Sunday, February 20, 2011

Monkeys in my hair!

I don't like monkeys! I think that they smell absolutely awful and I know exactly how they smell.

We would go to Beira, Mozambique for long weekends. Our family was extensive and several times a year we would gather at some beautiful places; Hot Springs and Mermaid Pools, both in Rhodesia (Zimbabwe) were two other memorable spots. In the Dutch Reformed Church, in the early days, 4 times a year, people gathered for Nachtmaal. Everyone lived very far apart and gathering together more regularly for church was impossible. Families literally lived, using their ox-wagons as travel, weeks apart. So the church came up with Nachtmaal to be able to christen babies, perform weddings and collect money. I often thought that my family had got into the habit of Nachtmaal and never given it up. The same holidays were celebrated at the same places, Easter at Hot Springs, Founders Day at Mermaid pools and so on, it seemed that everyone always knew where each other would be gathered As children, we loved it, we could count on catching up with cousins, aunts and uncles regularly.

In Beira, we learned to speak a rudimentary Portugese. I ate pot after pot of mussels, roller skated around the Grande Hotel in my scandalous “Hot Pants” listening to Melanies song “Brand New Key”, also scandalous, and helped to dig holes on the beach that reached to China. The last time we visited Beira was 1974 or 1975, I was 8 or 9 years old. I loved Beira!

On one of our first visits to Beira, I was about 5 or 6, we went to the zoo. My Daddy bought me a bag of peanuts to feed to the monkeys. A chain link pen enclosed many of them, I bet there were fifty in there. The chain link formed a roof too and the monkeys could not get out. At this point of my life, I had no reason to believe that monkeys were anything but cute, cute little ears, eyes, noses, arms and the cutest of all, their nimble fingers.

I stood with my back to the monkey cage and watched the HUGE lion. I was astounded at how big he was, and I ate peanuts, the monkeys' peanuts and behind me the monkeys got louder and frantic. They knew that the peanuts were for them and I turned in time to see sweet little fingers attached to hairy little arms stretched through the fence. I was inclined to share but there was a short wall separating me from the monkeys and I couldn't reach them even when I stretched out my hairless little arms. So I climbed the wall and the minute I reached the fence, a hundred monkey arms grabbed me. They held me against that fence by my ear, nose, clothes and hair. I screamed bloody murder and my father vaulted the fence to save my stinkified rear end. The monkeys retreated with the battered bag of peanuts to a corner of their world to eat them.

I remember screaming for hours, until my mother put me in the bath, scrubbing off the top layer of my skin, so that I no longer smelled like them. To this day, I can't stand a monkey. Every experience I have ever had with a primate has been a negative one. Maybe I need to do some belief work!

When the war hit Rhodesia, it also destroyed Mozambique. The Grande Hotel became the terrorists headquarters and after the war several thousand refugees took over. The squatters still live there today, the glory of Beira is no more.


Danielle-in-England said...

So sad what war can do to a wonderful place. Being grabbed by monkeys sounds terrifying, even now. Good thing your dad was there to save you :)

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