Monday, 27 May 2013

A spot of malaria on the Webi Shabelle - Somalia

The ritual at the start of each day in the fields around Baidoa was a visit to a young entrepreneur at the entrance to town with a large mound of coconuts and a panga. For a few shillings you had a freshly opened coconut and they were delicious.

The market

Another routine was to walk the irrigation ditches to check they were in good order. 

One morning with a bout of malaria simmering below the surface, I came to a reed bed outside of town and out stepped a few feet in front of me a bird of jaw dropping height. It did not look up, rather it stared straight forward, more curious than alarmed.  After a minute or so of complete silence between us on that deserted track, it turned away and vanished back into the reeds, leaving only the hum of cicadas in the intense heat.

A verdant landscape rife with malaria and dengue
When I reported the encounter to my Somali friends, they exchanged looks, fell silent and quickly changed the subject. Gerald Hanley’s experience with the spirit world in these parts came to mind and  I was left to wonder if it was just malaria that has left me with the distinct feeling that I had just met with something far more elemental than possibly the largest Saddlebill Stork in existence.