How do we begin to understand who gets loved, cared for and how, and whose life gets to be grieved. This should not only be constituted within the realm of human beings, and in my world, pre-peace corps, animals found themselves here, live according to the rules of human beings, and are loved and cared for. I've come to realize though that there is much short-sightedness and an inability to articulate how being cruel and harmful to others, especially animals, is not, in my mind how I want Africa to be.
When I came here, I was a softie, and tried to bond with chickens and cows around the yard---I even went so far as to name one chicken “Dumpling,” but to my naïve surprise, Dumpling hung around long enough to fatten up, and one night I found my neighbor and Keoki chasing down Dumpling for dinner. I quickly learned that I better adapt seamlessly to this new culture, keep my humor at all times, to not question the notion of sentience, the capacity to feel, perceive, or be conscious when it comes to animal life around here. But I'm not here right now exactly to go on a rampage about how inhumanely animals are treated here---I do realize these animals are their bread and butter---but they can at least be nicer to dogs.
This week has just been something else. I alluded to my week long cow fiasco in my prior blog post, tearing down the fence, wrecking my organic garden, plopping poops all over the place, and lounging around like they want me to give them a beer after their hearty grass meal. Sure, the chaos of the nightly activities were annoying, and the half dead cow by the fence was a show for all. Some thought I did this to the cow, others laughed, and some just shook their heads, but nobody was doing anything to help, or even to put the cow out of his misery which was what pissed me off. The police were here and laughed, they wouldn't get someone to try and save it, and I was left with a shallow breathing cow in my yard for almost a week.
Well, today I came home from my primary classes and I see all this commotion by the cow, and then about 8 police came sauntering towards me asking me for food. Why police would ask this is beyond me! I go over to see a group of guys start the slaughtering of this cow, and I'm watching them with their slaughter skills, watching the chaos and blood around me with some vegetarian repulsion, and then I was just startled when one of the guys taps me on the back, I turn around to see him holding a big fat slab of liver and says “Tshep, Tshep, this is our gift to you for the cows breaking down the fence, take a bite." Gee guys, thanks, this slab of meat should surely pay for the fence---I think I'll show it to my landlord, blood and all! I look, I smile at the blood dripping down my pants, I thank them realizing that the slab of liver is showing respect, but my lord, what do they think---this is Dances with Wolves, and I'm gonna just take a chunk of bite from this bloody liver! Then they ask me for a piece of metal from the house, I wasn't about to say no with all the knives around, and lo and behold, a Brai was started. They used my metal, my rocks, my wood, to start a fire and start the cooking after 2 hours of carving. People were parading down the path with plastic bags for a piece of my cow, then the guys said something to me I will never in my lifetime forget---”Tshepula---Go get us some salt!” Ya gotta love it I guess!
I may never come or want to understand the relationship between man and animal in other cultures, and after this, even though I know this is common practice around here, I will surely go back to my vegetarian ways when I get home, but I wish they would have at least had a little ceremony for the poor cow, or at least blessed the meat before eating it---anything would have made me feel better about animal life in the village----For now though, the real gift is Love Thy Neighbor for who and how they are, and DEFINATELY, Love Thy Cow!