Peace Corps Pet Vignettes

I was 22-23 when I was in the Peace Corps and was courted by quite a few Ethiopian gentleman who all knew that I LOVED animals. I received two bunnies from a guy working outside Addis Ababa who lived near a couple who raised bees for honey, which is what we made Tej from, good to drink and yes, you can get tipsy from it.

I already had a cat and a dog, and another man saw the bunnies and brought me two big white ducks, thus the need for the duck pond.

The Duck Story. Thanksgiving was fast approaching and my ducks hadn't produced any eggs.  By this time I also had a large hard shelled tortoise that kept the ducks company in the carport area fenced in with wire. One day I went outside to the ducks to have a discussion. I explained that I didn't seem to be able to get a turkey for Thanksgiving, but I was sure roast duck would do. The next morning when I came out, there was a HUGE white egg. Well we didn't have roast duck, but after our conversation, large eggs were never in short supply.

The Egg Story. I had a student who resided in a room outside the back of my house and he was in charge of household things. He was a self-starter and would experiment whenever he had the time away from studies. He built large "A" shaped kitchen shelves terrific for pots on the larger lower shelf, dishes on the middle shelf and food on the top shelf. One afternoon I came home from work and walked into the kitchen to see his latest experiment - a huge cake standing up like a leaning tower of Pisa. While I was gone, he had read the collection of Peace Corps volunteers recipes and made a cake with three duck eggs! At an elevation of over 7,000 feet, it can really change the recipe, but boy did that cake taste great.

The Monkey Story.  My boyfriend came over to the house while I was away at work and had brought along a present he thought I might like and decided to put it in the kitchen, close the door and leave the house. When we got home later and opened the door to the kitchen, the place was torn apart, and one happy monkey with a bottle of maple syrup dripping down its chest just sat there staring at me from the top shelf. We spent the whole night cleaning up and that was the only time I've ever rejected the gift of a pet.

The Cat Story.  My cat would crawl from the top of the stove up to the top shelf in the kitchen. The ceiling was made of a canvas and sagged quite a bit. We had never known about an opening in the fabric until we started hearing a lot of meowing. She had babies! She continued to give birth fairly regularly and volunteers from the boon docks would come in to pick up their brand new kittens. Great pets and even better rat hunters.

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“Sunset at the Railroad” by PCV Nicholas Baylor Hall. Namibia, 2011.