Trip Start Jun 14, 2010
16Trip End Aug 15, 2010
My last week in Zimbabwe was spent mostly on the computer, but at least the elephants hung out by the house for much of that time. One night they were so close we could hear them chewing and swallowing. Incredibly, at that range, we still could not see them meters away in the bush. Esther and I stood pressed up against the house, peering into the dark, hearing their breathing but seeing nothing but blackness between the trees. I can understand how people sometimes accidentally bump into these seemingly unmissable giants in the forest. We stood there like that, our breath steaming in front of us, until two lions chuffed loudly nearby. Time to go inside.
The only serious risk I took, in terms of bodily harm, will surprise no one. I tucked into bed one night and realized that my eye mask, which I had washed that morning, was hanging on the line to dry. The clothesline stands about four feet from the bush, where the elephants were noisily munching away. I sprinted to the line and ripped off the mask, laughing at the idea that I might be trampled to death a month before my wedding because I refuse to sleep without my eye mask.
I also had a bit of an adrenaline rush walking on the raised walkway this week. The wooden walkway is about two feet across, not wide enough for two people to pass without touching. I was walking along, lost in thought, when I was startled by a mother baboon walking in the other direction. I love the baboons, but their teeth are more than a little intimidating! I stopped and stood still, and she did the same. I wasn’t really sure what to do next, so when she sat down on the walkway, so did I. We sat there staring at each other for awhile. She had an infant clinging to her chest, and slowly, two more creeped out from behind her. I heard a rustle below us, and it all made sense – she was tending the nursery while the rest of the troop foraged below. The three babies quickly overcame their uncertainty and began tumbling and playing on the walkway in front of me. Like many kids, they were more brazen than their mom. One of them ran towards me, hiding behind the posts as he approached. Eventually the troop below us moved on, and I wasn’t sure what the plan was in terms of mom and babies getting by me. She moved towards me (heart in throat) but then climbed down one of the posts and carried on along the ground.
I’m really sorry to leave a place of such amazing wildlife, but I’m also ready to go home. Zimbabwe has been wonderful; the internship has been more challenging. Like many outsized characters, Greg is best absorbed in small doses, and his forethought and organization leave much to be desired. There’s also a certain eccentricity that is bred by, or perhaps attracted to, these rural expat outposts. I’m pretty eccentric myself – after all, the best friend I made in Zimbabwe was a rabbit. But there’s a sense of relief in escaping someone else’s strange little bubble and heading back to your own. I respect PDC’s work, I learned a lot, and I made some wonderful friends (I mean, other than the rabbit) – but I was happy to start the long haul to Harare and the longer haul to DC.
I’m over Zambia now, with 22 hours left in the flight. Waiting for me at the other end is Shenandoah, brunch at Sticky Fingers bakery, a walk at Great Falls, Patooski, a shower, and a long sleep in my own bed. And then several weeks of a newfound appreciation for simple things, like cooking in my own kitchen or hearing his voice every day. I’m sorry, I can’t help myself – a few months in Africa really do make you realize what’s most important.