Tanzania Safari Journal Part 14

Wildebeast in Tanzania

Part 14

Who’s that? There is a strange voice in the front of the vehicle. It seems that a Park Ranger from the Serengeti has stopped in front of our truck. Right behind them is another small vehicle. They have come to take us into the park. The gates normally close at six pm but another group has told them about us being stranded. We all pile in and the mood changes. We are all kind of laughing nervously, thanking the drivers for saving us. As we enter the park the first sight we come upon is a pride of lions out for an evening hunt. There are four females walking right on the road in front of us. They don’t scatter in the headlights, they simply move to the side. They don’t look like the pretty pictures that you see in calendars, they all are pretty beaten up and skinny. The force of their nature is undeniable. They are magnificent just walking there.

We arrive at the lodge. We will actually stay inside tonight. It has worked out perfectly, after such a trying day. I go to my room and test the water temperature. It is hot and the pressure is good. It takes me several moments to orient myself. After staying in a tent, I am unsure whether to put my bag on the ground or if I should put it on the table. I end up putting it at waist level on the table. Staying in the lodge feels wrong as I go through my dirty clothes. I feel like a farmer entering The Ritz. I don’t seem to fit in. I must get over this feeling quickly because we are all meeting for dinner in an hour.

When I awake I feel the sunrise splitting open the curtains in my room. I pull aside the curtains to see four gazelles grazing outside my window. The side of them that is facing me has tan, black and white on it. The side facing the sun is a mixture of pink and orange hues. What a very nice thing to wake up to. In the three seconds that I have been watching the gazelles the sun has already almost topped the trees. One second, one blink and the scenery has changed all over again.

Tonight we will be setting up our camp right in the middle of the park. Suddenly, I think lions, gazelles, and hyenas what makes them not curious about the chubby little piece of meat, which is me, inside the tent. Hmmm.

After setting up camp we have a couple of hours of quiet time. I decide to write in my journal. The waterbuck and the gazelles are my backdrop. If only I painted. As I write about the previous day my mind floats to the subject of my return. What am I going to do? I do have the Peace Corp application in my office. My life is so short. I am not helping anyone by sitting in front of my computer or my TV. Should I finish up school? What subject should I study? I like travel and I like nature. Maybe photography classes are the answer. I am crying inside with indecision. So very many things are possible and I am my only limitation. Gebra and I had a long conversation over the campfire the other night. He says he is jealous of all of my choices, he thinks he has no choice. He says that he has to take care of his wife and family, 16 in all. I question him about his choice; he says “what choice?”. “You made a choice to get married and have children therefore you made your own responsibilities, you make choices everyday”.He doesn’t seem to see it this way. He says that he is stuck in his life. I am not sure if I am in the middle of a conversation with a person who sees his cup half empty all of the time or if his culture and traditions brought him to this place in his mind. His upbringing I’m sure was very different from mine. Was he told that he was responsible for certain things and that if he deviated from this that he was a failure? Is he a follower that made his decisions based on everyone else around him? I don’t know him well enough to know, but the conversation alone will open up paths for both of us. We disagree without arguing. It reminds me of conversations with my grandfather. He always played devils advocate with me and made me rethink everything that I believed in. Now I find myself doing this with someone else. Full circle? Maybe.

Turning in for the first time in the park holds a certain uncertainty. You can hear all the noises that your dreams were made of before. The sound of movement, animals shuffling to find food, to find safety and to find a proper breeding place. I sleep for a while and I am awakened by the sound of footsteps or paw steps on the left side of my tent. Is this for real? Is there really an animal smelling the polyester shell to see if they can tell what’s inside? I think, just be quiet, don’t move. Soon the sound moves around and then is gone. I would not get up to go to the bathroom tonight even if the pee was puddleling in the corner of the tent. If I hear another sound like that, it just may happen. When the morning comes Solomon shows us an aluminum wash pan and a plastic coffee cup that have been mangled by hyenas. They had bitten right through. Two holes in the wash pan, as Solomon holds it up to show me I see his smiling face through the circles. Ok dude, why are you smiling?

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