Not so far from home

Sometimes, over here in Africa, I feel completely out of place.  Everything seems beyond foreign.  The trees are short and scraggly festooned with thorns of death; a long stretch from the gentle, towering oaks of home.  The locals click when they speak and there is wildlife in my backyard that fell out of a Disney movie.

But the other day, I took a closer look.  Past the enormous giraffes and ostrich, the ever-present warthogs and guinea fowl, and into the background where the not-so-conspicuous animals live.  I started to see that behind everything else, Namibia may not be so different after all.

Example 1: We have squirrels here.  They do not live in trees, hence their name “Cape ground squirrel”, which also, gratefully, takes away their height advantage to chuck things at pedestrians.  It is an opportunistic feeder though, and omnivorous, unlike our Eastern gray, a vegetarian.  Also, it has a bushy tail, though not as severe, which instead of for balance, it uses for shade on hot, sunny days.  Its white stripes I suppose are for camouflage which seems to work because their population is quite large.

Example 2: We have geese, owls, and woodpeckers.  The Egyptian goose is much prettier than the Canadian kind and although common, does not cover your lawn with feces nor does it migrate.  The owls here do the usual owl thing, staying up late catching mice and regurgitating bony hairballs.  We even have a species in common with the U.S., the barn owl, but then so does every other continent, sans Antarctica.  The woodpeckers are rare to see but I enjoy their company.  When I hear their signature tree knocks while they search for bugs to eat (thank you), I look for the bright red head just like back home.

Geese overhead

Example 3:  We have deer.  Sort of.  Ok, kudu are actually related to cows, not deer, but they seem to fill their role.  They are common browsers, though not overpopulated and destructive like the white-tailed.  But, like those guys, kudu have the white underneath the tail which they flip up as a warning signal to others as they flee.  Kudu, just as deer, have road crossing signs and do take out cars from time to time.  Or trucks.  And they are also favorites of hunters because of their horns, not antlers (they don’t fall off every year), which similarly get turned into chandeliers.

So thanks, guys, for your fluffy tails, red heads, hairballs, and car accidents that make me feel a little closer to home.

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