If Hitchcock was a PCV in Amajuba

The animal antics continue. I am not referring to the area’s attraction “The Unsupervised Livestock of Amajuba” but the organization failed to mention that the amaZulu compound that I live on includes a bird sanctuary, and I happen to live in it.

I have a lovely and modest 2 bedroom house (tour is coming) and until last Friday the complaints were minimal. I have a bed I fit into and privacy. The one concern that I had was the bird nest on my roof. Not because I have a vendetta towards birds but nests attract izinyoka (snakes). While researching PC blogs, I read a post from a neighboring country where a PCV woke up to a drip from the ceiling and turns out it was a spitting cobra…and I may have been scarred for life. I have yet to see an actual cobra in a PCV’s house, but I am not taking any chances. Yet the removal kept being postponed due to work, other chores, and even though the 5 AM chipping and fluttering performance were getting old and I was really sick of sweeping up bird crap in the bedroom, there was no urgency. Then again, I did not actually fathom last Friday’s shenanigans.

Two things to mention 1. It was a long week and since the municipality shut the water off my place was a mess (I will explain at a later date). I had no desire to have anyone enter the house. And 2. Adding to the damsel in distress archetype, my outfit that Friday happened to be a bright pink dress. For your amusement, feel free to think of me prancing around through out the following events.

After coming back from another frustrating visit at Schnitzeland’s post office, I was exhausted and taking a few hours of introversion time before watching sopies with the host family that evening. I was on the lap when around 5 PM I hear a loud fluttering. It was too early for a moth and initially I ignored the noise for five minutes. The noise remained so I went to investigate and there is an actual inyoni/ bird trying to fly out of the one broken window I cannot open. I am no Bindi Irwin with wildlife, so I simply open all the other windows in my house and wait for the bird to figure it out. 30 minutes goes by and the bird still insists on trying to fly through the broken window and I am concerned that they are going to break a wing…when a second bird flies in. Eventually this second bird (who displays some intelligence) gets out but the other bird is continuing to panic. I have no choice but to give up introversion time and head outside.

As I am tapping the window, my host sister comes to see what is going on. She starts laughing hysterically, but comes with me to inspect the nest. Turns out there is a second nest…goody. We are in agreement that the nest need to go now. I found the holes between the roof and walls where they flew in. I asked what the amaZulu method was for bird nest removal. Turns out they have never had a bird problem until the American showed up…typical. Since it was now 6 PM, the plan was just to remove the nests and seal the holes with concrete in the morning. I start to bang on the tin roof with my broom and no less than 6 birds shoot out which freaks both me and host sister out. We try to poke the nests out but they are really wedged in the roof. My feet are too fat for the block cracks required to access the roof so we subjected my 14 year old host brother to the task and I am demoted to light duty. At this point the sun is down and we have limited time before the birds come back. My host brother who understandably does not want to spend an exorbitant amount of time on the roof in the dark, just yanks the feathers and straw out of the crevices. Turns out one nest had eggs and the other had two baby birds that miraculously survived the initial impact. Still I had no wish to actually cause harm to the birds, I just wanted them out of my living space. The deed was done and we all headed inside thinking that the excitement was over for the evening…lies.

Might I add that this happened when I was a PCV, in the Amajuba district which literally means “the doves” in isiZulu. Even though these were more sparrow like, not doves or pigeons (which they sometimes call doves in South Africa) this is still a bird friendly place. The closest thing to a mascot in Peace Corps is a dove so I probably garnered some bad bird juju that framed future events.

Remember the initial bird that caused this ruckus? We kept the windows open the entire time host brother was on the roof. Maybe the bird was a slow learner and would eventually stumble on one of the open windows. We waited 5 minutes for any sounds of the invader and I was trying communicate the bird battle with cluster 1.0 on What’s App when at 8 PM I hear fluttering. At this point I believe the birds have driven me batty to the point I am now hallucinating. Then rising from a pile of blankets like a cursed phoenix, the panic bird starts to lap around the room. Being the immature 23 year old, I scream out of shock and as my emotions turn to anger, irately squawk “GET OUT” and “HAMBA” repeatedly. I tear open the blasted windows again and my irrational force tears down the curtain rod for my bed room.

The host family who has heard my…noise, comes in anticipating that I am being mugged. When I tell them that the bird is still in here, my host sister (the one that was helping me with the roof) doubles over with laughter. I am out of options and suck in my pride so the host family can enter my messy house. I apologize profusely for the mess as they confirm the rod is broken and use plastic ties to re-position the curtain for a temporary fix.

Once the curtain was up, we had to get the bird out since the culprit was not taking initiative and I have. The host brother, sister, and I gather in position. We get the bird in to the kitchen and living room, and I shut the bedroom door, barricading the massive hole in the middle with my Osprey pack. The frantic fluttering reaches a new crescendo and then no sound. I hear squawking and think that they killed the bird (and more juju is on my hands, I may become the first PCV to experience a bird attack that would inspire Hitchcock from the grave). Nope host brother catches the bird in 5 minutes and it is released unharmed.Finally despite my protests, my host brother starts to mix concrete, climbs back on the roof and manages to patch one hole before we decide his safety is not worth it that evening.Once again the South Africans manage a situation (and one they have not had to deal with before) better than the American. Or to use an American analogy, they are Cam and I am Mitchell.


No really I am Mitchell, Credits to ABC and fellow New Mexican’s acting for the photos in this post

That night there was an intense thunderstorm, so even though the birds kept their distance I still did not sleep with the leaking roof. Then I woke up the next morning and the moronic izinyoni are building their nests in the same spots we removed them. Since the incident, they have not dared to come back inside but we will have to seal more holes up this weekend. Also, my trauma to the broom (whacking it on a tin roof) broke it in half but it works. I can wait until after Christmas for that and the curtain rod, because I do not want to bumble around Duke City’s hardware stores in December if I can help it.

South Africa: never a dull moment.


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