by Esnala Banda
It’s a hot afternoon. This is Africa, it’s to be expected. 3 boys chase a large grasshopper around the yard. I watch them, they’re intent on their purpose. Catapults in hand one shoots at a small bird on the fence.
After a quick roast on the brazier they come and present me with their spoils. The four us share this prize from their adventuring. The grasshopper was fatty, and deliciously so.
My brothers were my best friends. In the thick of the African heat, they took it upon themselves to keep my 5year old self entertained and beguiled by their undertakings.
In the shade of the mango tree, I watched them many a time run around the house, climb trees and catch dragonflies in the backyard.
“It’s easy,” Harrison said. “Just make sure you’re really quiet and catch them by their wings. But gently of course you don’t want them to fail to fly”.
And so, every time we’d see them land on the flowers we’d creep up and catch them by their delicate blue-green, yellow-burnt orange wings and watch them buzz a while before letting them go on their journey again.
As I walk around Nkwashi I’m reminded of these early encounters with insects. Out here, as with many sangas (bushy/woodland areas) I have to remember to close my windows on time to avoid sharing my room with all manner of bugs. Big Yikes!
If you know me you know I don’t like bugs. Like any ordinary person, I enjoy watching documentaries and the occasional insect trivia, but immersing myself in close proximity to them, not so much.
You’ll see all manner of bugs here. Beetles, spiders, moths, bees, wasps, flies, praying mantises, stick insects and others that I can’t quite name. So of course, there’s a lot of screaming and calling for help to expel the odd spider or cricket from my room or wherever it is I am trying to spend my time, but that is to be expected.
I’m also reminded of Gerald Durrell’s memoir -My family and other animals. Known as the ‘father of conservation’, Gerald has made a tremendous impact in the world, having founded the Durrell Wildlife Conservation Trust in 1959.
Sir David Attenborough said of him, “The world needs Durrell.”
My Family and other Animals details the story of Durrell’s family’s stay on the island of Corfu. It was paradise. He talks of his eccentric family and what has been described as the ‘magnificent beasts of the Mediterranean Islands.’ These beasts, among many include magpies, pigeons, and tortoises.
With colourfully vivid descriptions of sights and family happenings, for 65 years, Durrell’s book has not only entertained the young and old but has created an understanding of nature and awakened curiosity about the world outside our own.
10/10 would recommend that read. I haven’t thought about this book in a long time, but coming out here has reignited those thoughts.
I live halfway between terror, amusement and curiosity every day as I discover a new bug to run away from.