“Heh, I am Daniel; speak English alright”
It was a humid 37 degrees; a cool day in the jungle the locals tell me; and I was hungry. After nothing but airline food and snacks for two days the sizzling white meat on Daniel’s kebabs looked delicious. It was my first day in central Africa and I had been warned against eating meat from roadside stalls but Daniel’s bulking figure looked friendly enough so I had a closer look at his wares while we fuelled the vehicles.
“So it’s chicken huh, smells good!”
“Yes, yes, very good; best spices”
“So it’s chicken, yes?”
“Yes, no chicken, good meat, Colo”
He held his large hands about two feet apart and indicated a humped back, “Colo, no English, like Hedgehog, but bigger, you know Colo?”
“Porcupine, you mean”, I say while failing desperately to mime sharp quills.
“Ah! Porcupine, no monkey – meat good, make you strong”
The meat was sweet and moist, fresh off the coals – a perfect unexpected snack on the side of a dirt road deep in the jungle. I stopped at Daniel’s stall every week for the three months I worked there and his ready smile and juicy jungle kebabs never failed to please me. It was only on the day I was leaving for good, after I’d finished my last kebab, that I discovered the truth.
“I’m going to miss your kebabs, Daniel – no porcupine in my country”
“Hey brother, I mean to tell you, my wife she speaks better English and she tell me – word for Colo not porcupine, Colo means Cane Rat”