Surely, Game Park Lions Only Eat One Visitor at a Time?

This is Africa

This is Africa. He lives in Africa.

Mom and I went to one of the larger Game Reserves for a Game Drive in a real, authentic Game Drive Jeep. And we were lucky enough to see four of the Big Five. We saw a gorgeous male lion, lots of Rhinos (with babies), several elephants (with babies),  and a Buffalo. We would have reached the magic number if we had seen a leopard, but no such luck. But lots of other animals came our way, hippos, a ton of impala, kudu (WHICH IS HUGE, I swear I think the one we saw was bigger than a moose), and giraffes, mom’s favorite.

All the men in our jeep wanted to see the lions, so we looked for them first. Before we entered the lion section,  our guide, named Africa, hopped out to secure a super-gigantic silver rifle to the front of the jeep.  It occurred to me that I would prefer that the gun be kept in the jeep with us, but I’m no expert in the art of protection against hungry lions. If we got attacked and he wanted to scramble across the hood after the gun, so be it. He’d make a good target for the hungry beast and the rest of us could safely cower in the back. Surely game park lions only eat one visitor (or guide) at a time.

This is the lion

This is the lion we saw. Luckily, he just ate.

Happily, the lion we did see seemed quite satiated — he barely blinked acknowledgement  of our existence. And it was a good thing too. I later learned that the super-gigantic silver gun was actually a super-gigantic silver jack, in case we blew a tire.

Skirts are not Required in the Constitution

Reed DancePastor picked us up early in the morning to go to the Reed Dance.

I had invited Pastor’s family along, so there were six of us: Mom & me, Pastor, his wife, Siphiwe, and his two children Nokuphila (6 years old) and Siphamandla (3 years old). These were the best behaved children on the planet. We were in the car for hours and they never once whined or complained.

The drive there was uneventful, except that I got a surprise language lesson when we drove past some boys who enthusiastically yelled at the car. I learned the word for “white people.”

It ended up that we were way too early for the celebration, which began at two o’clock, so we went to a nearby game reserve. This was a smaller place, and it was hot hot hot. But it was also a lot of fun spotting the zebras, impala, warthogs, and crocodiles. The kids were loving it. We even saw the rare crocolog. (This is an animal that I personally discovered and named on a trip to Belize. It’s a stealth beast that floats just below the surface of the water. It disguises itself as a crocodile but is much more dangerous in that it brings deep and bitter disappointment every time you encounter one.)*

It was a lovely (and hot) morning and I wasn’t unhappy at all that we were hours early for our original plans.

Reed DanceOur Reed Dance experience began just outside the parking lot. We were walking past a couple of vendors selling a variety of things when one approached me and tugged on my pants. “Where’s your skirt?” she says. My mom was slightly behind me and was being asked the same by another woman.

“I didn’t wear a skirt,” I said.

“Well, they are not going to let you in without a skirt. Do you have one in your car? No? I’ll sell you one right here.”

I had just seen other females (not locals) walking past these vendors and they weren’t wearing skirts. I smelled the distinct scent of scam. If you recall, it was a mere 8 days ago that I got hustled at the airport. I wasn’t all that eager for a repeat performance. But I wasn’t sure. I worried that maybe I was wrong and that we were going to have to turn around and disappoint Pastor’s kids who had been good all day long, just because Mom and I were wearing trousers.

Pastor stepped up and he and the vendor exchanged a few words that I didn’t understand. The woman said, “You don’t have to believe me. Those other people didn’t believe me. They are going to be turned back at the gate. If you don’t believe me, ask that police officer behind you.”

We all looked at the police officer, then back at Pastor. He said, “ok, but I think I’ll ask THAT one,” pointing to a different guy, just in case the vendor and cop were in cahoots. I love Pastor.

Reed Dance

Well, guess what?  It turns out that women can’t attend the Reed Dance unless they are wearing a skirt. Mom and I both purchased a lovely sarong-type thing from a very smug vendor. We wrapped them around our waists (over our pants with the pant legs still showing) and this seemed to satisfy everybody…  except Pastor. He spent a couple of minutes muttering as we trudged up the hill to the entrance. I didn’t catch everything he said, but I did hear the words “setup” and “skirts aren’t required in the Constitution.” He wasn’t the only one annoyed. Those trouser-clad Europeans who had declined the vendors services? We saw them huffing down the hill. They had waited in line only to be turned back at the top, just like the woman had predicted. Oh well. No worries. What’s a few bucks for a good story?

The Reed Dance was amazing. There were dozens and dozens of groups of girls there to dance for the celebration. They came from villages all over the country and even a few from neighboring countries. I had read in the paper that there were more girls this year than last and last year there were more than 100,000 maidens participating.

Reed Dance

All of the girls at the event were signing, but a select group was up front with a microphone. It would have been perfect except we were sitting right next to a loud speaker and the accompanying instrument of choice is a whistle. Thankfully, mom refrained from pulling out her hot pink ear plugs. (Yes, Cori, for some reason, mom carries her earplugs with her.)

For the most part, the girls stayed with their village groups. But often you would see groups of girls 4 or 5 crossing the field to join their buddies. How they found them I’ll never know. But towards the end, after a couple of hours, we started to see very young children, 3 or 4 years old, being led by the hand by slightly older girls, maybe 8 or 9. It dawned on Mom and me that these little ones had to use the potty.

It was a fantastic day and I felt so privileged to be able to spend it with Pastor’s family. I told him that he had given me a gift: three more friends in this country.

* Belize was not the only trip where I never saw the animal I went looking for. My friend Kerry and I spent two weeks in Nepal. After four days, our original search for the elusive white Bengal tiger became the search for the elusive clean toilet. (Check out the About Me page for pics of me in Belize and Nepal.)

Orange You Glad I Didn’t Say Banana?

PastorSo, this is Pastor. His name is Mlungisi Dlamini to be exact, and yes, I asked. He is a real Pastor. His church is near where we are staying. And the congregation is about 75 people strong. Pastor wears a lot of hats. He preaches at this amazing church, he works with the youth in his community, he recently ran for Parliament (and only lost by 54 votes!), and he is a wonderful part of our adoption agency’s family. Pastor is supposed to be our driver. But he is much more than that. By the end of our first day, I knew he was going to be my very good friend and advisor.

Pastor is teaching me his language. I am teaching him the little Hawaiian that I know — Aloha! He is teaching me interesting little tidbits about life here. I am teaching him knock knock jokes. Badly. (You’re supposed to say banana three times, then orange, not orange three times, then orange again!)

How’s this for an interesting tidbit. Here they call speedbumps, sleeping cops. It just cracks me up.

So, this morning we attended a service at Pastor’s church. It was an eye-opener on many levels. The church was a simple building made of wooden planks with a tin roof. It was insulated by sheets of plastic. Our very soft-spoken friend is a fiery preacher and he was inspiring to listen to and watch. He would preach in English and his wife would translate, all while matching his tone, volume, and intensity. Their words would overlap and weave together and for me, at least, this made the sermon that much more beautiful.

There were about 60 adults and perhaps 2 dozen children in attendance. The children were wonderfully behaved. If they got antsy, they just wandered outside for a bit and wandered back in when they felt like it. The music was beautiful and heartfelt. It was a true place of worship and it was an honor to be there. The only part that was difficult for me was when Pastor asked me go to the front and say a few words. I was so overwhelmed by being there in the first place that I felt choked up the entire time.


One of the little boys that was following me around the church.

After the service, we spent a short time outside talking with Pastor’s wife and some others. We were introduced to a couple from England/Arkansas that are working to build a classroom for Pastor’s church. I’ve been invited back to see school in session. I can’t wait.

At one point during the conversation, I turned slightly to see a group of four boys staring at me. The littlest one walked up to me and took my hand. It was absolutely the sweetest thing. I bent down and introduced myself to each one in turn. They were so shy that they whispered. They really liked my camera and got a huge kick out of picture of a monkey that I showed them. I told Pastor that next week, I need to wear pants to church. I want to play with the children!

I knew this trip was going to be magical. What I didn’t realize was that the magic would start before I even met my daughter.

You Haven’t Arrived Until You’ve Been Hustled

Day 2 of travel and already it’s been exciting! Left Honolulu on Sunday afternoon for the 8 hour flight to Atlanta. Spent the day sleeping at Hollee’s house! THANKS GUYS! Then met my mom at the airport for our flight to Africa.

When I got on the plane, I asked the attendant how long the flight was. She said, “15 hours and 3 minutes.” I turned to mom and said, “It’s 15 hours, Mom.” And the flight attendant said, “Don’t forget the 3 minutes.”

While I was not excited about the prospect of being on the plane that long, I was looking forward to the movie extravaganza. I had been told that the 777′s have screens in the back of the seats that entertain you the entire flight.

Mom had the whole flight planned out. We would chat until midnight, then she would go to sleep. I planned to watch movie after movie… it would be a treat! We got on the plane and my mother’s screen wasn’t working. Then came an announcement that we would be delayed taking off because the entertainment system was on the fritz.


They ended up rebooting the system twice and got it working after about a 50 minute delay. Well worth the wait in my opinion. I couldn’t imagine 15 hours on a plane without some fictional person’s drama to keep me entertained. And apparently the crew couldn’t imagine it either!

I experienced a tiny thrill after lift-off when I scrolled through the menu and found at least 6 movies that I had missed because date nights are few and far between. We each picked a movie and pressed play and… nothing. The system wasn’t working. We were able to get the monitor in the empty seat between us working, but there was no sound… and the Japanese subtitles didn’t help any.

I have to give the crew a nod of appreciation. They tried. They rebooted that system at least 7 times (I’m no longer a fan of Linux). To no avail.

Believe it or not, it wasn’t that bad. For whatever reason, I arrived feeling pretty good and not a bit achey. It felt more like 10 hours than 15.

When we arrived, we sailed through “passport control” and then flew through customs where the officer who approached me said that Hawaii was a scary place. I just nodded and smiled. I didn’t realize at the time that he was a customs officer, since he talked and walked with me at the same time. I guess that was my inspection.

After we exchanged our currency we were descended upon by the porters. Two guys took our bags without really giving us a choice at all and we trotted along behind trying to make small talk. My guy had never heard of Hawaii. A minute later, we arrived at the shuttle terminal and I hand our guy some money… he pulled out a much larger bill and said, “We’re working the night shift, we don’t take any less than this.” He said that he and his friend would split it.

I hadn’t worked my head around the exchange rate yet so I agreed. When I took out the money he changed his mind saying that they each deserved that amount.

I said, “No, you can share it with your friend like you just said.”

We went back and forth a few times before he shook my hand and said, “a tip is a tip” with a sunny smile and disappeared into the night.

I knew I had been hustled, but I wasn’t sure for how much. Finally did the mental math and realized that I had tipped him a little less than $14 for 60 seconds of chit-chat and pushing a cart. But that’s okay — he was happy. I’m happy now that I realize I didn’t fork over a fortune.

I’ve been duped at least once in every country I’ve ever visited. (In Nepal, Kerry and I got squeezed by a 7-year old.) Just one more little story to add to the many I hope to acquire while on this amazing adventure to get daughter #2.