A few days ago I glanced out my window and noticed some guys my age or so tossing rocks up in a tree, which I thought was a little odd. I immediately thought that maybe a cat was stuck up in the tree, but then I realized nobody would likely care if that was the case. I gave it little thought as I went about my afternoon, preparing dinner, reading, etc.
Later, as darkness settled over my village, I looked out my window again and saw a group of people standing beneath the tree, poking flaming sticks up in the branches. At one point they left the tree alone, and the fire burned up high in the tree for a bit until it burned out (thankfully). I knew something was up now, but I decided to wait and ask someone in the morning.
The next day, I remembered the incident on the way home from school and asked my Grade 5 host sister Keamo what happened. She thought a bit and said in English “cricket”. Now, I knew it was not crickets, but I also knew my Setswana vocabulary probably didn’t extend to the sort of animals that would hang out in Kalahari trees-no, we do not have monkeys here. So I figured I would probably never know what happened, as she is the best English speaker currently living at my place.
Later on I hear a bunch of kids running around, hollering and beating the ground. My village is small, and there are not a whole lot of kids that gather in bunches near my house. I look out my window again (I learned this creepy trait from my Mom, fyi) and saw a dozen or so kids and teens gathered around a clump of bushes in the cow field near the aforementioned tree. Mind you, there were NO cows in this field-way odd. I watch for a bit and soon my host mom glances back and sees me. She laughs and wanders over to my window and says “snake”. I am surprised she knew it in English, and about then all the kids run out of the cow pen, with someone in front holding a stick with a long white thing on it-the snake! My host mom tells the kids to bring it so I can see, and sure enough, it was a 4-5 foot long pale snake, dead as a doornail! The boys run around and chase each other with it for a bit, then toss it on the ground.
My host brother Keletso comes from our trash pit with some plastic-great fire starter-and my older host sister Moiki comes with paper, and they start a fire over the snake. And the rest of my evening is spent with charred snake smoke wafting through my room and hoping that no other snakes come.
I assume that since it was such a big deal, snakes are rare here. But it could also be that nothing ever happens here, so it is a big deal.