Lions, Cheetahs, Hippos (Oh my?)

In my first week of school, a fellow teacher told me a shocking story: A few years ago, an Indian volunteer was stationed in Caprivi (an area along the river with a lot of wild animals), and as he was out on his morning run, he got eaten by a lion. Just like that. He had said goodbye to his family in India – ready for an African adventure – and then got eaten by a lion. My jaw dropped at the climax of this story, and it stayed that way as Mr. Mbozi continued with anecdotes about the thorny fences the villagers must construct to protect their homes, and that nobody even ventures out at night for fear of being eaten. I never thought this actually happened! I truly thought that animals in Africa stayed away from people; that yes, you shouldn’t wander around in the bush alone, but that the likelihood of being eaten was about the same as by a shark – like a million to one. I think, more than the story itself, I was shocked by the nonchalant way Mr. Mbozi discussed it.

Then recently I had the privilege of playing a double in the filming of a German show. The crew was small, so I worked pretty closely with the director and his new assistant. “New” being the key word; and it didn’t take me long to learn the reason for the recent staff change. The director’s prior assistant had come to Namibia (from Germany) several months earlier to set up some scenes for the movie, and as she and the crew were out filming in the bush, she was eaten by a cheetah. Oh. Right. I kinda wanted to laugh, as it seemed so rediculous. But then I saw the face of her boss – looking at the floor, avoiding the subject. He was freshly distraught by the memory of it. And then my co-double chimed in between puffs of her cigarette. One day as she sat by the river, she heard the screams of a man as he got ripped in half by a crocodile. Jeez!! Still, the show must go on (…too soon?).

It wasn’t until I received this text on Wednesday – and didn’t even blink an eye upon reading it –that I realized I might be officially immune to the shock of these stories: “Hey Sydney, are you free tomorrow? We are doing a bit of a PR stunt. It sounds grim but someone was trampled by a hippo today, and we are tasked with looking for the body. We won’t find it as the body won’t surface for three days so it will just be a trip on the river. If you are free we can pick you up on the way. If it’s a bit too morbid then perhaps another time…”   My response? “That sounds fun, but sadly I have a meeting.” Just another day in Nam.

PS. If you’re worried about my safety at this moment, don’t. Though my host mom did kill a black mamba on my doorstep, there are no other dangerous animals near me.  My animal encounters are almost exclusively limited to goats, chicken and cattle. Still, whether you’re safe in your living room in America, or out in the bushes in Africa, it never hurts to be cautious. And above all, to be grateful for every day that we’re blessed enough to be alive and kicking.

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One Comment on “Lions, Cheetahs, Hippos (Oh my?)”

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