I wonder what the Statute of Limitations is on a promise?
Lets hope its only a year, because a year ago, I made a promise not to split, on pain of death!
Almost exactly year ago, we were called to a mine to find water…they had an English consultant tell them that the water from the (tiny) existing dam would be adequate! The moment they commissioned the new plant, management realised this evaluation was not even close to accurate.
They wanted to be panicking but they couldn’t, because they had all their investors and future buyers visiting! The place was packed with them, the first day we arrived, so we sort of sneaked in, spoke to the manager and the major shareholder and went about our business.
The orebody was mined until the mid 70’s when it was bombed during the war. The buildings were later used by a safari operator who held the hunting concession for the National Parks land. They built a “lapa” or large oval thatched building, (pictured below) to entertain their clients and when the property reverted to the mine, the new management used it to eat, and hold meetings; entertain investors!
With a kitchen at one end and a game viewing platform on the other, the lapa faces the setting sun, across the vlei. To one side is a sunken fire pit with seats built around it. The hunting season, here in Zimbabwe, spans the winter months, and its cold! Sitting under the wide African skies around a roaring fire, singing along to a guitar, is a favourite with hunters.
Right next to the kitchen are two ablution units, only one of which has a lock. With a thin common wall, they are not sound-proofed, each unit consisting of a loo separated from the shower by a low wall, (which is stupid really, because the water bounces off the wall and wets the loo seat, the loo rolls, your clothes etc…)
It’s pretty rudimentary, the pipes exposed and a hole in the wall for the water to drain out off. BUT for us, it was luxury. Most places we go, there is absolutely NO water, and certainly not a shower!
When I was shown the shower (the men’s ablutions, near the camping area are rather open plan!) I made a mental note to check for snakes. The number of times I have seen snakes in showers with a drain like that! Slittering along the outside wall, snakes head for a ‘dark hole,’ conveniently located near the ground, only to find themselves trapped inside a slippery cubicle.
The water is heated with this:
It’s called a “Donkey boiler,” in most parts of the world, but here in Zimbabwe, its called a “Rhodesian Boiler.” As you can see, its only a few metres tall, so the pressure isn’t enough for more than one person to shower at a time.
The day we arrived, the lapa was packed with people and it was pretty difficult to catch everyone’s name and occupation. I didn’t like to ask a question such as “Are you an investor in this mine?” only to have the reply, “No I’m a metallurgist…!”
But by the third day, most of the investors had left and the remainder were mostly checking on the plant, fixing glitches, or like us, catching up on things that should have been done long ago.
Coming in from the bush, dirty and sweaty, I went into the unit with the door-lock (I’d been told repeatedly by the camp manager that although these showers were not for general use, some people still went into them, too lazy to walk to the ablution block) and began showering.
When I heard someone go into the unit next to mine, I immediately rinsed off. I’ve been left too many times with soap suds all over me when someone turns on a second shower, reducing the flow to a dribble.
I dried off and about to get dressed, heard a distressed squeak from next door followed by a very quiet, wavering howl, “help…please no…” Followed by something else in a language I didn’t recognise.
The guy was clearly terrified, he wasn’t making up that noise, I knew.
Convinced that a snake had slithered through the drain, I wrapped the towel around my boobs and dashed off to the next door unit. I opened the door to find a man crouched on the partitioning wall, pale and shaking – pointing into the shower. I carefully peered around the edge of the half wall, (anticipating a poisonous jet from a spitting cobra) but…no snake. Nothing at all in the shower cubicle.
Something had turned this guy into a gibbering wreck, but I couldn’t see what.
“What is it?” I asked.
He didn’t reply, only pointed at the opposite wall.
I couldn’t see anything until a water droplet landed and a teenie tiny spider, smaller than a daddy long legs, dashed over to it, hoping it was prey.
“This?” I asked the guy. He nodded and shuddered. He pointed to several more I had not noticed, one of them on the loo side of the unit!
I picked the poor thing up (the spider, not the guy) and pushed it out through the drain hole. I chased the one on the loo side up the wall and out of the room. I handed the chap his towel and helped him off the wall.
And through all of this, I didn’t laugh once, I swear.
A little uncomfortable with discussing creepy crawlies and the dangers of snakes in showers, while dressed only in a towel, I scuttled next door intending to dress and make my way back to our tent.
When I opened the door, I found the guy standing outside, already fully dressed and looking more human! With his clothes on, I took a longer look at him. Mid forties I guessed, slim, wiry build, about six foot, dark hair just going grey; big nose.
“I’m terrified of spiders,” he said and I nodded. Duh!
“Actually all creepy crawlies. I can’t stand this place…” he shuddered. “It’s full of them, and then last night the lions…” Again I nodded. The lions had come right into the camp and spent most of the night roaring and growling right outside our tent. A man who was scared of a spider must have nearly died of fright at that sound!
“I thought it was a snake…” I began, but stopped before telling him I presumed it had slithered in through the drain hole. It was obvious that it hadn’t occurred to him that we get snakes too, as well as the creepy crawlies he abhorred.
He thanked me, over and over, begging me not to tell anyone, all the while speaking in a low voice as if he were scared someone would over-hear.
He had me crowded against the door and just when I thought I’d never get away, the camp manager interrupted us, concerned that my shower had been cut short!
“He is a foreigner,” he said, after he had shoo’d the guy away.
“He doesn’t know that two people can’t shower with this kind of boiler. And anyway, he is supposed to be showering in the camp ablutions there,” he said, pointing to a newly built block, visible behind the tents.
“I don’t recognise his accent,” I said.
“Oh, he’s Israeli. A minerals buyer,” he added. “Ex special forces. Extra tough guy.”
“Yup, all sorts of martial arts belts; can kill you with his bare hands, type guy. He goes all over the world buying, diamonds, gold, platinum…anything. You gotta be tough and able to protect yourself, be in dangerous places,” he added authoritatively. “And the Israeli Army is no walk in the park!”
Once again, I swear, I didn’t laugh!
I took my supper to the sunken fire pit and was immediately followed by this Israeli guy. He sat right next to me staring soulfully at me while I ate.
I tried to make conversation; change the subject away from spiders and lions. When that didnt work, I tried to talk to someone else, but he butted in, glaring and I guess since he had a reputation for being a scary type, the other guy backed off leaving me with Mr. Special Forces Man again!
I tried to make him laugh, to no avail! I could not get him to believe that I wouldn’t tell everyone I’d found him cowering in the shower! I couldn’t get him to change the subject either, away from creepy crawlies, or his HE man image. He told me over and over that he had spent years in the army, had killed people, infiltrated the enemy…blah blah blah
Clearly his enemy didn’t know, that all they need do, is throw a handful of spiders at their attacker and he would end up a jelly!
Staring deep into my eyes, he made me solemnly promise never to say anything to anyone about his fear of spiders. He insisted it would forever tarnish his reputation and he would lose the edge he had as a buyer of precious commodities! I got the feeling, that if I did break my promise, I’d be tracked down and made to pay!
Eventually I gave up trying to talk sense into him and went to bed but for a whole year, this story has been burning a hole in my brain.
I’m sure by now, Mr Special Forces Tough Guy has forgotten about his trip to darkest Africa, to the mine full of creepy crawlies, snakes and lions and women who gently persuade spiders to vacate the shower.
Well here’s hoping…!