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Friday, September 24, 2010

A day in the life...

Submitted by Jonathan Porter
Rain, rain go away come again another day! Over the last ten days we have had more than our fair share of rain, floods and the like.

We have dealt with a collapsing bridge - flooded and washed away roads - leaking roofs - broken down vehicles - and the like. It seems like a lot, but it is part of living the life here - you embrace it

Take the past four hours. We left the airfield, Matthew in our 14 year old Opel Astra, and Patricia, Lydia and the other girls in the 16 year old Previa crew bus. Both are good solid vehicles- on the whole. Tonight, the Astra decided to strip its timing belt. This is a trick that it used to do on a regular basis, but since we modified the system, blending two different engine systems together, has been good for almost a year. Poor Matthew, light failing, alongside a flooded ditch on a winding road - realizing he was out of telephone credit, decided to wait for the Previa to come along to help.

A passing 'bush fitter' came by and, reluctantly, Matthew allowed him to start stripping the engine parts (we carry a spare timing belt, so it was just needing somebody able to fit in the space to pull off the job). Meanwhile, we dropped off the girls to our Kpong Accommodation unit and finally stumbled upon the stranded Matthew as the black layer of threatening clouds hung low and showed its most intimidating side as the sunlight faded completely, making the faceless heavy hand of a potential downpour above us.

Having made our way around more than a foot of water last night, and knowing the last three kilometers of road were very muddy, this was not a good omen! I swung the Previa around to shed some light on the engine compartment and we all assisted in the open bonnet surgery on the in-line engine.

Just as the surgery was completed (bush style), I got into the Previa and shouted clear to those in front as I saw the steam bellow out from the front end. Sitting in the balmy evening, with little airflow and high humidity the cooling system had declared that it could no longer cope and blew past the pressure valve as overheated steam added to the already moist environment.

Decision time. Can we make it the last three kilometers? I decided it was a go, on the balance of the odds. In fact we coasted about half of the distance, slipping and skidding as we went past the Fulani camp, definitely not stopping for a chat this evening!

As I rounded the last-but-one bend,. Patricia screamed for an emergency stop. A thick and long puff adder was blocking the route. Practically enjoying the road widthwise - and covering the width.

African Puff adders are very dangerous (http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Bitis_arietans) and although we keep two pythons in the house, and respect the snakes around us a great deal, this snake is one we do not mess with. On a past occasion we have spent twenty minutes crushing the head of one of these snakes to extinguish it. It is great to let them go into nature - but around the house, it is not safe to leave them alone - they will kill a dog easily and possibly a human - they account for more snake bite deaths in Africa than any other snake. Respect them, and handle the situation well and you they are no big deal. But this was not a good situation under the circumstances..

Some snakes we will capture, bag and relocate - but not the bad tempered Puff Adder. I jumped from the overheating car and Matthew quickly was by my side as the snake lazily headed off towards the house in the long grass.

There was not time to waste, it was a big snake and would be hard to kill. We considered options and reluctantly decided a gun was the only option. I ran to the gun cabinet and pulled out a suitable weapon. It took four direct hits to get it to stop moving out of the way. Even then, it took another ten minutes to sever and bury the head, an essential safety process. The skin of these things is like armor plate - it is really amazing.

Once that task was done, it was time to start the dodgy generator at the house, charge the batteries for overnight light and fans, and... well... write this blog, before Matthew shuts down the genset, switches over to the inverter, then it is time for bed. Tomorrow we hope to be able to walk at the airfield without sinking in!!!

Some people watch movies - we live them. It is not easy and nobody ever shouts 'cut' and lets us have a break whilst they reset the set for a another take. No, this is real life, real time, one take, every time action. The best part of it is that it really does change lives, one day at a time!

Thank you for your support, without you we cannot achieve these things.

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