Tony, the student who is working with us for six months, (and with whom I share an office) (and a house) came into the office yesterday after having been on site and asked me ‘have you seen what they’ve caught? It’s like a creature; I’ve not seen one before... like an armadillo or something’. Having been here for a year, I was fairly unimpressed – these random things tend to happen and unfortunately you get used to it! So, I just replied with ‘oh is it worth a look?’
Anyway, I wandered out, and indeed, there, hiding in a cement sack in the corner of the security hut, was a little, scaly, long tailed armadillo!
The security and some of the drivers were standing round, stopping it from escaping, and when I foolishly asked what they were going to do with it, they answered ‘they will chop it!’ Unfortunate, but true – chop meaning ‘to eat’! One of the foremen had caught it and was planning to take it home for his dinner – apparently they are sweet and tender...!
Our nurse, Agnes, who is as crazy as they come, asked me ‘Madame Aleeeeesss, have you chop one before?’ to which I almost yelled ‘NO! I have NOT chopped a flippin’ ARMADILLO before, at home we have those things in ZOOS, not on dinner plates!’
To me, it highlighted another difference in attitudes between us. I wanted to take a photo, and the guys were dragging the poor thing by it's tail to get it in a place where I could photo it. Then, when in sheer terror it curled up in a little ball they poked at it to try and make it un-curl! I tried to tell them to leave it alone, it was scared, but the concept of an animal being scared seemed alien. I guess they weren’t brought up on programmes like ‘The Really Wild Show’!
It was similar when our driver brought in a monkey to show us. They tied the monkey on a short leash to the fencing around the compound, and he seemed distressed – he was constantly running backwards and forwards, up and down the fence, at the full extent of the leash. Again, protests from me that it was ‘cruel’ just met with giggles.
It’s not the first time the attitude to animals surprised me. Often when I’m looking at a new creature someone will chase it and catch it for me to look at closer, or sometimes even just kill it if they think I am distressed by it! (Although when it comes to snakes, I can understand killing them!) There was an adorable little puppy at one of the houses the company was taking over – I was ‘coo-cooing’ at it, gently, and someone grabbed it and thrust it into my hands; meanwhile the puppy’s mum was going ballistic at my ankles!