The Green Mamba

The Green Mamba

My family lived in Katangulu, an AIM mission station in Tanganyika, back in the mid-1940s following World War II. We lived about two miles from the shore of Lake Victoria, the world’s second largest lake and we frequently traveled by boat on a varied assortment of crude crafts. I had been quite ill with malaria and my parents had taken me to the government hospital for treatment.  Due to her other family duties Mom had to return home to care for my dad and my siblings.  I can’t whether I was in hospital for a few days or a few weeks, but one day Mom returned to bring me back home. She came via the poti-poti, as the Africans called the small motor launch. Mom never did well on any form of boat or ship, always becoming seasick and nauseated to the point of becoming bedridden. When we finally reached our home after a long trip across the lake and walking the two miles uphill to our house, Mom was exhausted and not feeling very good.  She went to her bed to slump in a ball of stomach upset, hoping to find relief. As my mother flopped on her bed, she noticed something green leaning out of the corner of the room and staring her in the face. Mom made an instant ‘recovery’ and sprang super charged from her bed, yelling for help.  “There’s a green mamba at the head of my bed!”  Her shout alerted the mamba to its plight and it tried to make a quick escape. The snake met its quick demise, bludgeoned by the blunt...

The Python’s Ploy

As a little girl at Katangulu, Tanganyika Territory in the late 1940s visits from snakes of various sizes and shapes seemed to be part of our daily routine, especially during the hot months of the seasonal dry time. These periods of drought and sometimes famine brought creatures of varied sorts out from their hiding places in search for water or an easy meal near human habitation. My neighbor, Miss Lucilda Newton, was a special auntie to me as we shared the same dislike for the porridge served up on a daily basis. On a very special ‘sleep over’ she would share her precious Kellogg’s corn flakes with me – a rare treat indeed.  She was also fond of cats (so was I) and her cat had recently given birth to three adorable kittens. Not sensing any threat or danger, they were ‘housed’ in a box in the kitchen, which was a separate building from the main living quarters. During the early morning hours, a big snake slithered his way down the rocky terrain behind our small mission station (3 homesteads) searching for a tasty meal.  Having a highly sensitive tongue and sense of smell, the python picked up a familiar scent of a recent animal birth. Twisting and turning his lengthy body over the terrain, he soon found easy prey.  Silently with sleuth and shadows offering excellent camouflage, he entered our mission compound and found the three little, squirming cute kittens. The mother cat was out foraging and the baby cats were too young and innocent to know the danger that had encroached into the supposed safety of a warm basket. When...

Rogue Rhino

I had a memorable encounter with a rhino when I was five or six years old. My parents had been transferred from Katangulu to Nassa, where they continued to minister among the Sukuma people. I had become more fluent in Kisukuma than English because I played daily with the African children. One day they asked my dear dad to shoot a marauding rhinoceros that was destroying peoples’ gardens, stomping all over their food supply of nearly-ready crops. A truckload of men, one or two with guns, had come to drive this rhino away from the area, hoping to persuade it to head back onto the Serengeti plains. They weren’t very good at aiming their rifles. They hurriedly drove off, leaving a very angry beast behind. Now the rhino was a threat to peoples’ lives. That’s when they summoned my dad. I wasn’t present when the actual shot took the rhino down, but it fell right in its tracks, looking like it would rise again at any moment to take up his charge! My dad enjoyed photography and wanted a picture of this epic event. Our neighbors were Ed and Esther Arensen and their two boys. My dad thought it would be creative to take a photo of us kids on the back of the dead rhino. However, being so young, I was not convinced the huge creature was really dead. I was SO fearful that once I sat on the back of this massive monster it would rise up on its feet and run as fast as it could with me straddled across his back! I could imagine bumping...
Memories of Katungulu – Part 2

Memories of Katungulu – Part 2

Snakes, bats and drinking water. After our amazing escape from the whirling waterspout, we arrived at our house at the AIM mission at Katungulu. Mom, who has always struggled with seasickness, plopped down on her bed to recover. Staring at her from the corner near her bed was a green mamba! Mom quickly jumped up and hollered for help. Green mambas are poisonous snakes and not to be casually entertained. Help quickly came to take care of this life-threatening visitor. I’m sure by now my mom felt ‘green’ from all the trauma of this day. On another occasion we discovered snake eggs under a bureau and other pieces of our meager furnishings. We had to deal with this surprise with cautious care and concentration. Over the years God always helped us discover the danger before we were endangered ourselves. We had unfortunate encounters with ants, scorpions and snakes in our home, but God in his faithfulness helped us deal with each situation. We had a number of permanent houseguests – bats and agama lizards. Our house did not have any ceiling, but instead a muslin cloth of amerikani or some similar material was stretched across the open space between the walls to help catch ‘anything’ that might drop from the ‘high heavens’ of the simple peaked roof of metal mabati. We soon learned to live in harmony with these creatures, especially the bats who helped keep the mosquito population down. Malaria was not a pleasant experience and we were often bedridden for days or even weeks with high fevers and spells of cold sweats. Keeping hydrated was a challenge...
Memories of Katungulu

Memories of Katungulu

Malaria, hyenas and a waterspout At our last family reunion in 1999 with my mom and dad still present, we (now seven children) recounted many of our childhood experiences. My memories of our first years  at Katungulu in Tanganyika were stimulated by my older brother Calvin as well as notes from my dad’s diary from 1946-1949. I can’t recall the chronological orders of the various events I remember, but I will endeavor to relate some of the stories that I experienced as a young girl. I remember the quinine tables we had to take every day as a hopeful deterrent to malaria. They tasted nasty but were necessary. But even after taking the bitter medicine, I came down with a bad case of malaria. I was taken to the government hospital in Mwanza via the poti-poti, the motor launch that was our only means of crossing the lake. The nurses in the hospital were kind, but I missed being at home with my mom and dad. The hideous night-time cries and yelps of the resident pack of hyenas near the hospital sent chills up my spine and made large, scary impressions on my little mind. Having never seen a hyena, I thought they were huge gorilla-like creatures that surrounded the hospital. They brought on a deep fear and I dreaded the darkness that seemed to produce strange noises that nearly scared me to death. It’s amazing how vivid some of my childhood memories still are. But now as an adult and knowing the truth, having seen many hyena through my life, my fear has turned to freedom. When I was...
Navigating the Nile – Part 2

Navigating the Nile – Part 2

As I found more of my dad’s notes, I discovered some other interesting facts concerning the amazing Nile River, which flows north while going through the various African countries from its source in Jinja, Uganda. It made me think that when we take time to discover the course of God’s creation, its hard to deny he exists when his presence is evidenced through countless wonders in creation like the Nile, the only major river in the world to flow north. Before leaving Cairo, the place of pomp and bygone Pharaohs, my dear dad wrote this observation: “The Egyptians must have spent most of their lives preparing to die!” My father and older brother Calving viewed the ornate tombs of the ancient rulers of Egypt, but I was too young to appreciate such a visit – sadly. I wonder how many of us are preparing for our future and final destination? It’s vital to live each day to please God our heavenly Father, the maker of heaven and earth. As we traveled on the riverboat Nasir, we occasionally disembarked to do some sightseeing and visit the local people. We enjoyed seeing hippos and crocodiles, but had to be careful not to get to close to the hippos’ ‘spot’ as they are very territorial and aggressive. Due to shallow waters at this point of the Nile, we had to get off the Nasir so it could be winched from the sandy bottom where it had grounded. During this leg of the journey I came down with the mumps. I had to be quarantined because of the infectious nature of the disease. I was confined...