Thursday Doors Zambia

Monkey Business

Cotton-wool clouds, blue sky, muddy lagoon. Luangwa.

OK it was Sunday, not Thursday. They didn’t get in through the Door. But I am still submitting this via Norm’s blog.

Sunny Sunday morning, driving back home from a successful trip to the park (watched lions mating), it seemed as though all was well with the world. When I parked outside my house there was an explosion of activity. A small army of vervet monkeys were cackling on the verandah, scattering skins of fruit, bags of nuts and dried noodles. My fruit, my nuts, my noodles. How had they broken into my house?

I saw one small monkey hanging off the window frame beside the locked door. Inside it, the anti-mosquito screen had been clawed open. This was a similar MO to the baboon burglary which happened a few weeks before I arrived. (Someone had threaded a rubber toy snake through the window security bars to deter future attacks. When I first saw the snake, I got the shock of my life, but obviously familiarity breeds contempt.)

I shouted loudly and waved my arms. The monkeys scattered, some into the trees, some onto the roof and others went back into my house. I unlocked the door and screamed. Bad move. As I was standing in the doorway, the monkeys couldn’t escape that way, so they fled deeper into the house.

I left the door open and ran into the spare room, slipping on fruit skins, black papaya seeds and monkey shit. One monkey went into the bathroom, leapt onto the dividing wall between shower and toilet and had explosive diarrhoea. His aim was worse than the average bloke, missing the toilet bowl by a couple of feet (mine). The monkey jumped at the windows, but the mosquito mesh held and he bounced off, had another go, then scampered past me back to the kitchen.

Another monkey grabbed a packet of instant noodles and scarpered into the garden. Although they were dry and crunchy, he devoured them in a couple of seconds. He didn’t need Three Minutes, but he left behind the foil sachet of mystery-meat flavouring.

One monkey stole my precious packet of nuts coated with chilli crust and climbed a tree. I threw a rock at him, trying to get him to drop the packet, but it just convinced him of the value of his prize. The rock narrowly missed the car on the way down. I’ll never see those nuts again. Then he tried to piss on me from above, just to rub it in.

These are innocent! Baby baboons, not vervets

Back in the house, I realised that a monkey had gone into my bedroom. I screamed and shouted, causing him to attempt an escape via a closed glass window. He bounded up the wall and over the rafters, running across the top of my mosquito bed net. He went into the bathroom but I hesitated following him as he might become a vicious vervet when cornered. I looked for a weapon in the kitchen, grabbed a wooden spoon and ran back to the bathroom, only to see him flee over the wall to the bedroom and out the door.

I took a deep breath (bad move, considering the stench of monkey shit) and surveyed the damage. The kitchen was a wreck. The monkeys had tried to get into anything which might contain something edible. They had scattered tea bags over the counter, but luckily the Tupperware containers which F gave to me last week kept them out of the sugar and muesli.

I had bought lots of fruit from the Mission Market Garden which needed ripening outside the refrigerator. The papaya must have been the monkeys’ first target. All that remained were some black seeds from inside. The butternut squash had vanished, too. I have trouble peeling squash but the monkeys ate the lot. The guavas had all gone and the passion fruit with thinner skins had been ripped open. Inedible debris littered the floor. Surprisingly they couldn’t get into the thick, green-skinned oranges. The waste bin was on its side, contents raked through and scattered over the floor.

Everywhere I looked there was monkey shit. Some waste was formed and solid, but most was fruity and liquid. I had no idea that guavas went through monkey intestines so swiftly. Perhaps the liquid shit was the result of panic, as they had been caught in the act. It is not unusual for burglars to defaecate at the scene of the crime, scared shitless, adrena-diarrhoea.

Another innocent. An albino baboon baby in the Park

The vervets had shit on the fridge, on the wall, on the table, on the floor, in the bathroom and worst of all, on top of my mosquito net. There was a greeny-brown patch, surrounded by a damp stain of urine, right above where I sleep. It was beginning to ooze through the material.

I set to work cleaning and scouring. I used up a whole toilet roll (no kitchen paper available) and a litre of bleach. I mopped and swept out the kitchen, brushing the debris onto my sandy garden. To my surprise, an army of ants decided to bring small chunks of fruit BACK into the house for their tea. They even brought a small caterpillar with them (for the main course?).

My neighbour A helped me untie the net from the bamboo frame slung from the rafters, without slopping the faeces onto my sheets. Of course, there was also a month’s worth of gecko turds, dust and dead spiders on the top of the net. I took it over to his house where he hosed it down, before putting it in the washing machine. Despite a heavy duty wash, the net was still stained when it emerged. We arranged it on the washing line. The lady who comes in four mornings a week will hand wash it with “Boom” washing powder. (She did a great job and it now looks pristine.)

People who have been burgled often feel defiled, dirty and soiled by the intrusion into their private sanctum. I had similar feelings, but also in a physical sense. In a way, doing all the cleaning helped to relieve the disgust I felt. I wanted to shower, but the thought of standing where the monkey had crapped put me off, and I went to the lodge swimming pool for a chlorinated dip.

When we examined the portal of entry, it was clear that the wooden frame of the screening had warped in the humidity of the rainy season. The catch was flimsy and easily broken by the marauding monkeys. A brought his tool kit and screwed in the catches. I patched up a broken window with cardboard and locked a window where the screen had been shredded.

Crime Scene

A kindly gave me a plastic box with a hinged lid and snap catches to store food in the future. He called it an ammunition box. If only it had been filled with ammunition and I had had a gun, I mused. Monkey apocalypse!

PS Only later that evening, lying in bed did I look up and see a streak of diarrhoea on one of the rafters, directly above my head. Luckily I still had some toilet paper and bleach left.