There is chosen down time, to relax and rejuvenate, and then there is the unplanned variety, that can be either a good thing or not so much. I just got hit will all sorts of not so much, with back-to-back illnesses that took me out for the better part of two weeks. The first was an intestinal bug from HELL. I’ll spare the details and just say that it required a doctor visit the house, as I was too sick to go to the clinic, complete with an IV of three full bags of saline to rehydrate me from chronic dehydration, as well as antibiotics and other meds. One other person got it as bad, and a third person got a milder case. On the tail end of that party, I got a raging sinus and chest infection, and am just recovering from that. The people here took good care of us, and I’m glad that we got such good care, but I was missing home a bit the last couple weeks, as it’s tough to be that sick while traveling. So after tonsillitis, tick bite fever, and now an intestinal hell bug, I’m done with illness for this trip. In addition to just being miserable, it’s a waste of time and money, and I’m of no use to the team here when I’m that sick, which bothers me as I want to contribute as much as I can. But I just couldn’t push any more than I did — it was brutal.
I recently finished a book called Animal Madness, which was an interesting read about animal psychology and behavior, and so I was looking for another book to page through as I had time. There is a small book swap stash at the volunteer house, and looking through the options I almost chose a novel about a foreign woman who falls in love with a Masai man, and then a book titled What Should I Do With My Life? caught my eye. How apropos. The author, Po Bronson, interviews about 900 different people from all walks of life, who have pondered this question and are at different places in the journey toward their answer, and he includes about 50 of those stories in the book. It was so interesting in and of itself, and adding to that was the people that showed up in my life around the same time who were asking themselves the same question. All of which goes back to the awakening that Martha Beck speaks about, a great burning as she calls it, that is creating a new consciousness. People may not know the answer to the question, or even be aware of all the questions they have yet to ask, but they know they are yearning. Uh… hello!
It’s an odd existence to live out of backpacks and suitcases, something that I’ve been doing for eight months now. It teaches you, or reminds you, depending on your current perspective, just how little we really need to get by. That all of the truly important aspects of our lives are not things that we physically pack around, but rather that we possess internally, sharing connections with the people, places, and natural world around us. When I think back, I guess I started the metamorphosis some years back, first in small ways, such as foregoing material gift giving at Christmas in favor of charitable giving and sharing experiences with loved ones, to more recently shedding half of my possessions, selling my home, and hitting the road with no more than what fits in two bags. All of our things… it’s just stuff. When all is said and done and we leave this plane of existence for another we don’t take any of it with us. But we sure do obsess about it while we’re here. I like my creature comforts as much as the next person — I just don’t let my things own me.
[Web readers: I’m using a new format to truncate posts — click “Continue Reading” to see the rest]
So many great things have been happening for the program lately, and it’s such a joy to be a part of it. Here’s the latest!
With the recent move of four of the young cubs to Victoria Falls, the existing four sub-adult lions that were here were finally moved to Antelope Park. Two of the lions had already been retired from walks, and the other two, Phezulu and Pendo, were just retired on Monday of this last week. I went on that last walk, and while they were very good as usual, it was a relief to know that they were moving on to the next phase, which will be night encounters. They have been very successful day hunters, with about a dozen kills already, so I’m hopeful that they will transition into night hunting just as successfully. I had my ugly cry to see them go, with a private moment to myself to say goodbye to them through the fence in the afternoon before others arrived, the sadness tempered by my happiness to see them get the next chance in their development.
I started my Earth Day by carrying a nearly six month old lion cub from the bush to her enclosure, something we would normally never do. She had gotten separated from her three other cub mates, and as the leader of the group, I believe that she was “doing her job” to stay in the bush in an attempt to find them, not realizing that they had been back safely in their enclosure for quite some time. Once she was located and I made my way to her, she stopped running and hissing at others and came to me with calls and nuzzles of recognition. After realizing that she was too stressed to follow me as she normally would, I resorted to carrying her, initially out to the trail hoping she would follow, but she again retreated to the bush, so that meant carrying her the whole way, and I can assure you that a cub of that age is pretty heavy, so it was quite a workout.
My first week back in Victoria Falls passed pretty quickly, and I got a little better each day, now recovered from my African Tick Bite Fever adventure. I’m likely going to stay on an antibiotic a little longer, just as a precaution against any potential future pathogen nastiness, but what I also understand is that there are no guarantees of anything either way. I honestly feel like I’m going to be just fine, but a couple more weeks of doxycycline won’t hurt, beyond having to eat yogurt as they only real accessible probiotic available, which I’ve never liked. Save the suggestions on various brands and flavors and magical formulas — life is too short to try to like something that I just don’t. And yogurt is on that list, save the frozen kind.
It’s been a whirlwind few weeks since I last posted, with many changes since then. Let’s see, where to start…
After a lot of thought, I decided to go with the original idea for my internship of spending time in three of the lion project locations: Antelope Park, Victoria Falls, and Livingston. So I just wrapped up two months at Antelope Park in the centrally located area of Gweru, Zimbabwe, and now I am back in Victoria Falls in western Zimbabwe for a couple of months. After this I will visit the Livingston, Zambia lion project for a couple months to wrap up my six months internship.
Celebrating my birthday in Africa was a bit surreal. The longer I’m here, the more of it that I want to explore, since I have yet to see much of the continent outside of Zimbabwe, save for a day trip to Chobe National Park in Botswana, and a couple trips over to Livingston, Zambia while I was in Victoria Falls. I’ve been thinking of how to include some visits to Tanzania and Kenya, in particular, to see the Serengeti, Ngorongoro, and Masai Mara while I’m still in Africa, as well as to see more of Zimbabwe, as it’s said to be one of the most beautiful countries in Africa, and from what I’ve seen so far, I can attest to that.
After a quick trip to the States and back, I arrived back at Antelope Park in Gweru, Zimbabwe on Monday the 8th. The jet lag this time really did me in, and it took a couple days in Seattle to get on local time there, only to turn around a few days later and get back on a plane for two and a half days to return to Africa, where it took the better part of a week to recover from the jet lag on this end. Perhaps not my most brilliant move, but I was keen to jump right into my internship and hit the ground running, which proved to be no problem, as there is plenty to do here.
We’ve been kept very busy, so my blog updates have taken a back seat, and now that I’m halfway home with a layover in London for a half day, I have a bit of time to post an update and the most recent photos. Enjoy!
Within short order after arriving in Africa, I knew I was smitten. It gets under your skin and in the corners of your mind, swirling around in a deliriously wonderful way, with equal parts grit and glory. Years ago I used to binge-watch this program on Animal Planet called “Big Cat Diary” that followed three researchers around as they monitored the large cats, specifically lion, leopard, and cheetah. I would daydream at length of having such a life, and repeatedly put it in the Impossible Bucket, as my own life had taken a different path. And then a few years ago, something changed; in part due to various events, such as the passing of one of my good friends, and in part just my own inner calling. I always felt that I was very awake — very atune to both my outter and inner worlds, yet the deepest internal voice was overshadowed by the more immediate practical voice of the “have to’s” in life. This is how I was raised. A daily mantra of life being difficult and hard work. Joy was found in the glowing edges of the setting sun of twilight on a day well-spent.