About a month ago we took a day trip to Tera. We had heard that a Christian, who was an influential man in the community and in the government, had died suddenly of a heart attack. We wanted to go up and greet the family. We took two Australian ladies who are teachers at Sahel Academy with us. It was a good day for them to get out and see something other than the big city. They visited with us in four different homes and got to see four different economic levels of living.
The family of the man who died was quite wealthy, so they saw a big cement house with pretty nice furniture. Then we went to our former next-door neighbors who live in a grass hut, which is pretty much about as poor as you can get. Then we went to our other neighbor's house who live in a three-room mud house in a very dirty compound. Lastly, we went to Suzanne's friend's house. She lives in a small house, but she has some linoleum on the floor and some simple furniture and a TV.
In between all this visiting, we went down by the river for a picnic. We found a very shady place surrounded by green grasses (it was the rainy season). We had a very pleasant picnic and nobody came to stand around and watch these strange white people eat. When we were done eating, Suzanne headed back to the truck which we had parked a small distance away. All of a sudden she screamed and came racing back towards us. Something was running in the grass straight towards her. We couldn't see it until it got down to the river.
It was a monitor lizard! Monitor lizards are quite shy of people, but they have strong powerful jaws. Because of their size, they make a tasty meal and the Songhai will always chase monitors, kill them, and have a little meat to add to the pot. Suzanne's heart beat finally returned to normal and we went on with our visiting. When we told Maimouna the story, she said that traditionally the Songhai (who live along the river), upon sighting a monitor lizard, would sing a special song to it. The lizard would stop in its tracks, mesmerized by the special monitor lizard song being sung to it. The hunter could then kill it and have it for supper.
Here is a picture of a monitor lizard that was killed and, yes, eaten, on the Sahel Academy compound a few years back. Daniel has eaten monitor lizard, but I can't say I ever have (or want to!).