Welcome to Ms. R's Blog!

A big shout out to my old students from Savannah and from Duluth! I miss you guys, but I couldn’t pass up an opportunity to travel and see a very different part of the world.

The teacher in me can never resist a teachable moment. So, as you read my blog about living and teaching in Liberia, I hope you absorb some new knowledge. Please comment on my posts; feel free to ask me questions and to answer the ones I’ve posed. I want this blog to be a place of dialogue!

I’ve got a list already started of things to write about, but I would love your input. What do you want to hear about?

Wednesday, October 12, 2011

Dr. Doolittle

It’s 5 am in the morning.  You hear a rustling noise.  Something is in bed with you, scurrying across your sheets.  You turn on the lamp on your bedside table only to find yourself in bed with a gecko! 

What would you do?

Once upon a time, I probably would have run screaming from the room.  I might have even been tempted to grab a broom and hunt that gecko down so that he wouldn’t have the opportunity to snuggle up again in the late hours with me.

On that early Sunday morning, however, I simply swatted the reptile out of my bed, rolled over, and went back to bed without blinking an eye.  Africa sure has changed me!  I’m no Dr. Doolittle; I can’t talk to the animals.  However, I seem to tolerate, or put up with, them more and more. 

The reason I don’t kill the many geckos that get in my apartment is that they serve a bigger purpose.  They kill mosquitoes!  I’d rather have geckos than mosquitoes any day.  Plus, mosquitoes in Africa carry malaria. 

If a mosquito bites a person with malaria, the blood they suck is contaminated and can be transferred to the next person who is bitten.  That is how malaria is spread.  Malaria is like getting the flu times ten.  Your body feels weak, you get a fever, and feel very exhausted.  Some mosquitoes carry a type of malaria that can cause your brain to swell, leading you to die.  That’s scary stuff!  (Don’t worry about Ms. R., though.  I have plenty of insect repellent, bug spray for my house, and anti-malarial medication!)
Can you imagine the reaction of the first grader
who sat down to find this spider by his chair?

As for other animals, there aren’t a lot roaming through the school compound.  Mostly, we have geckos, lizards, spiders, millipedes, and cockroaches.  There are spiders as large as your hand, flies as big as a nickel, and cockroaches as big as your longest finger. (It’s the smaller spiders you really have to watch out for; they bite.)  I find that that bigger the insect is the slower it moves and the easier it is to kill the thing!

My favorite animals on the compound are the large lizards and the snails.  The lizards like to play dead.  They lay flat against the concrete, very well camouflaged, and look like plastic toys.  When you get close to them, they like to show how macho they are by doing push-ups!   The snails like to shimmy across my back patio in the morning, after the heavy rains.  If I open my curtains, I can usually spy at least six of them at a time.  My mother joked that I should buy a wheelbarrow and open a business (many people eat snails here).

Question: What’s the difference between a gecko and a lizard?
After a heavy rain storm, snails this size and
bigger are abundant on the sidewalk.

Question #2: Where do snails’ shells come from?  Do they grow on the snails back or do they trade shells when they get too big to fit in the one they have?

Remember that I do not live in the rural, or country, part of Liberia.  I do not see elephants and lions walking the streets of the city.  Therefore, the most exotic animals I’ve seen are monkeys.  Some people keep them as pets and tote them around like babies.  They dress the monkeys up in diapers and feed them from baby bottles.

It’s sad to say that there are very few dogs and cats in the country.  Dogs and chickens roam the streets freely.  I don’t know if the flea bitten things have any owners.  I’m told that cats and dogs are food here.  Again, that’s another reason I always have to ask what type of meat is in my food before eating.

The animal I dislike the most are the bats.  The school compound has many empty rooms and bats like to “hang” out in the one empty room across the hall from my apartment.  They use the hallway to the staff’s apartments like a landing strip.  One ran into me the second week I was here!  I thought that a bat’s sonar was supposed to keep it from running into things and people, but I had no such luck.  Sometimes, when I walk up and down the hallway, I can hear the bats squeaking away.  It’s a bit creepy for my taste.

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