Wednesday, January 31, 2007

Why My Sister Needs Her Own Blog

I talk to my sister Becky twice a week on "Skype," the wonderful program that lets you talk over the internet via a headset plugged into your computer.

She lives in Sanaa, Yemen, and has been going out to a village once a week to work at a clinic. Mostly she deals with women and children, all of them very very poor, many of the women widowed either in fact or in effect--their husbands are crippled or in prison.

The injustice and cruelty that these families endure is horrifying but unfortunately all too typical of that part of the world, which makes you understand why "visiting the fatherless and widows in their affliction" was listed as an indication of "pure religion" in the Bible.

Anyway. There is this one widow with nine children who has latched on to Becky and sees her as an angel from heaven. She will even slip into the examining room at the clinic between patients to talk Becky's ear off. She is horribly, unspeakably poor, living in a little hole of a house and barely surviving.

Becky has a policy of not being a Santa Claus type of philanthropist, but she put her ideals aside a few weeks ago and bought this lady a wheelbarrow-load of groceries, a very enjoyable experience.

This lady keeps asking Becky to come visit her. In that culture, you honor someone by going to visit them in their home, and Becky has done this to hundreds of women, thousands of times.

However, a problem: the widow told Becky that a snake got into their house a while back and it's still there. "It holds its head up like this," she said, demonstrating with her arm and hand.

Becky went home and told Rod she was sure from the description that it was a cobra, and he said Naaaah.

Then yesterday the widow's son came along to the clinic and told her more about the snake. It crawls along with its head up, he said, and it's red and black. How big is it? Well, he guessed, about THREE METERS LONG, and as big around as a slice of bologna.

(Pause until the chills subside)

In the widow's little courtyard is a two-foot-deep "well" for catching water, and the snake lives in there, just a few feet from where they sleep. They are all terrified, but no one knows how to kill it or has the nerve to try.

And being a poor widow, there's no one she can ask for help.

Becky went home and researched on the internet, finding that there are three species of cobras in Yemen that fit this description. One is so poisonous that a bite can kill you in 15 minutes.

Becky does not plan to visit until the snake is out of there, honor or no honor.

She and her family have this sort of adventure on probably a weekly basis, and I think they need a blog to record it all and share it with the rest of us. Becky says she's not a writer. Believe me, if she could write it like she tells it, we would all be checking it every day.

Meanwhile, last night I made this casserole for supper that used these long skinny spirally pasta. Mistake. I was telling this snake story at the supper table, and I just about couldn't eat my food.

Quote of the Day:
"For physics class we're going to weigh a galaxy."
--Matt, at a Sunday dinner. And he added:
"It's not as hard as it sounds."


  1. Do they have mongooses over there? I'm thinking of the story Riki-Tiki-Tavi.
    How can that woman sleep,poor thing. Never the less it would be such fun to haul a barrow load of food to a family like that!

  2. We live with a big snake in the roof ~ of the non poisonous variety. I'd think twice about entertaining a cobra though.

  3. Idon't mind snakes, but at that, I would draw the line! Pauline

  4. I'd love to read your sister's blog! She would be gathering up our prayers for her concerns, while entertaining us at the same time. :-)

  5. ((((SHIVER))) Oh thanks alot for giving me something to dream about tonight!!
    Someone needs to help that poor widow kill that snake!

  6. This comment has been removed by a blog administrator.

  7. FWIW, being a snake aficionado (I have a python [of a small species that grows to only 4-6 feet]), I did a little checking on cobras. I couldn't find any info about DIY killing or removing. I did, however, find a few facts that may be a bit reassuring: cobra species, except for king cobras, are usually shy and nonaggressive; most would rather avoid people than strike, if they have the chance. Also, cobras, like other venomous snakes, don't always inject venom when they bite; in one study, more than 40% of human bites were "dry." Not to say that living (and sleeping!) with a cobra isn't scary or potentially dangerous--it certainly is--but perhaps this info will prove a little helpful...

    Also, do the widow and her family use the well? If not, would it be possible to find scrap lumber or other materials to seal the snake inside? Or is the well shallow enough that this would place them within striking distance of the snake?

    Just a couple of thoughts...It sounds like this woman has been through enough misfortune in her life that the last thing she needs is for one of her children or herself to be bitten by a cobra!

  8. Constance--there was a problem with your comment--so sorry. Could you email me at

  9. Somehow your connection between snakes and curly pasta lost me. explain please.
    As a snake hater I shivered and shook thru this. yech
    sil geneva

  10. Ok, geneva, the pasta looked like a nest of snakes on my plate! GAAAAAAAAAHHH!!

  11. I read this posting early AM and I've been reflecting on it all day. Isn't this more about moving the woman/children, than removing the snake? My heart was so moved by the generous gift of food given her, but the whole thing is so much more sad/complicated than getting rid of the snake... and here I am... making comments like I know everything... IH

  12. Relatives in Poland, a sister living with lunch-meat-thick snakes in Yemen, adoption, farming... You know, this all really isn't so ORDINARY!!! :)

    And I love to read it !

  13. i cannot fathom the terror this poor widow and family are facing. my family and i (and we prayed about it in church this morning!!!)are praying God will make this terrible creature well as protecting this dear family. Oh my! i hate snakes--i can't imagine.