Sunday, January 3, 2010

Endangering Children For Beer

We woke up to grey skies, that would last all day. No blue was to be seen. And we could not have asked for a better way to start our day! You may think that blue skies are the best skies, and often times that is true – but when it's thirty degrees by nine thirty, you'll pray, now and then, for a little bit of cloud cover.

We packed up, jumped in the mocorros and were polled back to the mustering station in one large group. Watching pollers come through the reeds is a terrifying sight to behold. It looks as if giants are gliding through the tall grass with their large walking sticks. I can imagine people going off to battle like this. And I wonder just how often that might have happened in the past.

On the ride back I was able to relax, and read my book – A Disorder Peculiar to the Country (or something like that – it was about two married people who thought the other died in the September 11th attacks, and have to swallow their joy when they see each other. They had hoped for the death of the other. I thought it would be savagely funny, as the back of the book proclaimed, but it was not. It was quite terrible. And the second to last chapter had a really messed up party happening. Quite distressing. And the part where the wife tried to fix the husbands suicide bomb so that he may kill her, and their kids – which seemed sureal and a dream state, but turned out to be an actual part of the book, well... look – just don't read the book. Terrible. On the other hand, i finished the first part of my hobbit's tale.

The motor boats were in use, so we took trucks back to our camp site. These trucks took us through the small shanty villages where our pollers lived. It was quite the insight into their lives that I don't believe we were ever supposed to have glimpsed. Perhaps this is more along the lines of “real Africa” (again, if one were ever to be emboldened enough to use that term.)

The trucks passed dangerously close to the trees – PORT! STARBOARD! we called out when the branches were too close, and ripped through the doorless interior. We managed to duck them all, no injuries to be spoken of. Back at camp I took a quick, and much desired, shower – after two nights in the bush, it was a delight. Sure in the bush we could go swimming in the Delta – and I did – but there's something about water where you know, for sure, that there are no hippos or crocs hiding just a meter away from you in the tall reeds. Deathly pools are no fun for anyone.

No one could keep their hand underwater in the hippo pool for a full five seconds. Not even I, who instigated the challenge.

After more driving (it's strange how these driving transitions are so fast on paper, but in reality last anywhere from five to ten hours) we came to our new site: Planet Baobab. So called due to the ancient trees that grow there. Our first port of call? The pool.

Into the pool I jumped, taking Mitchel and Hamish with me. Erin, Mark, Sandra, and Ivona, came late – with Niki, Eric, and Mia (Mya) following.

I forget who started what, but a splash was made: ACT OF WAR! And he pool was a war zone. A full on war zone of aquatic death. The eight year olds, and five year olds stopped their games, watching as these adults waged a water fight on the scale they could never have imagined. And then it ceased. Danny entered the pool. And the water was no longer splashed, for fear of hitting him with it. Danny, as you by now know, will kill us all.

The children resumed their games of pushing, throwing, and knocking each other into the pool.

We stood back and watched, rating their splashdowns, and giving instructions on how to better throw each other in. At times they came close to smashing their heads on the steps in the water – but their parents didn't seem to mind. And then four teamed up to push the big kid in. It was a glorious attempt. It failed. He knocked them all in. And as he was bowing to us for a job well done, a little six year old girl snuck up behind him, and sent him flying. Much applause was issued her way!

She did not fare well once he had made his way back out.

Whenever I went to canon ball the children would stop, move aside in a form of reverence, and allow me my great splash. The party bus showed up (ugh... party bus!) And one of my canon balls splashed sand girl. “I DON'T WANT TO GET WET!” The gap crew giggled, but me and Hamish could not hold back, laughing loudly and maniacally into the sky above. She goes to the desert, hates sand, animal walks, hates walking, the pool – wearing a bikini – and hates water. She's a character.

And here's the thing, it was great to think of her as a non-entity... but later we learned about her. She was seventeen/eighteen, first time away from home, no close friends on the bus, and was really homesick. It made you hurt for her. Feel sympathy. In other situations we could have been great friends, I'm sure – but she was a party buser. The enemy. And thus no quarter was to be given.

We hired an eight year old to be our solider and splash them. He was wearing clothes, not a swimsuit. We didn't realize what jerks the party bus could be. Once splashed, one of them said to the other, “Hey Franz. Push the fucker in the pool.” Franz shrugged and shoved the kid into the shallow end, nearly knocking his head on the steps. Party bus...

On the plus side, the father of most of the kids bought us all a round for keeping them entertained. Beer for endangering the lives of children. Sure, why not? Africa!

The day was mostly passed this way, and with the singing of Beautiful Delta – with whatever words we could think of: Beautiful Chef, Mitchel, Burgers, Ketchup, Baobab. You name it, we'd have sung it. I'm sure the other diners appreciated or song as it continued on through all of dinner.

Night was spent talking at the bar, hearing stories from past trips, and sharing personal tales. I ended up back in my tent safe and sound – though one of our crew was found wandering around at three in the morning, nearly lost. She had been walked right to her tent's door. And from there managed to get herself quite turned around. There are known to be lions in this area.

After all – on our drive here, we stopped only a meter or two away from a female lion, and two cubs, ripping apart a cow on the side of the road. The organs had all spilled out on the grass as the great cat started to eat her meal.

Apparently right at that area was where the tour normally stopped for lunch.

With things like this ever so close, what possible harm could there be in drunkenly wandering around late at night?

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