postcards from West Africa–animals and plants of Ghana

Where’s the chicken? Can you see his red wattle and white tail feathers? She would be tiptoeing through the sewer. Lives up to our notions of free-range chickens…or does it?

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These are one of those gigantic size pots of “tropical” you might see at the WalMart greenhouse.

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A baby goat sitting beside a path.

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Something similar to Karl Vorster grasses…apparently they’re agricultural feed here.

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Many wandering Eeyores. I have seen them wander the countryside and pull carts too.

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If you can give me a botanical name for six of the following plants, I’d be glad to send you a postcard from Ghana…

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I have yet to see the crocodile at the creek, but the local kids swear there is one.

This would be one of the half dozen cows pasturing in this area. Whoever owns them is mighty wealthy. I’ve been told the milk is hard to get used to. Even finding powdered milk here is tricky. Must get it a three hour drive away.

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It’s maize harvesting season. Looks an awful lot like corn, doesn’t quite taste as sweet. Roasted on a fire it can be a great snack though.

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We’ve seen three meter high millet grown here too.

This particular dog belongs to the missionary kids. Her name is Susie–a very mild bush dog.

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I saw a baboon forty five minutes outside of town. It was adopted as a lady’s friend. These are not a common sight here though. Apparently Gorillas do exist not too far away.

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It’s not a rainforest, and its not the sahel, but there are plenty of trees.

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The dawa dawa that produces huge pods.

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The shea butter tree that produces the stuff in many lotions. It might be on one of the pics above, I’m not sure.

Probably not how I’ll grow my pullets two springs from now…Africa has had a grasp on free-range for quite some time though.

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I wish I could show you the lizards. They’re hanging outside my back door. But they’re too fast.

Haven’t seen bacon, but we were invited to a good old fashioned, stick him on a spit, PIG ROAST. Mighty fine chops he had.

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You say goat, I say sheep. The difference between a goat and sheep here is in the tails. A long tail denotes sheep. I’ve been told the kids don’t understand the rhyme: Baa baa black sheep, have you any wool…cause they don’t have wool. (and who would need it with this heat? I was told today that this isn’t hot, +48 is hot–I’m sure it would be, I will not be around long enough to find out. +38 with a humidex is hot enough for this Canadian).

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These are the goats. And they are the most common animal of Africa?

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What? You thought it was lions and giraffes and monkeys? Wildlife, congregated at your local zoo, or wildlife parks around Kenya, Tanzania, Uganda or sub-Saharan Africa. Camels in the north. Gorillas in the Interior Mist. Eland (like deer with horns) all over. Monkeys in the forests. Africa is a big big BIG continent.

a butterfly hunt: insects of West Africa

I heard a lot of moaning and groaning on our way out the door. “I don’t want to go for a walk“. We were trying to beat the heat at 9 in the morning–the heat beat us.

As Hannah headed to peds with dad, the rest of us wandered outside the compound on a butterfly hunt. Not long into our walk, we were joined by eight schoolkids, who were obviously not at school. These little ones introduced us to the world of insects and butterflies.

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The insect idea came to me in the shower–as a four inch beetle? scurried up my right leg. Can you guess my reaction?

Before we came here, I googled animals, plants and insect life in Ghana and learned that a poisonous snake had bitten a man as he was using the latrine, in a particularly sensitive spot. So I didn’t want to hear from the housekeeper (that rescued me from the beetle with her bottle of insecticidal spray) that a woman had once met a snake in this VERY shower that I bathed in this morning).

Once along the path of our morning hike, my butterfly whisperer threw himself sacrificially into the long grasses (where the snakes reside) and found me a half dozen.

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All the kids were leaping and running and pouncing.

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I kept four specimens. The others, I insisted, we allow to fly to freedom.

My West African Butterflies and Moths book was a help, but we weren’t able to identify any of our particular specimens.

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We did find one large white moth awake in the heat of the day, but memories of passing through a lit porch at night kept me from collecting this specimen.

I don’t have a pic of an anopheles mosquito…but you get the idea, it’s a mosquito. That likes to inject its nasty junk into human blood and cause malaria. If the malarone our kids take every morning isn’t effective, I’m gonna guess Rachel will be the first to manifest its symptoms, as she’s had the most bites. Deet spray and mosquito sleep nets are our friends.

We identified six inch long larvae ‘hanging out’ on plants near us.

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I am pretty sure we call this MINT in our culture. Ghanians call it a ‘mosquito flower’ (pronounced ever-so-charmingly as a “mo-skwee-toe” flower)…obviously because the mosquitos are drawn to it. I told the kids I use it for tea. They were agog.

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There’s one particular orange and black striped bug with razor-looking antennae that make their presence on my body regularly–cause they sting. Agnes, of Kenya, warned me about them. Yup, they sting–just got one as I was typing this.

This handsome snail is awful large, and carries schistosomiasis (which manifests as worms in the gut of its human carriers–yuck). So kids don’t play with them.

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They found me a scorpion. Oh so kind. Then they found me a larger one when they saw how I backed away from the first one.

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I shewed a smaller version of this guy from my pillow a few nights ago. AHHH.

And I don’t have a clear, worthy pic, but there are a trail of tiny ants across our countertop every morning…”The ants go marching two by two, hurrah hurrah…and mommy freaks out every morning too, hurrah hurrah. Kids! You cannot leave stuff on the counter, if you do they will be back two by two, cause the ants go marching two by two whenever we do, EW!!!! Hurrah hurrah!”

Madelyn’s Ark from Africa

In my spare time, I like to read animal books. At the library, I pick animal books. So tonight I am  going to share with you about African animals.

Monkey: we saw a monkey on  the  drive  from Eldoret to Kapsowar. It was brown and hairy.

Cows: the cows are very skinny. I can count their ribs. Most of the cows have horns. Lots of the cows are black and white. Some are brown.

Sheep: there are lots of sheep. They’re in the market, and on the road. There are a crazy amount. Sheep eat the grass on the hills. They eat all the scrap mangos and garbage.

Carpenter Bees: these bees are the size of a golf ball. They make a lot of noise. These bees make holes in the roof because the burrow into wood.

Chickens: they are wild and wandering. They make their homes among the trees. They also eat scraps from the ground.

Cats:there are wild cats too. They like us. We know a cat named Pumpkin and Marshmallow. There are also three cats sitting on garbage barrels in the hospital complex waiting for garbage to be disposed.

Grasshoppers: these are inside the house and outside the house. It sounds like crickets are beside our beds, and they are. We use bug nets for our beds. And daddy comes every night to kill the bugs in our rooms.

Yellowish: Hannah found a dead bird–it was yellow and black. Hannah named it Yellowish. We burried it. We gave it a service and sang Amazing Grace.

Agnes’ Cat: when we went to Agnes’ house, she showed us her cat. It was six weeks old. Its back legs were paralyzed. A few days later, it died.

Slug: there are slugs on the door and in the livingroom. Zach, Rachel and I like to make a wooden stick house for them in the backyard, by the laundry line. We make sure they have water too. One molded in the water.

Spiders: there are lots and lots of spiders. If you were afraid of spiders, this would not be a good place for you to go. I saw a blue bug too. It was on my arm when we were doing African studies. I thought it was poisonous because it was a bright colour: a bright colour means its poisonous.

Dogs: there are dogs too. They are wild. They are not usually tamed. They are the same type of dog. It looks scary.

These animals are a lot different from Canada because we’re not used to seeing them wander. These animals are interesting, but I’m hoping to see even more in Nairobi at the Nairobi National Park and a Giraffe Orphanage and maybe even on a day safari. I’m looking forward to all of those!

Hannah had a little lamb

Welcome from Hannah, also known as Ann, by all the Kenyan people.

Once upon a time, there was a lamb. It was brought a week ago as a gift to the surgon’s sons’ Zeke & Jude. Yesterday, I told the lamb that she had less then twenty four hours to live. The lamb said Baaaa for the first time! Zeke & Jude killed her for supper tonight.

As the killing was in process, Mom was dancing the salsa with the Kenyan kids. Of course, on the other side of the compound. Mom spent the morning teaching the children about Canada. But not a lot about Africa because they could teach her.

Later at the supermarket one man said to Mom: I want your hand in marriage. 

Sorry, I’m already married, said Mom pointing to her ring.

No, I want your girls to be African brides!

So then Mom replied: Give me six cows and a shamba (farm). But what the man didn’t know was that Mom knew that nobody could afford that.

Later, while Mom was talking to a hairstylist named Rispa, and we kids were whithering in the hot sun without water, a man beckoned Madelyn over to him. Madelyn hid behind Mom. Then the man beckoned me over. But I whispered No. Why? questioned the man. But this time, I ignored him.

Kenya is diffferent because everyone has shaved heads and chocolate brown eyes, I’m not usually proposed to in the grocery store (or anywhere, I’m eleven) and my meat comes on styrofoam plates!

My last words are: I hope Lambs go to Heaven, because I dearly loved that one!