by Jodi Winfindale

I can’t say that living out in the bush is something I would volunteer to do on a regular basis, but it does make for funny stories, once you’ve boarded the bus back to town.

We arrived at Morning Star Camp and were greeted by our friendly hostess, Norma, who quickly went through the basics of camp. There was a spigot of borehole water for drinking.  Two flushing toilets for emergency nighttime use only, outhouses with the tip tap outside for hand washing, be watchful if you walk around in the tall grass for snakes, there was a huge but friendly lizard living in the men’s outhouse (that scared away just of few of the manliest of men in the group) and just for our information, there may be a rat or mice around, as well.  Don’t leave our food out in the open, just to be on the safe side.

We divided up the rooms and girls went to one dorm and guys to the other.   There was a hut for families and 2 for couples.  Everyone settled in.  Making your way around camp wasn’t difficult as it was small and self-contained. Showering, we found, was tricky as the solar heated water soon ran out with over 35 people in camp.  Many cold showers were taken during our two week stay.

It didn’t take the kids and teens long to find the trails, rock beds and formations to climb and explore.  The first night’s dinner was served up around the huge stone fire pit after dark by a group of teen volunteers from Atlanta.  Sadza and rice soon turned into a staple diet and after a week or so, Cheeky Chili became a favorite condiment to go with it.

After a few days people started to realize that mice were indeed cohabitating in the dorms. Little scurrying feet could be heard in the darkest parts of the night and flashlights could be seen flicking on and off at weird hours as people tried to find where the sounds were coming from. It didn’t take them (the mice) long to get comfortable and feel free to help themselves to the various arrays of snack foods that lined the window sills and luggage of the team.  Bags of snacks were soon found with tiny holes chewed through them and the crunching of ramen noodles could be heard in the dark on occasion.

Someone in the Atlanta team had the idea to construct a mouse trap using a 5 gallon bucket and a little bit of peanut butter smeared a few inches down the inside of the bucket.  Within 15 minutes, they had their first causality.   This would not discourage our little friends, as they soon called in reinforcements.

One morning, Tanya comes out of her room and I see her talking with another team member. Though I couldn’t hear what she was saying, her hands were flying around in the air and they were both laughing hysterically.  She later tells me she was awoken in the night to a rat walking across her chest as she slept in her bunk.  Julia, her daughter was sleeping next to her and another team member on the other side in the next bunk.  She laid there for a moment trying to decide if she should fling the rat off to the left and risk it landing on Julia or should she fling it to the right and risk it landing on Gina. She chose Gina, as at least there was a gap between them and she hoped it would land on the floor and not on the bed.  We all laughed but also cringed at the thought of who would be next.

Several other team members reported to feeling or hearing something crawling around the room and on the beds, luggage was found to have been chewed on but nothing was ever seen.

Our last day there, luggage was dragged out of the rooms, clothing shook out, just in case, and a feeling of satisfaction could be felt for surviving the wilds of Africa.