Throughout all my trips to Tanzania, my worst fear, and I’m embarrassed to say but I will anyway, was having to go pee in the bush and letting a snake or a hyena sneak up on me. Moshi, however, told me that I need not worry, that they are more scared of me, but I couldn’t help but fear the bush, so to avoid having to go pee at a bad time, I avoided drinking water all day and then gulped a litre of it when I returned home at night. I was putting up a serious fight with mother nature, and so far I had won. Until one fateful day, at least.
While at the project site, I saw something move in the bushes. I calmly asked Moshi if it was a snake, and he and Juma looked over and jumped into action. This green mamba had fallen out of the tree with what was left of a chameleon that it had eaten (they found the rest of it later in its stomach). Moshi and Juma chased the snake, and it slithered into a termite hole in the bush right beside the water distribution point.
As I stood back, paralyzed by fear, I tried to remember the instructions on the snake bite kit in my medical bag: cut an X on the bite and try to suck out as much poison as possible. It just so happened that before leaving for this trip, Loc had given me a knife and jokingly said that it was to kill a snake, so I pulled it out of my bag and gave it to Juma.
More guys from the village arrived, and together they smoked the snake out of the hole, and then Juma, with expert precision (and complete disregard for the knife I had given him), hit it directly with his slingshot, and then all the guys whacked it to death with a stick. Normally, they wouldn’t have killed it regardless of how deadly it was, but because it was nesting right beside the distribution point, they needed to remove it.
Things that might have made me queasy in Vancouver are easy now, like when I’m eating and a little bug crawls by. I just squish it with my left hand and continue eating with my right. Nothing about that was weird to me anymore. If someone had fried up the bug and then gave it to me to eat, I may have done that, too.
It was all relative. It was a luxury to me now squat in a village toilet, but of course, the alternative was to squat in the bushes—with snakes.
Even with all the snakes and bugs during dinner, we were still regularly driving into Iyoli village. Every day, we saw women at the dried-up river bed; the water still wasn’t running, but the water distribution points were slowly being finished. It was crazy here, and things never happened as we expected them to, but all we could do was roll with it.