Just to be completionist, this is a post about cats. One cat specifically. His name is Munono:
Munono is another semi-inheritance from the previous volunteer. Munono officially belongs to my host family now, but he likes to hang out. He usually comes over in the morning or in the evening and spends some time curled up in my lap. Like most Zambian animals it seems he was a little bewildered by affection at first, but eventually became a sucker for a comfortable lap to nap on.
As far as I can tell, this cat is useless. I’ve seen him stalk a few things, but the only thing I’ve ever seen evidence of him catching is carbs. He loves carbs. This is because most of what he eats is nshima, which is carbs personified. He hangs out at meals and meows after food, and, when he is persistent enough, he gets tossed a lump of nshima with maybe a kapenta or two in it. He scarfs it down.
Munono, scarfing down the rest of my breakfast cereal.
Because of the cat I have to keep any baked goods high up and inaccessible. To date, he has successfully hunted down a loaf of banana bread and several cookies. I’ve smartened up over time, reducing his kill count.
The cutest thing about Munono is probably the way he sleeps. His tail seems to have a mind of its own, so if he wants to sleep undisturbed by his own tail whacking him in the face, he’s got to pin it down. On top of that, to make sure he has an adequate sleeping environment, he puts his widdle paw over his widdle eyes on his widdle face and curls up tight and is all set to nap until I cruelly have to stand up and get on with my day. I always feel bad about it. I know, I am the worst.
Zambezi Valley Insurgency by J.R.T. Wood (would not recommend for casual reading; pretty dry accounting of operations from the Rhodesian perspective and clearly on the side of the Rhodesians, with no discussion of strategy for either side)
Bush War Rhodesia by Peter Baxter (still written from the Rhodesian perspective, but focuses on strategic goals and covers the entire war)
The Drowned World by JG Ballard
I have a love-hate relationship with goats. There are a ton of goats in my village. They’re a pretty popular animal in Zambia. They’re easier to manage and easier to feed than cows, and they require less land. They’re smaller than cows, which is an advantage when you slaughter them. There’s no refrigeration in the village, so if you’re gonna slaughter an animal you have to eat it or sell it all in one go. It’s usually on menus in the fancier places as “Imbushi,” which is the Bemba word for goat. The “love” part of this relationship is because those buggers are so darn cute when they’re babies. They’re small! They got little knobby knees and high-pitched voices! They run around but stick close to their moms! Look at this picture of me hugging a little baby goat! It’s the greatest! The “hate” part though? They can be such little shits. Here’s some goats hanging out near my insaka. Cute right? Look at those little guys, perched on the wall! And then they get up and kick over the bricks and cause all sorts of damage and then poop right in the middle. Stupid goats. The soundscape of the village is dominated by goats. I wake up most morning to the sounds of goats bleating. There was one goat for a while that would frequent my yard, sneezing heavily while also trying to call some willing female to mate with. I think Barry White would have worked better. When you first start living around goats, it is hard to distinguish the sound of children screaming and goats screaming. They’re very similar, though with experience you can tell them apart. It is handy to forget that, however, when the neighbor kids are crying and you can pretend it is just goats. In the dry season, the goats just wander around freely. They eat whatever they can find, which is fine. In the rainy season though, people start growing maize and the goats get tied up. The baby goats, however, get to wander around. Usually they stay with their parents. Sometimes, those little assholes break my fence and eat my velvet bean: The worst part? There is no gate on that fence! They could have just walked around to the open door and eaten my velvet bean without knocking down my fence. But nope, little shits gotta create more work while destroying my velvet bean. I got friends who are good with goats. Someday I will learn their ways. I just want to be friends with the baby goats, but they’re all scared of me. Probably because I chase them from my garden and then up the hill to teach them a lesson, but still. It’s been on my to-do list to get some goats and milk them and make goat cheese both because I love goat cheese, and also because I want people to get more protein in their diet so they aren’t all so short so they build houses to such a height where I don’t hit my head on my doorframe every other day walking out of my house. It’s the little things that keep you going.
As a slight update from when I originally wrote this post, I seem to have gained the advantage in the war with the goats. Since the goats had it out for my velvet bean I had to take a more active role in preventing them. The solution was to chase these suckers down. Turns out it is hard to chase goats down because they are more maneuverable through low dense brush than I am, but the trick is to enlist some children. As I was chasing a goat around the village, the kids would get in on the action and help me chase it down. The children are shorter than I am, and are therefore more maneuverable in the low brush, but also strength in numbers lets us corner the goat into an ambush. After we corner it we tie it up and admonish whoever owns it to keep it tied up from now on. The goats hate being tied up. When they are first tied up they yell and try to get out. Then they get distracted by some grass and start eating. They’re terrified of me now though for chasing them down. The only bad part about this whole experience is the first time I chased down a goat with the kids, the kids asked for money. I threw some kwatcha their way in appreciation, but this created a bit of a monster; the kids would ask for kwatcha anytime they chased down a goat. This built a lot of enthusiasm for keeping goats away from my garden, but I was worried the kids were letting the goats go or something. At any rates the goats seem to be tied up more consistently these days and hopefully my velvet bean makes it all the way to harvest. At least I know the stuff makes good goat fodder.
A lot of Peace Corps Volunteers get pets. There are advantages to pets. Cats catch mice for you. Dogs canbe nice to have around. I like dogs a lot more than children, for example. Dogs have several advantages over children:
Dogs don’t ask me for stuff over and over again.
Dogs don’t play the game “let’s see what we can do to piss off Pat.”
When I tell the dogs they gotta get out of my yard, they leave.
That being said, I had not planned to get any pets. Pets are work. You gotta feed them and get them shots and find someone to feed them when you’re away. That being said, I more or less have two dogs:
The one on the left is Muka. Muka is my host family’s dog, but he was originally the previous volunteer’s dog. He is a good dog and is pretty well known in the surrounding villages, having been on many adventures with the previous volunteer.
He’s got his quirks. His worst habit is that every once in a while he’ll spot a girl with a load on her head and suddenly growl and bark at her. I don’t know why he has a thing against women carrying things on their heads, but maybe he is just overzealous about gender equality. He likes to pretend he isn’t falling asleep. He’ll come in, sit by me, and then do head bobs and touch n’ goes instead of just laying down to sleep. He is a big fan of mud. Here is his, moments before sharing his mud enthusiasm by covering me in mud:
He was also, until recently, afraid to hang out inside my hut. When there was food on the line, he would forget this taboo and hang out under my armpit until he could lick the bowl, but otherwise he was afraid. When a rainstorm hit a week or two ago I lured him inside with a dog treat and closed the door. I didn’t want him to be wet and cold. He stood around nervously, until I scratched him behind the ears enough until he fell asleep. That changed something I guess and now the mutt rolls in like he owns the place. At night he departs to do whatever he does at night, but he’s scratching at my door at 0500 asking to be let in. So what do I do, since I am so kind and generous? I built the dude a dog bed. I went into town, bought foam and chitenge, and slaved over a needle for hours sewing him what I am willing to say with some seriousness is probably the most comfortable dog bed in all of Mbala District. Does he use it?
Not a chance. But you know who is all about the dog bed life?
Lala. Lala, being a refined lady, didn’t think twice and flopped right down on that thing the second she saw it. Lala is short for Katungalala. Only I call her Lala. She is this guy Abraham’s dog. “Katungalala” apparently means “diseased,” which is not a nice thing to call a dog. It is important to note that ZamDogs aren’t like American dogs. The dogs here aren’t companions, they’re security systems and garbage disposals. The upswing of that is if you show a dog some affection and don’t kick it, she’ll follow you around everywhere and then eventually spend her days snoring behind you and getting underfoot when you’re trying to sweep. Lala is also Muka’s girlfriend. Muka’s not a great boyfriend. He sleeps around and gets jealous, growling at Lala to get away when he thinks there is a treat on the line. But now I more or less have two dogs. They try to earn their keep every once in a while. When I run out to chase off goats or kids, they come out and help. Do they proactively chase away goats from my garden so the goats don’t eat all my velvet bean? No. But they’re cute. And so now, despite never actually getting a dog, I buy treats by the kilo and spend money on flea collars and flea powder and dog multivitamins because that is a thing. I fret over Muka’s botflies (dude, first off, when I squeeze the larva out, Muka eats them, and second, he’s got botflies on his balls, in case you think your day is bad, but he won’t let me tweezer those suckers out, not that I blame him) and have to try to make amends when he growls at people who don’t deserve it (one time he chased off a whole crowd at the nearby football field, then came trotting back to my porch wagging his tail happy as can be), and put up with these guys getting underfoot at every possible moment. But they are also the best adventure buddies there are and I wouldn’t trade them for anything.
How can you say that?! If anything, Zambia has the best journalism on the planet! Where else, tell me, do you get hard-hitting, in-depth, grade A reporting like “Most Zambian Men Have Low Sperm Count?!” What other news organizations cover the important witch-doctor-and-magic-charm beat, with important stories such as “Tenant Sues Landlord for Calling him a Wizard” (I feel like in America if someone called you a wizard it wouldn’t be a defamation case), or “Sacrifice Your Boyfriend or Son and You Will Be Rich, Witch Tells Slayqueen” (other items required for the ritual: 30 hard boiled eggs, $100, a syringe filled with blood from his left testicle, two black feathers, and urine mixed with salt), or “52 year old Zambian Woman Sleeps With Her Son Every Wednesday To Sustain His Wealth” (Quote from the article: “Yvonne, a native of Ndola confessed to ZambiaWatchDog that she is the main pillar of her son’s success by offering her nakedness to him once a week as instructed by the witch doctor he got his riches from. ‘We have sex every Wednesday and we do it at my house where the charm was buried.’ According to Yvonne, ‘the price is that, once I stop sleeping with him, all our hard earned wealth will vanish in thin air and my son will die a very painful death.'” My only question is why Wednesday in particular?)?!
And in the final category, not only does Zambian news have magic, politics, and life advice, there is also a large amount of good ole’ fashioned sex (er, s*x):
Kitwe S*x Workers Disappoints Government (this is actually a story about a government program to empower sex workers in Kitwe by helping them start businesses selling beans or kapenta or other activities and the women aren’t participating because they make more money more quickly by being sex workers, but the headline makes it seem like a comment on the quality of the sex workers)