Sometimes the universe is with you

Motivation is not always easy to find.  In my case, I had a big idea rambling around in my head, waiting to be put into action.  I sat on it for a while, wondering if it’d stick with me and prove itself legitimate, not just a passing thrill that I got excited about after a couple of beers.  It did, but still, I wasn’t acting.

Fresh off the plane from a visit to the States, where I spent time with friends and family, the number one thing I miss about life in Namibia, I was in a bit of a low this week.  Returning to a country where, besides my man and our animals, I’m pretty much on my own, can be disheartening.  However, I tried to light a fire under my butt, saying, “Look, you’re not going to live in Namibia forever.  Make the best of it while you’re here, and then when the time comes to move on, you’ll know the years weren’t wasted.”  And so, I gradually pumped myself up for the year ahead and tackling my big idea.  Although I was still half-exhausted from the long, nearly-sleepless flight, I stuck with the mantra “make the best of it” and pushed forward.

But as the first days slipped by and the load of farm work waiting for me quashed any productivity I had for my personal plans, I began wondering if I’d dreamt too big.  Thoughts like, “you have no idea what you’re doing, you’re gonna screw it up”, and, “stick with the projects you’ve got, and maybe later you can start something new when you have more time”, totally deflated my let’s-go attitude.  And even the current projects, like writing a blog post, seemed monumental.

But this morning I knew I had to post something, I’d neglected it the whole time in the States.  I just had no idea what to write about.  So, of course, I procrastinated and piddled around on the internet, rather than committing to writing.

Slowly, though, a message started to reveal itself.

My sister’s boyfriend posted something on Facebook about no more zero days.  An email from a writer’s mailing list had a quote from Amy Poehler about taking risks, getting out of your comfort zone, doing what you’re afraid of, even if you think you aren’t ready.  And here on WordPress, a (again, writing) blog I follow, talked about taking little actions until you get the results you want.  The message was persistent: do something everyday towards your goal, even if it’s small.  You’ll never know if you don’t try and even if you fail, you learn something new.

I got straight over to my blog and started typing.  My butt was lit.

It all sounds so trite, I know, but sometimes the trite stuff is exactly what you need to hear.  The cosmos knew it, and loaded me up with a big helping of it.

So, moral-of-the-story #1 is:  Procrastination isn’t always what it seems.  If you’re paying attention, you might just find what you’re looking for.

But, don’t forget moral-of-the-story #2:  No giving up.  Do something everyday, no matter how small, that moves you closer to your goal.  Because we all know, a little bit, over time, adds up to a lot.

As for my big ideas, small steps, alongside the farm work, are making me feel that they’re achievable.  Maybe, I’ll even make some friends along the way.  Or at least find better conversationalists than my cats.

The cat face

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The mystery of the black cat and the full moon

Like most places in the world, every month or so, we get a full moon here on the farm.  Generally, it is a welcome occasion.  There is a local theory that it brings rain, but otherwise, it simply allows us to move about at night without clinging to a flashlight (or torch, depending on your English proclivities) or walking into things.  Plus, it’s pretty.

moon 'n cloudsThere is one drawback, though.  When the full moon slides into the sky over the hill in the east, it takes the sanity of one of our three cats with it.

She isn’t ever really normal.  Normal is not a cat adjective.  But back in the States, this little black cat of mine had no reaction to the state of the moon.  Maybe it was because we lived in an apartment and the outdoors were not a part of her life.  Maybe coming to this Namibian farm has brought out the leopard inside of her.  Maybe her brain is flashing images of huge yet very slow lizards, or hordes of giggling mice traipsing through the kitchen, champagne in one hand, cheese gobs in the other. I don’t know.  She simply cannot control the instinct telling her that she must go outside.

the cat

The little black cat, covered in dirt, and probably hunting something.

It seems to only affect her in the winter.  She’ll patrol the room, pacing back and forth, mewing and squeaking, informing us of her distress.  And this is when we are still downstairs eating dinner.  We can hear her through the wall (which, to be fair, is made of logs and fairly porous).  Once we climb into bed the fun really begins.  Like a pouting 4-year-old, she stomps over us to get to the window above our heads, wails her misery to the world on the windowsill for a few minutes, and then leaps down again with a four-footed landing and stomps back the other way.

This is then repeated throughout the night.

Jay and I used to just sleep through it, or pretend to.  I felt guilty for subjecting him to my apparently PMSing cat, but once we got some sleep again, we’d laugh it off and forget about it.  Til the next month.

But this time, I thought of a solution.  It was so simple, it was aggravating to think of how much sleep was lost by us not having thought of it before.

Water.

My cats hate water.  Unless it is going down their throat – by their own doing – it is evil. I tried to give them a bath once when all three became infested with fleas.  I walked away from it bloody and wetter than they were.  When a stream of water comes their way, they will do anything to avoid it.

Thus, needing a water-launching device and not owning a water gun, I turned to the syringes left over from multitudes of cow injections.  Once the needle is off, those things can shoot surprisingly far.

Problem is, our little syringes only hold one round, and it’s easy to miss a small black cat even with a full moon.  Which is, of course, exactly what happened.  So I stepped it up a notch.  With a whole glass of water in my mouth, I headed toward the warbling.  The first squirt hit the ground, and the cat bolted across the room, still singing her woes.  I caught up to her, and let out another squirt.  Another miss, another puddle.  She was hiding behind the bedside lamp now, by Jay’s head.  He seemed semi-asleep despite the commotion, but I was on a mission.  I shot the last of my water and hit the cat square on.  She took off again, silent this time, and I climbed back into bed for a triumphant sleep.

The cat spent the night and those to follow on the lonely chair by the glass door.  I suppose she was either mad or she wanted to keep an eye out in case those oafish lizards wandered by.  In any case, it seems mother nature had heard her distress calls.  One night a gust of wind blew the door open and by the time we noticed, the cat had long ago disappeared into the night.

Luckily, she returned by morning with that innocent cat look on her face, despite the headless mouse in the shower.  I have no idea if it was meant as a gift, to say all is forgiven, or if she brought it as proof, to say “I told you so”.

I don’t believe that I will ever figure out my cats.  I don’t intend to try.  I would only like to sleep.  And, if it’s not too much to ask, keep decapitated wildlife out of the bathroom.

the gift

Thanks.

 

I am not your enemy

Dear Namibia,

You crushed my dream today, one I’ve waited for for five years.  It was going to be a stupendous day, when the fighting to stay with my husband was finally over.  When the three month visas, desperate border-hopping, long stories for the immigration officers, years of putting life on hold because life revolved around visas, came to an end.  I figured it would be a day to celebrate, a new holiday to observe each year; the day I got domicile in Namibia.  That day has now come and gone, and it turned out to be, after all that dreaming, nothing at all worth celebrating.

KONICA MINOLTA DIGITAL CAMERAPlease note, Namibia, that Dictionary.com, my official dictionary since the one I had in the States was too heavy to schlep over here, has two definitions for the word “domicile”:

1. a place of residence; abode; house or home.
2. Law. a permanent legal residence.
This piece of paper from your Ministry of Home Affairs and Immigration has given me neither.
The cream color and ribbed texture give it a deceiving air of importance, as if it were something I should treasure for the 8 months that it is good for.  The words emblazoned across the page – unity, liberty, justice – beneath your country’s coat of arms, apparently do not apply here; they only mock me as I read what I was given.
KONICA MINOLTA DIGITAL CAMERAYou could’ve saved your money, Namibia, and just given me a stamp in my passport.  Then I could’ve saved my money on those photos you required, now attached to the bottom, and would not have had to walk around Windhoek all day with a purple thumb, after you took my thumbprint, too.  These pieces of identification aren’t necessary, anyway.  If anyone is going to go through the effort of stealing an identity document, they’re going to go for a legitimate Namibian ID, or something that will actually allow them to stay in the country.  The only good the photo and thumbprint actually do, is to add to the official appearance of the paper, which has less worth to me than its own receipt.  With that, while you processed my application, I stayed in Namibia for a year and a half.
The point was driven home when I was handed an application to reapply for domicile upon my exit.  Besides the ludicrousy of reapplying for something that is supposed to be permanent, it happened to be the very same form I’ve filled out for years, asking you to let me stay.  It meant, for five years, you and I have gone in a big, exhausting, expensive circle and achieved exactly squat.
The real irony however, is that, like many countries, you are belligerently fighting foreigners like me for fear we will take jobs away from proper citizens.  In reality however, we provide loads of them.  The amount of people employed at the airport and border crossings to hassle and interrogate me, and at the ministry to review my relentless applications for months on end, to take my money, take my picture, take my fingerprints.  These people would constitute a small army.  Yet, if this time and energy was instead focused on providing productive work for Namibians, not harassing folks like me trying to make a life for themselves, and better the lives around them in the process, we would all be moving forward, not ending up back where we started.
In a shrinking world, fighting foreigners is futile.  Let it go, Namibia.  Let’s give people reason to celebrate.

That’s one way to learn

Sitting down for my daily dose of language study (it was an Afrikaans day, the day before was German), I wanted something more than the basics: Piet will die boek koop, Hy kan nie die boek koop nie.  I didn’t care if Piet wanted to buy the book, or if he could buy the book, or anything at all about Piet and the stupid book.  I wanted something more complex, sentences with conjunctions, things that real people say.

And just as I was searching for the “intermediate” Afrikaans lessons, I heard a car coming down our dirt road.  Since it was moving at a healthy pace, I figured it was just a neighbor cruising by.  But then the motor slowed and the wheels bounced over the cattle grid at the entrance to our farm.

Could it be Jay?, I wondered.  That was a fast trip to town, it’s not even noon yet.  But soon I saw it was not Jay; it was his right-hand man, Zacka, in the old rattlebox farm pick-up back from checking if any of the pregnant cattle had given birth.  A minute later he was at my door.

I came outside.  “Alles OK?”, I asked.

This was a stupid question; he only comes to get me if he needs something or something is wrong.  But it was the question that launched my Afrikaans lesson of the day from easy, right past intermediate, straight into holy shit.

Zacka proceeded to inform me in far too many words that one of our cows had died while giving birth.  At least I caught the main part and responded with the appropriate shocked facial expression and repeated the crucial word back to him.

“Dood?” Um, that’s not good.  What do I do now?

“Ja, dood.  Kan jy Jay bel?

Yes, call Jay.  Good idea.  Let’s do that.

Naturally, when I’m in a situation where I don’t know what to do and need some input from the guy who does all the cow stuff, the guy has his cell phone turned off.  All that crap about “Call me if you need anything.  Let me know if there’s any problems, etc. etc.”, only applies when everything is running smoothly.  After the third try, I swore at the automated “this number cannot be reached” woman and slammed the phone down.  Zacka and I were on our own.

He asked me if we should just leave the cow where she was.

“Miskien”, I replied.  Maybe was a safe answer while I searched my brain for a solution.

What would Jay do?

But then Zacka went into a ramble how the vultures were coming and vultures were bad, though I couldn’t understand why.

Should we bring it in to the vulture restaurant then? (The clearing by our house where all the leftovers from slaughtering go).  Or are those vultures bad too?

Then I realized there was a smarter option.

“Kan ons die vleis verkoop?”, I asked, using the Piet-and-his-book sentence structure.  If we could sell the meat, the death of a calf-producing cow and her (female, Zacka told me) calf would not be a total loss.

That is what Jay would do.

“Ja”, Zacka said, but not very confidently.

Well, we’ll see how good the meat is when they bring it in.  At least we have a plan.

Zacka then asked if I would come with.

Um….

“Ek kan”, I said, more like a question than an answer.  I had hoped my role in the ordeal was over, but Zacka was already suggesting we take the other pick-up along so that we could load the cow onto it.  Then, he said, I could bring it back home and the other farm guy could slaughter it while he continued the search for newborn calves.  Admittedly, this sounded like the best way to go about it, so as soon as I pulled the word for ‘shoes’ out of my head, I ran to get them and a hat and off we went, Zacka leading the way.

At least I don’t have to make small talk in Afrikaans (a task I prefer not to do in any language).  But why are we in such a hurry?  It’s already dead.  Oh, there’s the cattle guy.  Wave!  Maybe he’s worried the vultures will start in on the carcass.  Great, now he’s stopping to wait for my pokey ass to catch up.  What is this, normally Africans don’t move so fast.  Oooh, baby warthogs!

When we got to the camp where the pregnant cattle roamed, a glance around revealed no dead animals.  Zacka casually opened the gate and puttered forth, so I, now confused, followed as he drove deeper and deeper into the bush.  Finally, he got out of the truck, and just as I went to do the same, he climbed onto the roof.

Oh good, he’s lost the cow.

I climbed up there with him while he muttered something about how he just needed to find the other guy who was standing with the body, but we saw nothing and hollering his name only scared a few birds out of the bushes.  So, bumbling over my words, I offered to come with him; I’d ride on the back for a better chance at finding the missing cow and her human guardian.  And once more, we were off through the bush, bouncing in and out of warthog holes, sun pouring down.

This is not what I thought I’d be doing today.

Eventually, a man appeared through the herds of acacias and I leaned around to Zacka’s window and directed him “links”, left.  Once through another few craters, we turned around and backed into the small clearing where the cow had taken shelter.  I immediately felt sorry for her.  She had died under a tree, all alone, and probably in a lot of pain.  The calf’s head was out and partially eaten by something, along with its two front legs.

Well, you suck at languages, but at least you aren’t suffering in the bush by yourself.  Note to self: It could always be worse. 

Yet, it would be another Afrikaans-filled hour until we had her loaded.

We hauled out the winches, plural, two, because she was so big, and had the extra weight of a calf inside of her.  I tried to help where I could but it’s a man’s world in Namibia.  I realized I didn’t know how to use the idiosyncratic winches, because the men always do it and even when I could do something, like hoist the cow by her leg up onto the metal ramp we’d brought along, the guy who’d been standing guard grabbed the leg a little higher up, effectively pushing me out of the way.  This is a very common occurrence on the farm.  I don’t know if it is because they think I can’t do it, or that I shouldn’t be doing it, or if their manliness is challenged and they have to do it.  Regardless, I didn’t want to argue, I just wanted to get the cow on the truck.  I moved to the other side and hauled her up by the tail.

Luckily, with this sort of work, there was no need for conversation; we knew what needed to be done.  The winching, however, wasn’t working, the truck was too high and the cow too heavy.  Zacka offered a new plan.

Ok, gathering by his hand gestures, he wants to move one of the winches to the front of her body and flip her up and over.  That’s…um…not going to work.

But I couldn’t get words out fast enough to say that, nor did I have a better idea.  So twenty minutes later she was still on the ground, clasped tightly to the bed of the truck via her head and hind legs.

Zacka already had a new plan; something about driving her like this back to my truck still waiting on the road and we could then use both trucks to lift her up.  I didn’t understand how we would do this, but at least I knew the other truck was lower to the ground.  So Zacka motored off in that direction while the other guy and I walked behind, watching cow and calf bounce through every hole.

As the process unfolded, I realized Zacka was going to use his truck to pull her onto mine, forgetting the winches altogether.  I felt bad that I hadn’t been contributing to the plan-making lately, though winching and flipping cows onto trucks was not yet part of my Afrikaans vocabulary, and I scoured my brain again for anything that might help us succeed this time.

What would Jay do?  Well, there was that time last year…with those huge oil drums…and no winch…

It took time for me to find the words but Zacka nodded his head and made affirmative vocalizations.  If we backed my truck into one of those many warthog holes, its bed would be tilted low to the ground, making it much easier to load our heavy girl.  But, seemingly having understood nothing of my idea, he dropped the cow right there onto the road.

Wait…we have to…a hole…

Then with a pick ax from the back of the truck, he started chopping up the dirt road.

Well, he understood something.  Maybe this is just how he prefers it. 

So I grabbed a shovel, which was promptly taken from me by the other guy, then grabbed another one, and scooped out what had been chopped.  After a couple of tries the holes were big enough to get the two rear wheels into and the bed of the truck was only about a foot off the ground.  With a rope as thick as a cucumber around the two hind legs, strung up over the roof of my truck and tied to the hitch of Zacka’s, we slowly inched the cow onto the bed.  Although, I could not get out of the way fast enough and ended up with a bloody carcass smeared across my legs and feet, she was on the truck.

Thank god. 

I made sure Zacka was good to continue on with his original job and thanked him. “Baie dankie vir jou help.  Sien jou by die huis”.  I’m going home now.

In the end, the cow was slaughtered and the meat sold.  Jay turned his phone on again (he’d been in a meeting) and thanked us for our efforts.  We had done the right thing.  And I had survived the best and worst language lesson, sunburned and covered in dead cow blood, ever.  It was certainly better than the last fiasco.  Maybe, some far away day, I’ll actually get the hang of these tortuous languages.

In pursuit of the elusive Namibian kangaroo

The sun had long ago set, it was probably nearly 9 pm.  Usually, we try not to drive at night because headlights, even brights, will only do so much when an antelope the size of a refrigerator decides his road-crossing must be done in front of your speeding car But my flight got in late in the afternoon, and it’s three hours to get back to the farm.  Staying in Windhoek wasn’t an option either; Jay and I both prefer the farm to the big city, especially when there are cats waiting for you.

The one good thing about driving at night is, although the wildlife is oblivious to mortality, they are active, and for the most part, it’s a whole other set of creatures than we normally get to see during the day.  There’s the owls and night jars that hang out on the road and the jackals and rabbits that fling themselves into the road.  On rare occasions, a porcupine or honey badger might waddle by.  But this particular night held something in store that I never knew existed.

We had just come to the neighbors’ farm, only another 5 minutes to go, and the headlights captured movement ahead of us on the left.  My eyes focused in on it; a small, reddish-brown furry thing, about the size of a big squirrel, with a long, black-tipped tail.  And then it raised itself onto its lengthy hind legs and hopped away.

“Huh”, I said in my tired, travel-dulled state of mind, “I didn’t know Namibia had kangaroos”.

“Yeah”, answered Jay, “it’s a springhase (said shpring-HA-zeh).  I don’t know what they’re called in English”.

“Oh.  What’s a springhase?”

“It’s a rabbit.  It just jumps on its hind legs.”

And there you go.  I may not have seen an aardwolf, a desert lion, or a lechwe, but I have at least heard of them.  Never, in my 6 years of traveling to, through, or living in this country, had I ever heard of a springhase.  There was a brand new mammal in my world.

The next day I looked it up in my animal books, but found nothing.  It didn’t help having only it’s German name but none of the pictures looked like what I saw.  So I turned to the trusty internet and googled “springhase”.  And there I learned, sensibly, that their English name is spring hare.  But in the nonsensible world of naming animals, they aren’t actually a hare.  They’re a rodent.  But a very special one, as they are the only living genus and species of the family Pedetidae.  Which may be why I’ve never heard of them.

the only living genus and species of the family Pedetidae
the only living genus and species of the family Pedetidae

If you haven’t already yet googled it yourself after buckling to curiosity, here’s a link to a site with some good pictures of the spring hare.  I want you all to know though, that being the authentic blogger that I am, I went out that night, camera in hand, in an attempt to get my own photo of this unusual animal.  Jay and Sniffeldog came too.

As we had never seen one on our farm, we drove back to the neighbors hoping they’d still be there.  Jay hauled out the giant spotlight for more precise lighting and we called the neighbors to let them know that the weird flashing out front was just us trying to get a picture of their jumping rodents.

Each time eyeballs appeared in the distance, Jay zoomed forward and I snapped a photo.  Here’s the winner from that chaotic series:

Which may just be a normal rabbit.  Eventually we reached the end of the field and only thick bush lay ahead, which I had learned from my extensive internet research, was unsuitable spring hare habitat.  So we turned around and headed for home, hoping for another glimpse.

When we saw more eyeballs, I leapt out of the car, determined to get a better picture.  I landed, however, directly in a short, unseen thorn bush and got stuck while Jay sped ahead to keep them in sight.  So while I was bumbling about with the bush, Jay got our object of pursuit directly in the spotlight as they slowly hopped away.  By the time I freed myself and caught up to them, this was the best I could get:

If you look really close you can see the long tail.

So this authentic blogger and abysmal photographer is getting on with life in Namibia and wondering what other bizarre creatures are lurking in those bushes, waiting for fortuitous discovery.

Namibia’s secret lakes

Don’t be fooled; Namibia really does have water.  It is not this dried-up-raisin of a country that it pretends to be.  That giant desert?  Just for show.  Check it out:

Apparently, this was the best picture I took of it.

Lake Guinas.  One of two, count ’em, TWO, natural lakes in Namibia.  I was astounded to hear of their existence (and a bit perturbed that no one told me about them earlier), but lo and behold, there they were on the map, practically neighbors.  As we were already in the region for a business excursion, it seemed sacrilegious not to visit.  Besides, it was hot, and we wanted to swim.  The time had come.  The girl from the Great Lakes state, the fresh water capital of the US, was going to see the oasis of her adopted desert home.

In the car on the way to the first one, Lake Otjikoto, Jay and I became as excited as two little kids talking about how we could camp there for the night, cook our dinner over the fire on the beach, go swimming under the stars, etc, etc.  It would be perfect.  Pulling into the parking lot was already a relief; big trees hung down low as if to take pity on us weary travelers.

As Jay approached the park-rangerly-dressed lady, I got sidetracked by the snakes-in-the-jars.  There, outside the gift shop, was a bench with five or six rather large snakes coiled up inside big glass bottles with some kind of yellow liquid preservative.  I must apologize, however, for the lack of photograph.  I was so excited to go swimming, I forgot I even owned a camera.

I then turned around and the ranger informed me that the dog had jumped out of the car.  “He’ll be ok,” I said and waved my hand like “no big deal”.

“No”, she said, “no dogs allowed”.

I looked around at this big, green, shady (and empty) park and then at Jay, hoping he would tell me this was a joke.

It wasn’t.

“No camping or swimming either”, he said.  I felt my heart implode.  The lady informed us that a man had drowned in the lake in 1927 and no one has been allowed in since.  Just to see the lake was N$25 a person.

So we respectfully declined, put our offensive dog back in the car and drove for the second lake, Guinas.

These two lakes are sinkholes, something like 110 meters deep, says a geophysicist friend of ours.  Rumor has it that they are actually connected underground- when a colored dye was put in one it eventually surfaced in the other.  What a trip that must be.  They even have their own endemic fish species, the Otjikoto tilapia, listed, not surprisingly, as critically endangered.

After a few long dusty roads we arrived and found a big white sign that said “Welcome to Lake Guinas.  No fishing, no swimming, no shooting.” So, it turns out, although Namibia has water, no one is allowed to use it for any sort of fun-inducing activity.  You just look at it.

Look, water.

At this point we were too hot to bother with frivolous things such as rules and since this lake was on private property, there were no rangers to scold us.  Besides, the sign was in Afrikaans and if asked, we decided, I would promptly reply in my best American accent that all I understood was the “Welcome to Lake Guinas” part.  So in we went.  At long last, relief from the heat.  Floating around, I envied the birds cheeping from the cliff edges.  How lucky they were to have this natural wonder as their home.

Sniffel, not a fan of swimming, wonders why we would do such a thing.

On our way out we brought with us a few of the many beverage bottles that littered the path down to the water.  Apparently, the rarity of this landscape in Namibia was not enough reason for people not to trash it.  We could only imagine how many had been chucked in and sunk forever.  And wondered if this was the reason all fun had been banned.

Visiting the lakes made us curious what else Namibia was hiding underground.  Once back home, we immediately began looking for cave entrances in the hills around our house.  I am quite determined to find our own massive body of water so we can go swimming whenever we want.  And the sign out front will read:

Welcome to Lake Scorpion.

Dogs and camping welcome.

Drowning and littering prohibited.

Violators will be fed to the tilapia.

Top 5 farm things I try to avoid

As much as I try to help on the farm, learn the five separate languages I might encounter, what this switch operates and what that button does, what each of the 13-letter-name medicines in the fridge’s butter cubby are for, and what to do when an angsty rabid kudu comes to the front gate, there are some things that I just do not gel with.  Here’s the top 5 I’ve determined that are best left to the professionals.

1. Genny the generator

Genny is, no doubt, an important part of the farm.  Since Nampower, Namibia’s state-run (and only) electricity supplier, decided our farm was too far out to hook up to the grid (even though all our neighbors are), this lady provides a lot of our power.  While we are trying to move more towards solar, she still carries a chunk of the load.  But to get her going, it takes a good couple swings of the crank, and take my word, the crank is, proportionally, just as big.  It ain’t for woosies, or otherwise meager-armed folks such as myself.  I’ve certainly tried, sweat and swear words flowing, but she just groans a little and lays back down, like my cats when I disturb them at nap time.  My main job in regards to Genny, therefore, is to turn her off when the batteries are charged and that’s no easy task either.  Just take a look at the accompanying circuit box:Indeed, to stop her thunderous revolutions, I first must enter the room and remind myself that she will not tear herself free of the concrete floor and chew me to pulp.  If I keep all extremities clear of her moving parts, I should remain whole.  (To this day, I have only injured myself once with this intimidating piece of machinery, and that was when my knee came to rest on a metal tube which I quickly learned was the exhaust pipe).  After that, I need only flip four switches, push a button, pull a thingy down until she stops her sputtering, and then disconnect her battery.  I believe that is as intimate as I shall ever be with the giant engine and her labyrinthine electrical box.  Any more than that and one of us will no longer work properly.

2.  Keys

A single key is harmless enough, but when they congregate, I prefer not to be present.

I know it’s a farm and all, we have doors and gates and things with locks, but I do not believe we have so many of them.  This isn’t even the only key bundle nor are bundles the only place in which keys are kept.  So, to avoid acute key anxiety, I do as I do with Genny, keep it simple.  I know the keys to the rooms which hold things important to the continuation of my life, and the rest I have absolutely no idea what they do or to what treasures they have access and I’d like to keep it that way.

3.  The slaughter shed

This is where animals go once they’ve been shot.  Normally, they are shot to feed the farm staff to prevent poaching.  Sometimes, hunters shoot them so they can put the heads on their walls.  Regardless, here, they are strung up by their hind legs, gradually reduced to pieces which includes the use of that handsaw on the back wall, and their blood and other excrement drains into the large hole in the floor.  I have actually helped in this process before, really only because there was no one else to do it.  And while the biologist inside me was sort of interested in this massive science project, it’s not something I look forward to.

4.  Water intersections

This is another one that seems innocent.

But one must know that water pipelines run throughout the farm, each one connected to the next.  If I close or open just one pipe, the water is going to go somewhere else and I never quite know where that is.  For example, if we pump water to the house, it can either go to the garden and water the orange trees, it can go to our reservoir so that we can shower off the cow poop at the end of the day, or it can bypass us and fill the workers’ water tank.  For each of those things, the pattern of open and closed valves must be just right or I’ll end up watering an oasis somewhere in the Namib desert. To make things more complicated, sometimes water is pumped to the house using the engine at the windmill down by the main road and sometimes it falls on Genny’s shoulders.  Sometimes they are both running and I don’t know who is doing it.  But if our reservoir is full and begins to overflow, I need to stop it.  Do I stop Genny or the engine at the windmill?  Do I need to open or close the valves at the house or the valves at the main road?  Do the workers need water?  Or do I need to fill the big reservoir that feeds the rest of the farm?  Answer quickly now, the water is a-wasting.  And these intersections are all over the farm. If any of the miles of underground pipe breaks then the water must be closed at one or more of them and who knows which one that might be.

5.  Saws

This last one is probably the most important for me to avoid for genetic reasons; I’ve inherited a calamitous gene which earned me my nickname “Disasterpants”, one that has caused countless injuries to me and my family for many years now.  As such, I stay as far away from this thing as possible:

This saw cuts our wood, wood that we use to heat our water, post our fences, or to otherwise build or burn, but why must it be so big?  Namibia is not known for its gigantic trees and even if it was, I would rather chop all my wood by hand than to have to come within slicing distance of Spikey here (although I may do just as much damage to myself with an axe).  If I have to gather some logs for the fire, even when it is not connected to a single watt of electricity,  I move quickly, deliberately, and then get the hell out of there.  I can feel it watching me.

Same goes for the handheld spinning blade, known as a grinder (enough reason to leave it alone):

And ditto for the meat saw:

This blade moves up and down very quickly and very loudly.  Some people on the farm saw their meat just fine with this thing; fast and smooth, no worries, no problem.  And that is why I call them the professionals and let them saw or slaughter or lock and unlock whatever they want and I go feed the baby chickens.