October 1, 2007

Q & A

I mentioned in an earlier post that Miss Coyne’s second-grade class in Charleston, South Carolina is using this web site to learn more about Africa. I got a list of questions from them the other day about life here and thought other people might be interested in the answers too.

Can the kudu hurt you with its horns? Have you fallen out of the hammock yet?
I really wish I knew more about kudus than I do. They’re so neat. But they only eat plants so I don’t know why they’d want to hurt you. But the horns must be there for something. Maybe they’re for fighting other kudu?

As for the hammock, I’ve only been in one once while in South Africa and that was at a hostel. And no, I did not fall out. I only stayed in it long enough to take the picture and then was off to the beach.

(Before I left North America, I fantasized about getting a hammock when I got to South Africa and passing hot summer Saturdays reading in it. Now that I’m here, I’ve got a couple of great trees outside my house and am looking all over for a hammock for them. But they are not to be found in Mthatha.)

Can elephants beat up the kudus?
Elephants and kudus both only eat plants so unless they both came across the same leaf at the same time I don’t think they’d ever fight. But I’d put my money on the elephant if they did.

Are the elephants big?
Yes, elephants are rather large and I saw all kinds, from young, little guys to older, big ones. I wouldn’t want to make one angry at me.

Did you shoot any kudu bulls at the National Park? Have you been in a kayak there?
I don’t hunt and I’m pretty sure you can’t shoot the animals in the park. In fact, Addo National Park was started to save the elephants after many of them had been killed in the early part of the 20th century. But the horns of kudu are used to make musical instruments so somebody must kill them at some point.

I haven’t been kayaking yet in South Africa, though I’d love to. There’s some great ocean around here.

Were the bicycles in the sculpture real?
No, the bicycles in the sculpture were really just metal pipes in the shape of bicycles. You couldn’t even sit on them because they didn’t have real seats.

Are the elephants related to the kudus?
I studied political theory and ancient civilizations in school so I don’t know a thing about this question. I’d say probably not as kudu are related to antelope and elephants are, well, not. They both have four legs, though.

What do they use to guard your car?
When a parking attendant offers to look after my car, that is really all they do – look at it. But I’m not even really sure they do that. I think they wander around and look out for when I come out of the store and then come back and ask for some money. If I pay them before I get in the car, they’ll then walk away. But if I don’t, they’ll help me back out of the parking space and then come over to the window and ask for the money.

The insurance company, however, demands that the car have an alarm, which is really quite complex and I set it off myself several times a day. The car won’t turn on unless I press a special button on the key ring. Then, once the car is started I have to press a secret button hidden somewhere in the car or else the car will stop and won’t re-start. I also have to press this secret button after every time a car door is opened or I stall and have to re-start the car. That way, if I get carjacked and someone pulls me out of the car, they won’t be able to drive very far because the car will just stop. I’m sure it all makes sense to someone but to me it’s just a confusing series of beeps and sirens. For good measure, I also have one of those iron locks that you put across the steering wheel when you park.

Are the elephants fat?
No, not really. In fact, I was impressed at how muscular they look. Those trunks could do some damage.

How high was the hammock? I would like to sit and read there too. Maybe Miss Coyne will put a hammock up in our classroom!
The hammock was only a foot or two off the ground but I just love swaying in them. Did you know sailors used to sleep in hammocks? Wouldn’t that be neat? (Alright, maybe only for one night.) But if she put one up in the classroom, you might fall asleep!

What type of cars are there?
My car, the VW Citi, as it is called, has to be one of the best-selling cars in this part of South Africa. They are everywhere. Even the police drive them. For the most part, I am surprised at how small the cars are here. All the big trucks and SUVS and minivans that are everywhere on American roads are nowhere in sight here. The car makes are different here, too. There are a lot of European models, like Renault and Peugeot that you don’t see often in the U.S. And I haven’t seen any American models at all, like Ford or Dodge. But there are plenty of Asian cars, like Toyota and Nissan.

Does the food look like noodles? It did to me! Do they believe in ghosts? In Charleston, we believe there are spirits in the old houses!
I haven’t seen any noodles but I do see a lot of bread. Everyone eats so much of it and it is very tasty. The Atkin’s diet would never work.

I’m sure some people believe in ghosts but I haven’t talked to anyone about it. Some people also believe in witchcraft. I met a woman once who had traveled a long way just to visit a woman who she thought could remove a spell she thought had been put on her and was causing a lot of bad luck.

Do the hammocks look like canoes?
Not really, but they can be as hard to get in and out of as a canoe!

When can you come visit us? You can stay at my house. I have good food!
You should come visit me. The food here is great!


Leigh Preston and Andy Thompson said...

Jesse - I love your responses to the kids! Some day when Leigh and I have kids, we'll send them to you to learn about wildlife and hammocks!

By the way, I believe the Kudus' horns are for fighting one another. I've actually seen this - it's pretty impressive.
- Andy