I’m not a person who minds spiders, they have never bothered me, and I know that I can live happily side by side with all sorts of flying bugs, moths, insects and beetles (Bean on the other hand is terrified of spiders, and runs a mile screaming whenever one makes a visit).
One summer in Mozambique, we had just moved house, and after a good spring clean, we doused the outside walls liberally with fendona insecticide (a major necessity in the war against the anopheles mosquito and cerebral malaria). Settling into bed (after the rigmarole of showering in cold water, spraying liberally with peaceful sleep insect repellent, securely tucking mosquito net under sides of bed, cranking the fan up to high power, turning lights out and jumping into bed without disturbing the tenuous arrangement, or getting bitten by a sneaky mosquito in the process), I was about to fall into my usual deep dreamless sleep, when *ouch* I felt a sharp pain on my left shoulder blade, followed by a numbness on the left side of my body. I screamed, jumped a mile in the air, Scott also jumped, but to turn on the light and examined the place of impact. Spider bite. Huge, painful, red, swollen, instantly explosive spider bite.
After a massive dose of antihistamine, some ant-inflammatory and a large glass of wine, I was still numb (probably exacerbated by the wine), just a little sort but fine and even managed to fall back to sleep.
However, a couple of nights later, whilst lying in bed reading (again after the usual bed time rigmarole) Scott looked up at the corner of the door-jamb and immediately turned white (usual reaction to a large creepy crawly). Wedged between the hinge and the wall was the largest spider I have ever seen in my life, at least the size of a large dinner plate, with protruding eyes and fluffy legs. Mesmerised by the arachnid, we sat there for a while, and then in a moment of decision, Scott picked up the bug spray and doused the thing, full spray for at least 5 minutes – he was clearly taking no chances! It may or may not have been the thing that got me previously (doubtful, as smaller spiders usually cause the largest bites), but it definitely got the full force of our truly anti-arachnid feelings!
Luckily (for Bean anyway..!) spiders of that size are less common in South Africa than Mozambique, and I can safely say that we happily left that species well behind us with our move to South Africa.
Recently, however, now that summer is on its way, we are getting the usual increasing snake population here in South Africa. Although most species that reside here in South Africa are harmless and probably just a little curious, sadly, there are a few that can be very dangerous (to animals as well as humans), and although you can keep vigilant, check through your grounds for invaders who are the worst of the species, and never tramp through long grass without shoes, some (poisonous and not) do inevitably slip through the surveillance.
In January this year we had the most fabulous Australian girl volunteering with us. She was lying in bed, finishing writing up her volunteer diary entry for the day, and reached to the lamp at her bedside to turn out the light. As she did so, she noticed a small, grey snake coiled around the lamp’s stem. Very bravely, instead of screaming, or waking Scott or I (we were already sound asleep and oblivious to the maneuvers going on in the next room..!) she picked up the lamp by the shade, and moved it into the lounge. A little later, she realized what had happened (possibly after the adrenaline caused by finding a snake inches away from her head had subsided), and on second thoughts woke us up with the worry that one of the indoor animals may be vulnerable to being hurt by the snake. We removed the snake (luckily a non-poisonous variety) using a golf club, and all trundled back off to bed…
Are you scared of spiders like Bean? Do you not like snakes? Or are you more like me, and only worry about them when they hurt you?
Creepy crawlies and bugs and things often pop into our lives here to say hello, 99% of the time they are perfectly harmless and possibly just curious about what we are doing and who we are. Don’t get scared by them, try and stay calm, and always let someone know if there’s a snake on your lamp, or a spider in your bed -we can quickly set it free (its probably much happier outside anyway!) and carry on with our day or fall back to sleep to the wonderful sounds of the bush, the crickets, frogs and the cicadas: that African lullaby that makes our sleep so peaceful here.
We have come to the end of our busy period, here at MozVol HQ. Volunteers have been subjected to torrential rainfall, high winds and hale storms reminiscent of snowfall in the northern hemisphere. However, summer is now here, and we are enjoying long, lazy summer days, weekends at the beach with the children from the children’s centre, and breezy boat trips down the estuary hippo and croc-spotting and monitoring.
We are looking forward to starting the reno at the children’s home (orphanage) – over the next couple of weeks we will be replacing broken windows, painting, fixing play equipment, decorating and redoing the kitchen facilities and replacing exterior doors to ensure the safety of the children at all time.
The creche facilities are going from strength to strength, and we are starting to develop the new syllabus for the 2013 academic year, starting in January.
With these two activities in mind, we are keen to have career break-ers join us in the forthcoming months. We are particularly looking for teachers, builders, healthcare workers and others with practical skills.
We are going to be making an effort to market our projects to family groups, in a bid to provide ethical family holidays to our beautiful part of the world, and selling the concept of a ‘mature gap year’, for when the daily grind of office work gets a bit much and you just need to get away… why not take an extended holiday and use your skills to the sustainable benefit of others less fortunate than yourself?
Participants in our conservation project has had a 100% success level over 2012, with all participants sitting the THETA examination passing with flying colours. Conservation volunteers have particularly enjoyed learning wildlife spotting techniques in the Big 5 reserve Hluhluwe-Imfolozi, and taking plaster of Paris imprints of wild animal spoor through the reserves to help with spoor recognition and learning animal behaviour.
Watch this space for our annual sports projects coming up in May and August 2013 and join our community care project (South Africa) for either 3 or 4 weeks in December 2012 and January 2013 through One World 365 and receive a 25% discount.
Who thinks of taking a career break?
Bean and I have been thinking recently about the kind of people who work in “City” jobs. I did my first degree at the University of Durham in the UK, whilst I was there, large, corporate companies appeared to use it as a recruitment ground: I lose count of the amount of invitations to “Champagne and Canapes with PriceWaterHouseCoopers” or “Dinner and Dancing at Deloitte’s Pleasure” invitations I received in my college pigeon hole. It sounds slightly archaic, but that’s how it was.
Now, it appears that an organisation called Escape the City founded by two of my contemporaries from Durham is assisting my old class-mates who were lured in by the promises of smoked salmon blinis and a glass of free bubbly (understandable on a student budget.. especially after the prices charged by the Doxbridge 3) to “escape” from this corporate rat race, and heart-attack-at-35 inducing lifestyles that people seem to fall into, apparently, erroneously.
Getting back to the point. At risk of sounding rather smug *grins* I was never seduced by the promises of gold plated office chairs. I was, however, entirely lured into the travelling trap, resultant lack of cash, and fell into my current lifestyle (which, actually, I believe is infinitely preferably to an office job in London, cash aside). As I have mentioned in previous blog posts, we are planning on expanding the opportunities MozVolunteers offer. In addition to the usual student/young person gap year-focused project participation, we are opening up to the idea of family volunteering holidays, ethical house parties (coming up… watch this space!) and of course the afore mentioned *career break*.
We are in need of skilled professionals, to come and help us with more than the basics. The career break “package” would of course include the contact with communities, management of specific aspects of our organisation, such as website management, teaching opportunities for specialists, health promotion opportunities for health specialists, management, all within the beautiful setting of our organisation, St Lucia Estuary (hippos and all) Monzi (living in an over-enthused farmhouse for the duration of your stay is a price you may have to pay..!) and the Indian Ocean. This is an opportunity for these highly professional individuals who wish to experience life out of the office to come and explore their passions, learn, teach, live, be outdoors, farm, eat fresh fruit straight off the tree (sometimes even lands straight on your bed if you’re lucky), camp out under the stars, eat by a fire, braai, love fresh, local food, search and explore and relax. All whilst sharing these skills with us. We need them.
We can’t promise blinis (braai and poitje?), French champagne (JC Le Roux do? South Africa does have some phenominal reds though…visit ) smoked salmon (aha. Smoked snoek. Much better AND fresh from the boat), gold plated office chair (umm antique wooden leather affair) or limo transport (a ride on the back of a battered toyota bakkie will have to suffice). What we can promise is good food, great friendships, beautiful places, warm, clear water of the Indian Ocean and wonderful wine, helping, learning, teaching and experiencing.
Battle-scarred and bruised, we found an old male lion walking by the side of the bush in Hluhluwe Imfolozi when we took volunteers to try and find the Big 5. He was with his mate, a tired-looking lioness, and another mating pair. We were lucky enough to observe them alone for about 90 minutes. After that, we quietly pulled away and left them sleeping in the long grass at the side of the road.
This was one of the most peaceful experiences watching lions in the park I have ever had. We were extremely lucky that they didn’t mind us sitting quietly looking at them for so long.
Hopefully the next trip to the park will have a similar experience. I do have a feeling, however that this was one in a million.
Weekends are free time for volunteers to spend time exploring the local area, and nearby countries of Mozambique and Swaziland. One popular destination is the Mlilwane Wildlife Reserve between Mbabane and Manzini in Swaziland. Guests can stay in a traditional Swazi Rondavel and wake up looking at wildlife through the window.