Apr 21, 2004

Looking for land crabs

My life will not be complete until I see with my own eyes a live land crab.

A land crab is, as the name implies, a crab that lives on dry land rather than in the water. I had no idea such a thing existed before I came to Venezuela, but a little research tells me land crabs are found throughout the Caribbean region and, in fact, as far north as Florida.

Dale Saville and I found some fragments of a land crab shell on the farm a few months ago. Just two weeks ago, Luz Maria and I found a complete exoskeleton. It looked like the crab was alive, but there wasn't anything inside the shell.

There are many other creepy-crawly things here. We have received a lot of rain recently, and since then I've heard weird wailing cries outside at night. Dale tells me I am probably hearing tree-frogs. There also are iguanas and other types of lizards running around.

Some of the creepy-crawlies are dangerous. Luz Maria encountered a scorpion a short time after we found the land crab skeleton. She immediately whacked it to pieces with her shoe. Okay, first she screamed and then she whacked it to pieces. There are many venomous snakes as well. People here often carry a machete all the time. If they see anything that looks like a snake, it's off with its head in one clean sweep of the machete.

I made myself a machete with some help from Elio Rengel. I found an old blade, oiled and sharpened it, and fashioned a handle from a piece of bamboo. For practice, I tossed a tomato into the air and sliced it into two halves with the machete. I hope I do that well with a snake's head, should the occasion arise.

I feel pretty tough walking around the farm with my machete and Linda, the big German Shepherd-collie mix, by my side. Wherever I go, Linda goes. She does what I tell her to do, too, except when she gets really excited, which is often.

Luz Maria has split the Bible school into two sessions, one for older children on Tuesdays and other for the younger children on Thursdays. Between 30 and 40 children have been attending each session.

We went to Bethel Lutheran Church in Rio Chiquito last Sunday. There was no pastor there this time, but an older fellow named Nicolas Fajardo read from the Bible and played songs on his cuatro (four-stringed Venezuelan guitar).

Getting to Rio Chiquito is rather complicated. We have to take the bus from the farm to a little corner just past the "Rio Chiquito" sign. It takes a little over half an hour, usually, but that's the easy part. The church is seven miles from the highway, so then we need to wait for a "carrito." This is like a taxi, only not as fancy. Somebody drives around in an old beater of a car and picks up passengers until there is absolutely no room left for any more. There is no set schedule for the carritos. It's possible to walk the seven miles, but in the blazing tropical sun that's quite a hike and takes an even longer time. We walked part of the way Sunday, anyway.

It's good exercise.

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