When I went to Africa, people told me that it would permanently change the way I looked at the world. “The land goes on forever, and instead of SUVs and Starbucks you see elephants and zebras,” my sister told me. “It makes the Tiny Kingdom seem very small and insignificant.”
Once I arrived in Kenya, I understood what she meant. The grass stretched out endlessly, dotted with acacia trees and giraffes. It was gorgeous and peaceful, and I was almost able to forget that Bill and the boys were half a world away.
We first stayed at a camp made up of tents. The bathrooms were glorified port-a-potties, and although they were located only a few steps away from the tents, the owners warned us to be extremely cautious about using them at night. Cape buffalo were active after dark and would come close to the tents. Those cape buffalo were something else. They had horns, hairy chins, bulgy skin hanging off their faces and piggy eyes. Cape buffalo were ferocious and killed people and lions.
We were instructed to turn on our flashlights and wait for a Masai warrior with a spear to come to the tent and escort us the seven feet or so to the potty so we wouldn’t end up as a midnight snack. I decided not to drink anything after 3 p.m. and avoid a standoff altogether. Although most people think of lions when they think of Africa, it was the bloodthirsty cape buffalo that gave me nightmares.
You must pack lightly for a safari, and thus your clothes have to be laundered along the way. Many camps offer this service. You bundle your dirty clothes, fill out a slip that itemizes them, and they appear, clean and fresh, at your tent in the morning.
As I filled out my laundry slip I encountered some problems. First, the paper stated that “Ladies undergarments will not be accepted for laundry.” That was odd. My panties were the smallest, thinnest, easiest item to wash, and fun to look at besides. The form also said, “Occasionally cape buffalo and hyena raid the laundry yard. The lodge accepts no responsibility whatsoever for guest clothing damaged during cleaning.” Those cape buffalo again. I’d heard all about their murderous ways, so I was surprised to hear that they had a hygienic streak as well.
I asked about the underwear exclusion, and was told that African men consider it beneath their dignity to wash women’s panties. They’re not so different from my boys after all, except that the Masai wear red blankets and carry spears.
When I taught Drew how to wash clothes, the darks were not a problem. Cold water, detergent, check all pockets, and press start. But as I coached him through the whites, I encountered some resistance.
“Okay, same deal, but we’re washing on warm. Turn the button to warm, add the Tide, and then add the whites, piece by piece.”
Drew began adding socks, kitchen towels and pillow cases, and then he screamed. Porter came running.
“I touched lady panties!”
“Drew, that’s just my underwear,” I said. “It’s part of washing the whites. Just pick them up and toss them in. I wash your underwear all the time.”
“Where are the panties? Where, Mom? I want to see them,” Porter said. “And I thought ‘panties’ was a bad word.”
“I can’t pick them up,” Drew said. “They’re nasty.”
“Good Lord. Just pinch them at the edges and throw them in the machine. This is ridiculous,” I told Drew.
He retrieved my underwear from the hallway where he’d hurled them and flung them into the dryer. At this point they were looking as if a cape buffalo had gotten hold of them.
“This is the worst thing I’ve ever had to do,” he said.
“Yeah,” Porter said. “Key word: worst. I don’t want to learn how to do laundry. I’ll just clean up the kitchen every night because there aren’t any panties there.”
I looked at my laundry slip again. I’d had experience with males washing my underwear against their wishes, and it was an unpleasant one. I sent my safari clothes to be cleaned, but I washed my underwear myself.
On the first game drive, we discovered a group of lions flopped lazily under a tree. It was obvious even to me that they had just eaten.They could barely keep their eyes open.
Our guide told us that the lionesses do all the hunting, but the male lions muscle in and eat until they are full. Only then do the women eat what is left.
The guide kept talking, but I was thinking how much our house in Alabama resembled the African countryside at mealtime. Night after night I prepare meals, and I have to restrain my three cubs from slurping up the food until it’s properly blessed.
After they’ve eaten, the boys grow heavy-lidded. They complain that I have the nerve to ask them to clean up the kitchen when what would be best for them, obviously, would be to go directly to bed. If I don’t eat quickly enough, they get seconds, and thirds, until I’m left facing an empty skillet and forced to graze on a container of cherry yogurt to fill my stomach.
It’s not just dinnertime—if I want to eat, I have to guard all my food carefully. When I order Girl Scout cookies, I purchase an extra box of Thin Mints and hide it in my pajama drawer. I learned the hard way that if I don’t, the males will have devoured all the cookies moments after they’ve been placed in the pantry. I wondered if the lioness had a stash of zebra meat hidden in some bushes for a similar African emergency.
As the trip progressed, I began to wonder whether I could bring a cape buffalo home with me. I could train him to guard the evening meal until I’d had a chance to serve a plate of food for myself, ensuring that this lioness wouldn’t go hungry. I’d have to expand the laundry room to accommodate him, but then he could stand sentry over the boys and guarantee that they washed all the laundry, including mine, before I told him to relax and let them return to their Legos. The boys would be protected from bullies, because they could say, “Hit me again and I’ll sic my cape buffalo on you.”
It was such a marvelous idea that when we got to the airport I faxed Bill and asked him to see whether the Tiny Kingdom is zoned for cape buffalo. He suggested that perhaps I’d overdosed on anti-malarial medication and recommended that I sleep as much as possible on the plane.
I still don’t have a cape buffalo, but I sometimes dream about them. In my dreams my cape buffalo isn’t the nightmarish barbaric animal I’d feared at first. He’s my hideous but beloved partner in setting these boys straight.
God knows that I have one teen already and two approaching that age, and that I need that cape buffalo soon. I have faith that my special buffalo is on his way. Best of all, He’ll send me one who’s quit eating humans and developed a taste for grits. I can’t wait until he gets here.
Enter your Flashback Friday link below! For instructions see here.
|1. Sir Nottaguy-Imadad
2. Observations of an Earthroamer (Kim)
3. Ladybird @ LaVidaLadybird
4. Andi (a bribe to get married)
|5. Marissa – A Night Out
7. Rebecca (Puppy Love, Stolen)