The Creatures of Banga

by Jess Cropsey

We’ve enjoyed interacting with the nuns, children, and other folks that we see on a regular basis at Banga.  We have also had the opportunity to make acquaintances with some of the local “wildlife”.  Most of these encounters haven’t been as pleasant!    

After our second night at Banga, I woke up with bites around my waist that were eerily reminiscent of our “scabies/bed bugs/we don’t know what” epidemic from Kenya.  I was devastated as the memories of endless laundry, countless applications of permethrin cream, doses of ivermectin, and eventual fumigation of our house came to mind.  Fortunately, John had a conference in Kigali, Rwanda shortly after our arrival and was able to purchase a medical grade mattress cover for our bed.  I am thankful to report that it has successfully suffocated whatever was feasting on me and I’ve had no bites since then.  

Wasps and mice are currently sharing living space with us.  The wasps haven’t really bothered us (other than initially alarming some of the children).  The mice are a little more disruptive since they commence most of their activity at night and we can hear them scurrying around the attics of our apartments.  Many of us are now using ear plugs or sound machines to drown them out.  Our family finally purchased a trap -- the kind where the mice can climb in, but not out.  We caught our first victim within 24 hours.  We’ll see how many of them are up there!  

Just last week, we became aware of a critter called a “jigger”, otherwise known as a sand flea.  These delightful creatures burrow under the skin (usually near your toes) and lays eggs.  In fact, they are famous enough that they are in the 12th lesson of our 1975 Kirundi language study book, even before the introduction of words such as “mother” or “sister”.  Unfortunately, three members of the team have already had personal encounters with them.  Here are Jason & John extracting the egg sac from Micah’s toe.  He wasn’t too thrilled about it, but I have now added a new Kirundi phrase to my vocabulary:  “Umuhungu wanje afise imvunja mu kirenge ciwe.”  (My son has a jigger in his foot.)   

Of course, there are quite a few cows, goats, and chickens around here.  Sammy gets pretty excited about them, which the Burundians find quite amusing.  We have yet to see any dogs or cats.  Having pets when there isn’t enough food for people is a luxury that many here can’t afford.  We hear that rabbit is a tasty treat here.

Flies and spiders (like the "little" guy below) are a common sight.  Fortunately, we are at a high enough elevation here that mosquitos are not a problem.  Rachel saw a snake the other day on the road, but that’s a rare occurrence due to the cooler temperatures. 

A few weeks ago, John, Jason, &  I made a trip to Bujumbura to prepare a container of mostly medical equipment for transport to Kibuye.   Much to our chagrin, we discovered that termites had invaded and really enjoyed the wooden crates that things had been packed in.  They also enjoyed some books that were on there.  The Burundians were a fantastic help in fumigating and cleaning out the container and salvaging most of the items.  We lost a few books, including Tim Keller’s Meaning of Marriage (note below the live termites crawling around in the middle!) but are thankful that damage was minimal.  


Philip said...

Hi Mcropders, Thanks for taking on adventures in the wild. I have some resonance as I have dealt with racoons, wasps, woodchucks, snake, rats... I'll be thinking of you when I catch the woodchuck. Blessings. Phil

Sara and Sebastien said...

So, please never remind me of your post:) I cannot allow myself to read this before coming to visit! I look forward to continuing to hear about your transition to Burundi. Praying for you all!

John said...

Wow, I can't believe I'm not the only one who has had termites eat the paper pages of my books! I have to say though, when I found the damage in my book, it was not accompanied by the termites themselves. Thanks for sharing your adventuresome stories, keep up the good work.