Tuesday, February 21, 2012

The Rat

Just by way of introduction, today's Guest Writer is my sister, Patricia.

Finding exactly the right Christmas gift for Virginia has been a perennial problem of mine for the past 33 years. Because how do you make the person who gave you your life (without actually having given birth to you) feel special? Since I was 21 I have been living in the US entirely as a result of Virginia's generosity and adventurous spirit. She was the one who hatched the plan that made it possible for me to travel to America in spite of having a passport the US didn't recognize (Rhodesian). She was the one to volunteer to sponsor me to come here as a student (the only way I could enter the US on my dud passport). And she was the one who opened her home and her heart to me while I studied at The American University in Washington, DC. And that's just for starters. Since then there have been amazing trips and gifts and lots and lots and lots of support, both material and otherwise. Along the way I have accumulated a husband, two children, several careers, many friends and a wealth of amazing experiences, none of which would have been mine without Virginia. With the greatest tact and discretion she has helped me, my sister and our dad over rough spots and never actually asked for anything in return.

Do see my problem?

Over the years, my family has pretty much run the gamut of "thoughtful" gifts - flowers, special books, movies, a little statue of the Chinese god of longevity (glad that one worked!), calenders made up of photos of my spawn, a needlepoint picture made with my own fair hands (agony for a non-sewer like me and never again repeated). The years have passed and it has become more and more difficult as Virginia has entered her "victory  lap" years. We all come into this life not needing too much in the way of "stuff" and we leave pretty much in the same state. Such is the stage dear Virginia now occupies. She is "shedding" rather than "accumulating". So, around about November of this past year, I was once more wracking my brain trying to think of what we could give Virginia for Christmas. 

And then it came to me. We would give her a rat. (I will pause here so that you, dear readers, can thoroughly enjoy your frisson of horror........................)

Yes. A rat. A real one. Furry, with ears, whiskers and a tail. By the name of "Mojo". 

But Mojo is not just any rat. He is a trainee HeroRAT and he lives in Tanzania where he is currently being taught how to detect landmines. Once trained, Mojo will join a rodent bomb squad that sniffs out landmines left by rotten humans. (Think of that the next time you turn up your nose at a rat, not one of which has ever left a bomb for children to step on.) In much the same way she once sponsored my education, Virginia (through our gift) is now sponsoring Mojo's "education." I do not, however, claim to be either as endearing or as useful as Mojo and my sense of smell isn't nearly as acute. Also, I'm not prepared to creep around on my hands and knees looking for landmines. Not even for Virginia.
Here is a little video to introduce you to Mojo and his buddies:

And here is a link to APOPO, the non-profit that runs the program: APOPO

And, finally, here is a touching letter sent out by Mojo a couple of days ago eulogizing his role model, Ziko, who has gone on to rat heaven: Mojo's Letter

I am delighted to say that Virginia is thrilled with her new rat. He really was the perfect gift for her because like Virginia, Mojo is brave, generous, and possessed of sweetness of spirit, a great sense of fun, a never-say-die attitude, adventurousness and killer cuteness. What could be more appropriate?

Dee writing: Now, my dear readers you know a good part of the story of Virginia. Sometime in the future I will fill in the rest, as promised. We might call her a HERO in her own right.

To add to this, she has just donated an additional $100 to the HeroRAT program.


  1. Very interesting story! Glad she is enjoying the rat:) you have found a great gift ;)

  2. What an a great idea. I would have never thought of anything like this. Glad V is getting such joy out of her Rat! ~wheresweaver

  3. "V" has given you and Dee such a life that nothing other than love (and the rat) can replace it! A wonderful gift.

    1. Indeed George and Suzie, we would not be living this wonderful life, travelling North America had it not been for her sponsorship of my sister all those years ago. I retired 2 years early, just to be able to take care of her, when I could, in her twilight years. It was a promise I made her a few years back.

  4. What a great blog and what a novel idea for a gift....how very thoughtful and I'm sure it took alot of thought to come up with such a special gift :) Glad she is enjoying it...

  5. Yay, Virginia! Another 100 bucks! That's tremendous.