The sounds and smells of Machava

The weaver birds are starting to weave in one big thorn tree in the middle of the compound. It’s a noisy business: the husband does all the weaving, and if the wife isn’t impressed, they argue about it and then she just tips the nest out of the tree and he has to start again. Standards are high: a scattering of failed nests builds up under the tree, until the boys discover how good they are for lighting fires.

It’s not only the kids that set fire to things; there are some contemplative types politely referred to as the maintenance team, who sometimes brush grass and leaves together to be burned. The ground is almost pure sand, so the brushing whips up a fine dust which mixes with the smoke and hangs around the house until teatime.
Mostly, apart from the weavers, this is the quiet season.  The insects seem to be keeping their heads down until there’s more of their kind of heat and humidity, and a lot of the birds are away touring Europe.

In the night we often hear a long, low moaning, which is the warning sound of a train as it approaches a level crossing that has no gates; and then there’s the call to prayer at the popular local mosque.  But traffic noise is very little, because out here in the suburbs where there’s not much tarmac, there aren’t many vehicles either. People going to town just walk to the main road to catch a minibus. For main roads going east into town, there are only two choices, the canal road and the toll road, and either way you have to go early to beat the rush: at 5.30am it’s a half hour drive, whereas after 6.00am it will take two hours or more.

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