Voyages & Découvertes

Homing Zig and Zag

Wednesday 9 November 2011 by Stephan Mardaga

All starts with a short conversation with Sanjay, my co tenant, on things and others of life at the country side and common youth experiences, like bringing cows to the meadows. Then I speak of a friend, Daniela on a mission in Chad who told me she had a very nice duck. “A duck!”, isn’t that great, why not have two in order to have a family?

I talk about it at work, and a guardian tells me he can easily find one. Well perhaps a bit expensive for me, but we will see at the time of purchase. He tells me that he possesses a menagerie with several farm animals. A meeting will be arranged by phone for this week-end.

Sunday afternoon, I phone him and he gives me an appointment. Sanjay and I go to the edge of the road from which he will bring us to his place. Then he starts a conversation with someone else and tells me that this person knows where the key of the gate is and that he needs to go and get it at the other end of town. What? What is this mess? Why not have told me earlier on the phone? He does his best to arise a feeling of guilt in me (which is a national sport here), telling me that I had not asked him earlier and that he was taken wrong- footed. He proposes to bring me the ducks at work the following day. I refuse and demand to see them first in order to have a choice. He hesitates and mumbles mild apologies. Then he asks me "What are we going to do about it?". Well, I calmly say : "when you are ready, gives me a call".

When we were on our way back home, we decided to go and explore, and so instead of taking a left, we took a right continuing the road that leads towards the river. Also, I wanted to see what had become Island hospital which MSF had left. The maternity section is now forsaken, there are no more counter shops and drink shops like the ones of Mamusu which was the meeting place at lunch break with nurses and mothers with their babies. The place is now empty and it reminds me great moments with a touch of nostalgia.

At the end of the track, we had to turn back. At the time we were turning back, I see Brooks, a former guardian of the compound who was eating on the terrace of his father’s house. I call him and he recognizes me, so we talk about the facts of life and then, I tell him we are looking to buy two ducks. “I can help you” he says, and so off we went.

Having left the car near a mechanics workshop, we walked in between the muddy puddles and arrived at a group of houses in the community in which he lives. He puts us in contact with an intermediate person who is talking to a lady inside her house. After a misunderstanding on the size of the animal : not a huge animal to roast but two ducklings : a male and a female. No problem : we have a whole family. We agree on the price : Two ducklings for the price of a big duck. The woman comes out of the house seeming interested, a neighbour arrives to share a cigarette and Brooks catches the two ducklings. I propose to take a picture and discretely, a young boy decides to join the group. After the shooting, he leaps with joy and we all have a good laugh.

Say? How do you recognize a male from a female ? It is easy, a woman tells me, it is like humans : males are big and strong, whereas the females are smaller and thinner. Well, there is no point in starting an argument, it is almost night and we have to get back to the car. Sanjay tells me that the mother duck is observing us and so, I can not help it, I thank her and tell her not to worry about her children.

Back home, the ducklings are quite frightened. But Sanjay knew how to take care of it, more by intuition rather than by experience. After a few days, they were accustomed to their new environment and walked freely. At first, my neighbours would phone me and let me know that the ducklings were in their garden, but later they were just a part of the background.

Fine, by then we had to find them names, so they were going to be Zig and Zag. I am waiting impatiently to see a complete family develop, cackling and walking in single file. But wait! They are brother and sister ! We will have to find other ones.

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