Victoria ... shopping“I need to run into town to pick up a few things.”

These are dreaded words. Hated. And although ‘progress’ has made it a more simple process to find some of the necessary items, the process itself continues to be … well … an adventure?

Victoria, being very small for a national capital, may seem like an easily navigable undertaking, and it possibly could be; park the car, walk all over town and someone named Robert is your mother’s brother. Being, however, the only game in town … or rather the only town in country … makes it the de rigueur destination of the entire population of Seychelles, including that Robert guy and your mother, on any given day.

No parking ...

No parking …

Twenty years back there were fewer cars, so easier parking, and since the increase in autos dictated changes (apparently designed by a schizophrenic crack addict) the traffic flow doesn’t and parking places are few, far between and difficult to get to. There has been additional parking added — that near Marine Charter, for example — but getting there requires a spin of the Trois Oiseau roundabout, now perpetually blocked by the addition of a stop light near Caravelle House a couple of hundred meters further down the road, and if your search turns out to be futile it’s a long and frustrating way back to try again.

Shopping is easier, though, as there is more stuff. Much more stuff. It’s been years since fights broke out over buckets and fans, as items like those are now almost ubiquitous, albeit expensive and not likely to last long … and come with user guides explaining in Chinese why your fan just broke.

The egret is optional

The egret is optional

Shops can be jammed with a bazillion different and non-related items, so it still takes local knowledge to discover which shop might have what when. Still not as confusing as the days when the only shop that sold women’s undergarments had a stack of car tires at the front door. Need eyeliner? Try the Chinese shop on Market Street with the running shoes in the window. How about a haircut? Up the stairs next to the place that sells hammers and washing machines, down the hall, last door on the right. Looking to get a tattoo? The place in the souvenir shop across from Bank of Baroda, up the stairs in the back might still be operational. Out of nail polish remover? Sorry. Napa.

(Napa … Creole for ‘we-ain’t-got-none-but-did-last-month-so-you-should-have-bought-seven-then-and-no-I-don’t-know-anywhere-there-might-be-some-so-bugger-off.)

Friends visiting Seychelles would sometimes get a bit bored with beaches … or burnt … and need a day doing something a bit more active. I would give them a list of 10 items, normal-sounding things like tweezers and shoelaces, and send them off to town to find as many as possible. Having no idea what they were in for, and scoffing at my description of the day as a “Scavenger Hunt”, off they’d go, only to return many hours later exhausted, sweaty and sheepish as they’d hand over maybe two or three of the ten.

One of those "Look what I found" shopping moments.

One of those “Look what I found” shopping moments.

Shops in town are still bewildering, but not quite as bad as they were. The tendency of importers to buy whatever was going really, really cheap in China and India still appears to exist, but it’s been a long time since I’ve stumbled upon entire sections of shelving chock full of windscreen de-icer and “9-11 Super Funny Children’s Toys”. (A tiny track to race around with George Bush in a tank and Osama bin Laden on a skateboard.)

Today cheese is available and it’s been years since we’ve run out of onions or toilet paper. Shopping can be done without setting foot in Victoria proper, which is a blessing, but …

I need to run into town tomorrow to pick up a few things.

Sigh …

Let’s Talk Dirty

Man is a blind, witless, low brow, anthropocentric clod who inflicts lesions upon the earth. ~ Ian McHarg ~

That's the church ... just there behind all the garbage.

That’s the church … just there behind all the garbage.

It’s a Sunday, which in Seychelles means a large number of people have dressed in their best and wandered off to church. Everyone attending will be spick-and-span in well-laundered and neatly pressed garments, no few carrying a sifon soaked in cologne to fragrantly wipe away any dampness that may arise from the heat. Children will be fresh and tidy, scrubbed and anointed with smell-good powder and hair wrangled into neat dos.

If personal cleanliness is next to godliness, the Seychellois are close neighbors. Most shower at least twice a day and even work clothes are washed and dried and ironed. School children turn up every morning in crisp, clean uniforms toting rucksacks that have been scrubbed clear of dust, dirt and detritus. (Even before electricity was widely in place and washing machines became common household items, Seychellois women were assiduous in their scrubbing, either in streams or at concrete tables on which dirt was lathered, pounded and scraped away.) Gardens are swept. Houses are dusted and mopped and scoured.

It’s a common after-church activity to meet with friends and family for a picnic on a nearby beach. These are no small affairs. We’re not talking a basket with a few sandwiches and some munchables. No. A Seychelles Sunday picnic comes complete with a half-barrel barbecue and grill, tons of food — including at least one ginormous fish — loads of drink and a generator attached to fridge-sized speakers to make sure everyone within a mile gets to ‘enjoy’ the far-too-loud-and-distorted ‘music’ of choice for the day to truly be worthy the title ‘Sunday’.

contrariety that can’t be ignored rises when the Monday morning sun illuminates the beaches and reveals the undeniable fact that the scrubbed, cleaned, spotless, unsoiled, pristine, laundered, squeaky clean, as-clean-as-a-whistle Sunday morning folks’ idea of being in proximity to godliness doesn’t travel and personal responsibility for cleanliness doesn’t stretch beyond the clothes on their backs and the garden gate. When the party is over, the garbage is left where it lies.

Anse Royale

Beside the church at Anse Royale

And Man created the plastic bag and the tin and aluminum can and the cellophane wrapper and the paper plate, and this was good because Man could then take his automobile and buy all his food in one place and He could save that which was good to eat in the refrigerator and throw away that which had no further use.  And soon the earth was covered with plastic bags and aluminum cans and paper plates and disposable bottles and there was nowhere to sit down or walk, and Man shook his head and cried:  “Look at this Godawful mess.”  ~Art Buchwald


Where the river meets the sea at Anse Royale ..

Takeaway boxes, bottles, plastic everything, used condoms and syringes … nasty shit of all sorts … litter this beautiful island like oozing carbuncles on a syphilitic. “Embellishment Teams” may sweep the roadsides and blow leaves around, but cleanups of rivers and beaches are left to the one “Clean up the World Day” per year. 

Responsibility: A detachable burden easily shifted to the shoulders of God, Fate, Fortune, Luck or one’s neighbor. In the days of astrology it was customary to unload it upon a star. ~Ambrose Bierce, The Devil’s Dictionary

At Anse Royale School. Some lessons are not being learned.

At Anse Royale School. Some lessons are not being learned.

It’s not at all uncommon to see tidily-dressed kids jettison crisp wrappers, plastic bottles and empty tins along the road or chuck them into the bush. It is also common to watch their school teachers do the same as they make their way home.

Rural families often have a special place in the forest to toss their garbage which, of course, mounts up over years of being a depository for everything from dirty nappies to rusted refrigerators, from dead animals to dead batteries.

The contrast between neat and tidy homes occupied by neat and tidy people and the amount of refuse that gathers is as frightening as it is confusing. Did no one read “The Little Prince”?

“It’s a question of discipline,” the little prince told me later on. “When you’ve finished washing and dressing each morning, you must tend your planet.” ~Antoine de Saint-Exupéry

After heavy rains, the trash that has collected in rivers, streams, gutters and bush makes its way … where? … to the beach, of course, then into the sea.

We’re treating the oceans like a trash bin: around 80 percent of marine litter originates on land, and most of that is plastic. Plastic that pollutes our oceans and waterways has severe impacts on our environment and our economy. Seabirds, whales, sea turtles and other marine life are eating marine plastic pollution and dying from choking, intestinal blockage and starvation. Scientists are investigating the long-term impacts of toxic pollutants absorbed, transported, and consumed by fish and other marine life, including the potential effects on human health. ~ National Resources Defense Council ~

Sweet Escott, very near the EU 'project' ...

Sweet Escott, very near the EU ‘project’ …

An EU-funded project completed years ago to provide safe disposal of toxic materials and heavy metals sits behind a well-tended chainlink fence, and although the grass is cut regularly and air conditioning units grace a building on the site not one bit of sea-killing material has ever been deposited there, so all trash that is actually collected … and, yes, we do have a trash collection service that empties the roadside bins regularly … goes to the landfill, a purpose-built porous island on the seafront.

The Native American idea that ‘we do not inherit the earth from our ancestors, we borrow it from our children’ seems to be interpreted to mean ‘those leaking batteries our grandfather threw in the bush will do just fine beside the baby’s poopy diapers’.

The magnificence of mountains, the serenity of nature – nothing is safe from the idiot marks of man’s passing.  ~Loudon Wainwright

Photo credits: Karine le Brun

Source: Dead Refugees: The New Normal

Globally, one in every 122 humans is now either a refugee, internally displaced, or seeking asylum.~ UNHCR ~

Nakba-Palestinian_refugees-nakba-VTYou know those photos appearing everywhere … the ones of dead kids washing up on shores after desperate attempts get a new life? Sorry to break it to you, but you better get used to it. We are fast on our way to this becoming the new normal.

An article on NPR’s website today informs us that more than 300,000 people have headed for Europe so far this year from North Africa and the Middle East. As we learn every day, many don’t make it, dying in droves on the way. (The U.N. puts that number at 2,500 deaths at sea … so far.)

If you want one number to explain the mass movement today, start with 60 million. The U.N. says there are 60 million people displaced worldwide — the most since the U.N. started keeping records and the most since World War II.

The U.N. counts 15 new conflicts in the past five years, and the big one is Syria. More than 11 million Syrians have fled or been driven from their homes in that country’s civil war since it started in 2011.

The U.N., being rather good at counting, compiles numbers for us. Unfortunately, aside from its own PR there isn’t much else the organization does well … or at all. Those 15 new conflicts, for example, didn’t simply materialize instantly to take everyone by surprise. Anyone with an Internet connection saw them coming ages ago, building in bad attitude and weaponry, creepy coalitions and secretive dealings.

As if anything is secret these days! The country members of the United Nations have known exactly what was ahead, but did little to nothing to avoid the crisis that is now making headlines. Of course there are many reasons for the lack of action other than the usual ‘discussion’ mixed in with a bit of halfhearted ‘condemnation’ from time to time: disagreement over tactics; an inability to tell white hats from black hats, usually for self-serving nefarious reasons; lack of motivation mixed with a fear of discovery of their own agenda and so on.

But it’s not only institutions and governments that have neglected the signs of impending doom. More than 11 million Syrians saw it coming, too, and it didn’t pop out a box for them either.1408

The number is much higher than that 11 million, as there are more on their way every day, and aside from children included in the numbers all of them were there for the buildup to their horror getting on with life as they knew it … until they couldn’t.

That’s the way humans do it, isn’t it? Cruise along in their day-to-day right up to the moment they are personally presented with situations that have become unlivable?

Can we take a moment to imagine the impact more than 11 million Syrians might have made on their country and their future had they assumed some responsibility for the mess that was being created before them? Had more than 11 million Syrians dared to stand up, to speak their minds, to demand reason and humanity, to put time and energy into finding ways to make their world better for everyone how much of what is happening wouldn’t have.

Courage is reckoned the greatest of all virtues; because, unless a man has that virtue, he has no security for preserving any other.  ~Samuel Johnson

It’s a shame our species often sees more courage in pulling up stakes than in preserving and protecting was is dear. We have long made a hobby of fouling our own dens, then seeking greener pastures when the shit hits. That worked well for us when the world was bigger and wide-open spaces were available and accommodating, but those days are over. With the human population at this moment at 7,364,456, 853 and growing by around 166,243 people every single day our planet is congested and infested, a circumstance that creates conflict in and of itself.

But back to the ‘new normal’ idea …

Worldwide Displacement Hits All-time High As War And Persecution Increase

The headline on the U.N’s refugee agency, UNHCR, webpage brings up a worrying and interesting point, and the article underlines it:

Wars, conflict and persecution have forced more people than at any other time since records began to flee their homes and seek refuge and safety elsewhere, according to a new report from the UN refugee agency. UNHCR’s annual Global Trends Report: World at War said that worldwide displacement was at the highest level ever recorded. It said the number of people forcibly displaced at the end of 2014 had risen to a staggering 59.5 million compared to 51.2 million a year earlier and 37.5 million a decade ago.

You may note that, yes, the number of refugees has increased by more than 8 million people in one year and find that disturbing. What you may have missed, however, is that these almost 60 million are running away from the death and destruction of armed conflict … man-made political and religious fallout resulting in catastrophes that shift borders and pit one side or another against each other.

Imagine not too long into the future when it is a cataclysm of Earth itself.

In the five years between 2008 and 2013 more than 140 million people were displaced by severe weather. Disasters triggered by storms in just 2013 forced 14.2 million people to flee their homes.

And it’s only going to get worse. At this very moment THREE, count ‘em THREE category 4 hurricanes are swirling in the Pacific for the first time in recorded history. Storms are getting bigger, more dangerous, with every increase in global temperature, and those are climbing faster every year. Drought has the western U.S. burning and Papua New Guinea starving. Northern Hemisphere winters get colder and more deadly. Crops are failing or getting blown away all over the planet and coastlines are making beachfront out of what wasn’t.

And what are we humans doing? Cruising along in our day-to-day assuming that when the shit hits we can pick up sticks and move along when the time comes we’re personally presented with a situation that becomes unlivable.

So … about those photos of dead kids: get used to it.

Coward:  One who, in a perilous emergency, thinks with his legs.  ~Ambrose Bierce “The Devil’s Dictionary”

House, n.  A hollow edifice erected for the habitation of human, rat, mouse, beetle, cockroach, fly, mosquito, flea, bacillus, and microbe.  ~ Ambrose Bierce, The Devil’s Dictionary

Life is all around!

Life is all around!

Ah … tropical island life! So green and lush and moist and warm, so full of life.

Unlike other parts of Africa we have no giraffes loping gracefully over open plains, nor do we have open plains. You won’t find lions lounging in prides in the shade under acacias, even though we do have acacias. The huge saltwater crocodiles that once inhabited this island have been extinct for two centuries, so the only predator species filling the top spot is Homo sapiens and we’re far from indigenous.

Still, everywhere your eye might rest there are critters, some of which are autochthonous like our fruit bats that have become their own unique version of chiroptera. The list of endemic reptiles includes thirteen types of lizard, two snake species, and of course the Aldabra Giant Tortoise, which visitors are far more likely to see than either our wolf snake or house snake. (In my twenty-plus years here I have seen ONE live snake. A few dead ones, unfortunately, since although the animals are completely harmless and could, if allowed, take a toll on the rat population, Seychellois are terribly ophiophobic.)

Every house has geckos; entertaining little critters that chirp like birds and scamper over seemingly impossible surfaces as they

Sweet little baby gecko!

Sweet little baby gecko!

munch on bugs. Tourists not accustomed to sharing space with lizards sometimes freak out and no few have alerted hotel staff to the “baby crocodiles on the ceiling” … really.

Birds are everywhere: mynas, fodies, doves, blue pigeons, bulbuls and such are common and spend time on verandas. Beautiful kestrels are rarer, but can be seen if you’re lucky.

A myna likes to bathe in the dogs' water bowl.

A myna likes to bathe in the dogs’ water bowl.

Sea birds are less common on Mahé, but legion on some of the islands. A trip to Bird Island delivers just what the name promises with over 700,000 pairs of sooty terns nesting. (For diehard birders … “another phenomena especially in October to December, arises from the geographical location of Bird Island on the northern edge of the Seychelles Bank. This means it is the first landfall for migratory Euarasian birds …” )

And like everywhere else in the world, we have a lot of bugs.

It is estimated that at any given moment, Earth is home to a billion billion insects. Spread out evenly over the land surface, this would be nearly 8,000 insects per square meter!

Yep. Creepy crawlies abound, although if you try to learn what’s here through Wikipedia you’ll come up short. Some, like bees, are helpful. Some (centipedes come to mind) are horrible. Spiders the size of a kid’s hand aren’t everyone’s cup of tea. We have ants that are yellow and crazy, mean sand flies and … sigh … mosquitos. Not the type that vector malaria, thankfully, but bite and itch and can transmit dengue fever, a miserable illness I can personally attest to the misery of … twice. I’m so not a fan of these asshole insects that global eradication would be just fine with me. And I’m not alone in this …

“it’s difficult to see what the downside would be to removal, except for collateral damage”, says insect ecologist Steven Juliano, of Illinois State University.

Fun with a Rhinoceros Beetle.

Fun with a Rhinoceros Beetle.

On the bug front, however, we also have a very cool Rhinoceros Beetle, and since coconut plantations no longer support the country I’m okay with them. They’re big enough to be considered more like a dog than a bug, as is evidenced by their presence in the pet trade. Thankfully I get to play with them for free.

1978663_10153161808111928_7666657526912481160_nAnyone who knows me or follows me on Facebook or Instagram is familiar with my love of sunsets. I post loads of photos of the show on display as days end, each new, all different and spectacular in their own way and worthy of attempts to capture at least a fraction of the show.

“When I look at a sunset, I don’t find myself saying, ‘Soften the orange a bit on the right hand corner.’ I don’t try to control a sunset. I watch with awe as it unfolds.” ~ Carl R. Rogers

I doubt there are many people who can have such a display in front of them without it triggering that awe and the deep thoughts that should, by rights, follow the experience of the sky sharing its glory with us puny humans. Dropping into the horizon, we become acutely aware of the Earth’s rotation and can be dizzied by how fast we’re spinning. The changing shapes of clouds prompt notions of animals, faces … and the occasional Starship Enterprise … to pop into mind, stirring imagination and rumination. Colors shift constantly and dramatically, often fleetingly causing wonder if this shade or that hue has ever before been noticed.

10996037_10153174300731928_6012042621209276529_nI can easily understand the compulsion of the ancients to come up with wacky theories about the why and wherefore of the setting sun: a god driving a golden chariot across the sky daily; Navajo people of the American Southwest portray their sun god as a worker named Jóhonaa’éí, or sun bearer. Every day Jóhonaa’éí laboriously hauls the sun across the sky on his back; myths of monsters or evil spirits that steal or devour the sun or stories of the sun falling from the heavens or withdrawing its light for a time. How else to explain something so huge, so life-impacting, so spectacular at a time next-to-nothing was known?

It’s with emphasis on the spectacular that I am confused, disappointed and outraged by the fact that people in 2015 continue to chalk up this marvelous daily spectacle to mundane, simplistic and tattered ideas trotted out 2000 years ago by illiterates. They’re missing out on so much.

What I have done is to show that it is possible for the way the universe began to be determined by the laws of science. In that case, it would not be necessary to appeal to God to decide how the universe began. This doesn’t prove that there is no God, only that God is not necessary. ~ STEPHEN HAWKING

That we live on a planet with water and atmosphere enough to create a sunset is wonder enough for anyone … or should be. We revolve around our sun and rotate on our axis, so planning for sunset appreciation is easy. What could possibly motivate so many to opt out of the amazement the natural world provides in favor of acceptance of the moves of some cheesy magician trick? “Watch me pull a rabbit/sunset/rainbow/whatever out of my hat … or ass …”

11012937_10153167014596928_3107568570031190133_nHow believers cheat themselves out of true appreciation for the world around us! Dodging knowledge, learning, thought, wonder, for the sake of convenient indolence is an offense to humanity and our struggle to reach personal pinnacles of fascination and surprise during our lifetimes, and how can that struggle not be better than the shoulder shrug that is “God did it.”?

It may be — I hope it is — redemption to guess and perhaps perceive that the universe, the hell which we see for all its beauty, vastness, majesty, is only part of a whole which is quite unimaginable. ~ WILLIAM GOLDING

As yet another power cut finds me with time, and no little sweat, on my hands, it occurs I actually have something to write about. (Yeah, yeah …)

Getting ready for a feed.

Getting ready for a feed.

While perspiration gets the better of me I’m watching adult fodies on the feeder teach their second clutch of chicks how to take advantage of the easy sustenance, the occasional myna bully notwithstanding. The dogs are flat out and panting. The cat has long since lost interest in the poor skink he tortured to death earlier. Even the plants have thrown in the towel, or the leaf, or whatever.

The only member of the household with any energy at all this early afternoon is Sparky, the tenrec. At the moment she’s scampering around behind me on the couch and trying to skootch her way up into my lap, a position not terribly comfortable for me when hunching over my Mac on the coffee table in front of me.

You see, tenrecs are pokey; not in the move-real-slow-and-slug-like pokey, but rather the ouch variety. They have quills. In fact they’re covered in short, sharp pointy hair-like structures meant to ward off the many animals that would enjoy making lunch out of them.

Unlike British hedgehogs, tenrecs cannot roll themselves into a ball for protection, so along with the pointy body armor comes a mouthful of tiny razors that can make hash of absurdly large centipedes and yank giant African Land Snails from their baby-shoe-sized shells.

Some scale on size.

Some scale on size.

The most fecund of all mammals, litters of tenrecs can number well into double digits, 32 little ones being the known max with 10 to 20 the norm. Mom leads them from the birthing nest into the wild very early and protocol dictates they follow her in single file, so it happens that those at the end of the line sometimes take a wrong turn and end up where they shouldn’t be, like in the mouth of a dog or cat or at the bottom of a ridge they have no chance of conquering. This would be the reason I’ve ended up raising 11 of them over the past few years.

The first that came to me was a little guy we called Riki. He was somewhere around two weeks old and very obviously not in a good place for a baby tenrec; along the side of the road trying like hell to scale a 12’ tall sheer wall of rock. Stopping the car to pick him up was a reflex action on my part, having no idea how I would care for this odd, spiky dudelette or if it was safe to handle one.

I had, of course, seen them in passing here and recalled a pair who lived at the Sacramento Zoo when I worked there, but those were kept in the Education Building and out of my sphere of knowledge.

Google being my go-to source, I went to and was surprised to find the top search results had nothing to to with caring for tenrecs and everything to do with cooking them. Although a recipe for wine sauce sounded nice, it was certainly not helpful under the circumstance. (Native to Madagascar, they were introduced into Seychelles by settlers from Reunion as a food source. They still eat them there and in Mauritius. In Seychelles, no.)

Further digging eventually led me to articles on basic care and feeding, as well as sites that sold tenrecs as exotic pets in the US, the UK and other lands far distant from all tenrec roots in the Indian Ocean. They were, however, helpful and informative and I was happy to learn that due to import restrictions and such tenrecs had been tested for just about every ailment known by and contagious to mankind. They neither get nor carry rabies, foot-and-mouth or leptospirosis, and although it wasn’t mentioned I quickly found out they’re not even popular with fleas.
Successful raising and eventual release of Riki was followed by the same for Rocky, Rinny, Tiny, Tango and a handful of others, some with me for short times, others longer, depending on how big they were when rescued and how adept they were are sorting things out for themselves. All were released in my garden, which may account for an increasing number of babies needing help right at my doorstep, but given the benefits of tenrec control on snails, centipedes and baby rats, it seems a fair trade.

Plus, each has been different in its own way and all have taught me more about their care. I’d syringe fed all at the beginning, so none were ever aggressive with me, but it was clear being handled stressed them and it never occurred to me that actually taming might happen, which was fine. They’re primitive creatures, one of the oldest mammals on the planet, and haven’t changed much at all since they shared the Earth with dinosaurs. Their evolution happening before there were humans, it made sense that my species would hold about as much significance for them as a column of sentient light would to me, just blending into the general scenery and only scary in cases of direct contact.


Cozy time.

Then came Sparky.

It may have been the case that the dogs discovered a nest. When I glanced out the kitchen window and saw my dog, Flee, playing with something on the drive it seemed too small to be anything but a rhinoceros beetle or some other big bug, but I went for a look anyway. (I do like rhino beetles, so would have saved one of those, too.)

What it was, of course, was a baby tenrec about the size of my thumb, probably less than a week old, and, thankfully, not worse for the wear it had experienced as a squishy toy. Flee dropped her at my feet and I brought her inside for what was now the usual treatment.

I keep a small wire cage just for the purpose, so kitted it out in banana leaves and other browse and half a coconut husk as a den, then put the baby in, closed the door and let her recover from her ordeal. (You’ll note I’m referring to Sparky as ‘her’, but at the time I had no idea of the gender. Sparky actually started out as Spartacus, dubbed so by my son, Sam. He’s 12, so no surprise there.)

A few hours later, she took well to the syringe … I feed yogurt with a bit of egg yoke to start with and provide water … and continued to settle in nicely. I worried a bit because she seemed a bit less robust than others I’d raised, less skittish, so watched her for any signs of internal damage Flee have have caused.

She loves being petted.

She loves being petted.

All of the other tenrecs extended great effort in evading my hand when retrieving them from the cage for feeding. Most would rifle under the leaf letter, then climb the wire to monkey-bar along the top in brief panic as I wrestled them out, only settling when enclosed in my palm. Sparky didn’t do this. In fact, it was only about a week before I noticed her actually approaching me.

I must admit I went a bit Sally Field for a while … She likes me! She really likes me! … but it was a tremendous privilege to have this amazing little creature respond in ways even a puny human like me could interpret as a connection.

That was five months ago, and the connection continues. When I walk up to Sparky’s house now she wakes up, gives a big yawn, then waddles from her coconut husk, or wherever she’s been lounging, and greets me at the door. She wanders on to my open palm when the door opens and we cuddle on the couch for a while. She loves to be petted and scratched, so I dig my fingers into her quills and give her skin a good tickle, removing loose spines as I go, then stroke her soft underbelly as she closes her eyes and gets into the mood.

In the evenings she joins Pat and me on the couch for movie time and meanders back and forth between and behind us, occasionally pushing the cat out of the way to do so. Her nose perpetually sniffing the air, quills raised on the back of her head when she tries to climb up the back of the sofa and always grateful for a hand up.

She even likes the cat ... sort of.

She even likes the cat … sort of.

I don’t know if anyone else has ever enjoyed the honor of tenrec love, but would not be surprised to learn that Sparky is one of a kind.

She’s five months old now, growing as she should, and just as sweet and funny a critter as I could have imagined. I’m hoping this continues and, with a potential lifespan of 8+ years, that she’s with me for a long, long time.

(Sparky’s diet consists of just about everything, her favs being cherry yogurt and roast chicken. She also gets egg, liver, papaya, banana, fish and whatever else we have on hand. She also always has fresh water and a small dish of dirt that she enjoys. Minerals! She may be a bit spoiled, as she has no interest whatsoever in snails, but, then again, I’ve never cooked them in garlic for her.)


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