The curse of the chicken January 11, 2007Posted by isabelleinnamibia in Out of the city, Peculiarities, Raaah!.
As shrewdly noticed by my cousin Nick, it does seem rather unusual that a vegetarian would contract salmonella poisoning, which is most commonly caused by meat. Well the truth is that I had fallen off the vegetarian wagon. Before the trip, I had sampled bits of chicken at braais, often when it looked more appetising than another bowl of salad. But only the odd bit. But something overcame me as we began our trip, where I became slightly obsessed with grilled chicken, particularly after eating some beautifully spiced specimens at our friend Hesron’s homestead in Rundu on our first night. After that, I craved opportunities where I could get some; one day my only conversation was about how I had to find some chicken, but kept shying away from the unhealthy morsels offered on the side of the road. But I did get involved if it looked appetising and safe enough. I even ate turkey on Christmas day.
The last day driving to the lake was quite stressful, particularly as Malawi has absolutely no road signs, let alone any suggesting how far you might be from your destination. The last 300km or so was along the lakeside, dotted with one-way rickety bridges, pot-holes and bustling villages which started as promptly as they ended. I was driving the last stretch, cruising along at a healthy speed in between these obstacles, concerned that we wouldn’t make it by sundown. As we approached the largest town along the lake, I began to steadily decelerate, concentrating hard on spotting any sudden movements from the various dogs, goats and people on bikes filing down each side of the street. Out of nowhere, a large rooster sprinted out onto the road, I yelped, DOOF. It was too late. In the rear view mirror, I saw an explosion of feathers, which quickly gathered a small crowd of people. In total shock and slight fear from being lynched by the locals, I kept driving straight on, and left the village as quickly as possible. I was distraught, still am, I have never killed anything bigger than a mouse before (stupid mouse ran around on a newly bleached kitchen floor – but I still felt bad). And it was a big rooster – no doubt someone’s prized chook, being saved for someone’s wedding. Joost couldn’t stop laughing and was just relieved that I didn’t swerve to avoid it.
On arrival at the lake, I was still quite shaky, but soon forgot about it. The next morning, Joost called me over to show me the cluster of sticky feathers clinging to the car’s under-carriage. But a closer inspection revealed a massive dent in the metal work – damn rooster. Luckily it’s quite hidden, and Joost has a good sense of humour about it. On telling the Malawian volunteers about this incident, they asked, ‘did you stop to find the owner?’ ‘Er, nope. Should I have?’ Apparently the protocol on running over someone’s livestock is to stop, find the owner and pay them for it. Oh. Makes sense, but we didn’t.
I don’t think it is just a coincidence that I got salmonella poisoning – I think it’s a curse, the curse of the chicken, from the owner of that rooster. We should have stopped. But I’ve learnt my lesson. If you hit it, pay for it. And don’t eat chicken served in a nightclub.
Needless to say, not a morsel of any once-feathery creature has since passed my lips.