Thursday, August 9, 2007

Café Buroburo

August 9, 2007
Kumasi, Ghana

The vultures came again today. Mad crazy mean-looking birds with pink-red streaks on their faces, like scarlet fever. Long hooked beaks. Feasting on the mound of fetid, rotting garbage that always overflows mid-week from the concrete dumpster up the road from where we live. A scavenger’s buffet for beast and bacteria.

There doesn’t seem to be any pecking order among the various species who feed each day at the dumpster. The vultures are huge raptors and by far the most menacing, though only in appearance — they are actually quite timid and easily startled by a sudden jab-step from a passing human, ha ha. And they don’t bother the magpies, much smaller, who perch among them on the concrete rim of the dumpster and take their share of morsels. It’s all very civilized; there’s plenty for everyone.

On the ground, chickens: roosters and hens. Doing their cluck walk, heads bobbing that fowl way, pecking at the outskirts of the feast where smeared food wrappers and soaked bits of torn plastic have sifted from the frenzy. They’ll walk right next to the bin but can’t get up top like the others, for they are flightless and thus condemned to scraps.

Nobody minds the dogs; wretched curs missing tufts of hair from their coats where fleshy sores peek through, but living the good life rooting about the dumpster’s messy overflow. Long-tongued bitches with ravaged teats hanging low to the same asphalt they lick. Barely take notice of the chickens that would be chased in an instant by other dogs I know, back home. Here, everyone feeds at the same trough.

Except the kittens. There’s another concrete dumpster the same size up the road a ways, maybe 100 metres. Usually there’s much less in it. But there’s plenty that’s edible, for sure, yet for some reason the dogs and birds don’t dine there. Felines only. There are two of them, and unlike the other creatures feeding on Buroburo Road they are adorable.

However, they are just as filthy and constantly bathing when they are not scrounging, perched on the dumpster's edge, doing the tongue bath. They’d make a fine snack for the vultures, if the human caretakers of the Kwame Nkrumah University of Science and Technology campus ever get around to keeping the street clear of tasty trash.

I don’t know if the cats have been excluded from the grand feast, or if everyone has agreed out of respect that felines should have their own restaurant. I’ll get Trish to ask them. But they can’t stay with us. (G)

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