In the Time of COVID. Day 48
May 5, 2020
A Lesson in Willfulness
I picked up to-go mole chicken enchiladas this afternoon for our private little Cinco de Mayo celebration. I joined the queue of 6 or 8 and we observed physical distance protocols waiting to pick up our orders. Most everyone was wearing masks and I had a latex glove on the hand that I use at times like this. Years ago, when I broke an elbow, I learned how to function with one hand. I knew most of the people in line and we had a friendly chat about our kids. Then, a man in his 70’s walked past. No mask, no gloves, no respect for physical distance. He just brushed by us with no regard for our safety. It was an act of willfulness. That brought to mind a willful woman we came across in the Serengeti.
In 2006, April and I signed on to a three week overland safari from Nairobi, Kenya to Victoria Falls in Zambia. It was by assisted camping and was a rough go in a big truck through some of the most breathtaking sites in the world. We entered the eastern gate of the Serengeti National Park and our tents and gear were loaded atop safari jeeps for the trek into the heart of the savanna. We rough camped in the Serengeti and had two game safari trips. One at night and the other in the early morning. We saw elephants and zebras and giraffes, hippos, warthogs, hyenas, lions, baboons, buffalo, cheetahs and gazelles. It was a wonderful time.
We were told to stay in our tents at night because our camping site was not fenced. The guides slept atop their jeeps with loaded rifles to protect us. In the middle of the night, April thought she might just slip outside the tent and have a quick pee. She unzipped the flap and was confronted by two eyes catching the light of the moon. She zipped back up and nudged me “Stan, there’s is a lion out there, go look!” Is said “No way, I believe you, go to sleep”. We still laugh about that night.
In the morning we were roused for an early game safari. As I exited the tent I was confronted with perhaps the most beautiful sight I have ever seen. Out past the cinderblock out-house was a herd of a hundred grazing zebras and a sprinkle of wildebeests standing in Tall grass. The black and white stripes against tall tan grasses with a massive blue morning sky was breathtaking.
We grabbed our cameras and drove out to see more wildlife. The safari guides had two-way radios and they communicated over distances to tell each other where big five game were congregated. One had found a pride of lions, females and cubs who had taken down a Hartebeest and had eaten themselves into a blood drunk stupor. The carcass had been ripped open and the the hind quarters and organs were in those lions bellies. Their faces and jaws were blood red. They lay in the shade and raised their heads, passively, toward us when we drove up. This was their land and we were just observers.
The road through the Serengeti is impassable several months of the year. In the rainy season it becomes a quagmire. When we were there, the road was dry and dusty we wore bandana masks over our faces to breath. The jeeps spread out so the dust didn’t blind the drivers. This was serious 4 wheel terrain. It was a hundred miles from tarmac or gravel road bed. The edges of the track rose two to three feet up onto the savanna. Only in certain places could we turn off onto the grassy plains.
Later that morning we loaded our gear and headed east toward the lip of the Ngorongoro Crater where we were to camp that night. Suddenly we came upon a white window van. It was broken down in the track far from any assistance. It too was headed east.
Our guides offered to hook a chain on the van and pull it up to the eastern gate. It was about 40 miles east of us at that moment. The van people adamantly refused.
The oil drain plug had come undone and all the oil leaked from the engine. The engine ceased up. The engine was shot. Why refuse the tow?
The men in the van were transporting the casket of a woman who had died in Musoma, on the eastern shore of Lake Victoria. She had a good life there with her second husband and children.
It is the custom in Tanzania that when a woman dies she is to be buried near her first husband. That guy was from Arusha at the base of Mt. Kilimanjaro. The men in the van were certain that she didn’t want to go to Arusha, that her spirit had loosened the oil drain plug to stop the van. These men had sent word back to a shaman in Musoma. The shaman would arrive in a few days and sort out the woman’s wishes. Her willfulness, at that moment, was respected.
April and I turned to each other and said “This is why we travel”