My life in Ghana, West Africa, was an expat adventure in many ways. It had wonderful people in it who went out of their way to make my daily life easy and comfortable so I could devote my time to writing Harlequin Mills and Boon romances. I was, you might say, spoiled rotten. Leah took care of the housework. Her husband Jerome, a restaurant chef, helped out at parties and cooked for us after I broke my leg in the jungle (What Not to do in the Jungle). Ali nurtured our tropical garden. Kofi the day guard sat by the gate and read the Bible, and little Emilia gave us all joy and happiness just by being her. One day danger struck, and all of them went beyond the call of duty to save the day. Check it out!
A Snake in My Paradise!
The good life has chocolate in it. My life in Ghana is good indeed, so today I’m in the kitchen, baking something decadent involving butter and nuts and lots of said chocolate. Licking a spoon, I glance out the window and notice Ali, our gardener, whacking away at the bushes below the window with a stick. He’s chasing after something, his face very intent. Then more commotion. I hear Leah, Jerome, children. More thrashing of greenery, excited voices.
The time has come to investigate. I stroll out the front door, around the side of the house and inquire of the gathered people what is going on.
A snake, is what’s going on
Apparently it has escaped into the drain pipe coming from the kitchen, which lies above-ground and runs into a sink hole covered with a heavy cement lid. How does a snake get into a drain pipe you ask? Well, we’re dealing here with a construction that would violate a few building codes in the West, but let me not bore you with that.
I ask if it’s a dangerous specimen and the response is a unanimous and confident yes! “It can bite,” Jerome clarifies.
Hunting down the serpent
Jerome the chef and Ali the gardener begin to pry open the sink hole, while Kofi the day guard watches, his nightstick firmly clutched in his hand, ready for battle. Leah takes little Emilia and her playmate back to her room, away from the danger zone. They do not go happily. Emilia is wearing a frilly pink dress, her hair tied in little antennae sticking out all over her head, looking as of she’s waiting for signals from outer space. She screams in protest. This is exciting stuff and she wants part of the action. Wouldn’t you? Well, maybe not. I’m quite sure this is not the type of expat adventure I myself am eagerly looking for.
It occurs to me that it isn’t in any of their job descriptions that they are required to go chasing after serpents, but nice people that they are, they’re just taking charge of the situation. They probably assume that I, an obruni, a white, foreign woman who spends her day doing nothing more challenging than tapping on a computer key board writing about love and romance, would be useless concerning the extermination of dangerous snakes, an assumption that would be correct.
Miss Footloose, useless foreigner
Considering that the scary wriggler is in the water pipe, I am now wondering if it might come up into my kitchen sink if it creeps upward. This is not a comforting thought. I go inside to investigate, standing at a respectful distance and carefully peek into the sink. To my relief, I find it empty of animal life and the drain holes too small for most any serpent larger than earthworm proportions.
Outside again, I see the men lift the lid off the sink hole. Nothing. The hole is empty.
“Shall I run water?” I ask. I have no clue if this is a good idea, but I feel like I should contribute something to this effort.
They discuss the situation in Ewe, their tribal language, and the final verdict is that, yes, we should run hot water through the pipe.
I can do something!
Happy to be able to play a part in this drama, I sprint inside to the kitchen and turn on the hot water. I rush outside again to see all four of them poised over the sink hole with sticks raised. I’m hoping nobody is going to get hurt by this reptile that is taking on gargantuan proportions in my imagination.
For what seems like many minutes, we all wait with bated breath and pounding hearts (mine is, at least) while nothing happens. I’m staying out of the way, no stick handy. No one seems to expect me to take part in this, and I love them for it.
Then, bingo, there it is, pale green and yellow, about four feet long, its thickness less than that of a garden hose.
With battle cries my heroes slam their sticks down on the reptile, which must be terrified, not to speak of hot from its bath. Fortunately for the poor creature his suffering does not last long. Limp it lies in the gravel, while Jerome takes a garden tool and chops off its already smashed head. I wonder if it was a viper of sorts, but everything happened so fast, I haven’t had a good look at it.
“Is it a viper?” I ask, but no one seems to know the word. “Is it venomous?”
They all agree it is, or was.
A yucky thought occurs to me . . .
“Jerome,” I say, unable to resist, “now we cook it, yes? On the barbecue. Lots of garlic and butter.”
Jerome may be a professional restaurant cook, but the snake corpse apparently does not stir his creative juices. He doubles over laughing, he, an African who eats fat snails and rodents called grasscutters. I turn to Leah. “People in Togo and Benin,” I ask her, “do not eat snakes?”
She shakes her head. “No, no, Madame. Only for juju.”
I decide not to inquire further and avoid wading into the swampy subject matter of African witchcraft. I’ve had my expat adventure for the day.
The party breaks up. I thank everybody for their brave efforts. They tell me it was nothing. Kofi takes a stick, picks up the limp green carcass and carries it off to somewhere behind the laundry room to keep for my husband to view when he comes home, just so he won’t feel totally left out.
I go back to the kitchen. To nuts and chocolate and things delicious. Such is life, from slaughter to chocolate.
Let’s be sure now
Some time later my prince comes home from his day of toil. He’s not a lover of vipers, cobras and their cousins, but he expresses sympathy for the way the creature has found his end. He asks Leah if the snake was venomous. When, predictably, she says yes, he asks her if all snakes are poisonous. She gives him a blank look.
“There are no nice snakes?” he asks.
Her eyes widen. “No!” she says.
So there you have it.
But later, no joke
I find upon further research that our slithery reptile might well have been a green mamba, one of the most dangerous snakes in Ghana. Enough said. Have a look:
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What close encounters with dangerous creatures have you had? Or in what way were you saved from danger by other people? Tell me your expat adventures, please!