heard the sound of running, rabbits screaming as I struggled to unlock the door quickly, and as I stepped inside were there not TWO dogs! Luckily some boys and Peter, one of our night watches, ran in and started throwing rocks at the dogs. We didn’t manage to kill them, and they jumped out of the windows again. I looked for the rabbits, and found two of them dead, the other four quaking in fear, trying to hide. Of course we had to take them out of there , so we put them in boxes and now they are living in the house with us. Ed got Ita, the Hausholter, to buy some wire, and now on Monday we plan to cover the window with it so I can move my rabbits back. One side of the barn has wire already, but the other, where the dogs got through, had a grill cover. The dogs were so small and skinny that they could wriggle through.
And so it seems raising rabbits in Africa is not a walk in the park! Everything costs money, money, money and just when you think you’ve got something figured out another problem arises, and that goes for all projects here! When these rabbits will do well, we will buy a few more bunnies. I will try to get Glory and the kids to help me with feeding them so they will learn something and when I go home they will be able to look after them! Wish me luck!! I’ll keep you posted on them.