I am on surprise safari in Kenya.
The Kenya part wasn’t a surprise—we are on our way to visit the Oltumo Project, which Gary is incoming president of. The safari was a surprise, because of something to do with timing and cheap flights and coupons and next thing I knew I found myself in an open air vehicle looking at a lion about ten feet away. The lion was very, very, big, but not actually bigger than the opening in the vehicle through which I was watching him. I felt like this was a very important ratio, but everyone else was not giving it the attention it deserved.
Our vehicle was only a partial vehicle. I initially thought this was because we were there on coupons, but it turns out that everybody drives in these, because it makes it easier to see. They are largely open on top, and on the sides--where there would normally be windows--there are just gaps that imagine they will one day grow up to be windows. There is no glass, although there is a clear plastic sheet that you can pull down over the window-esque hole. I really feel like the plastic sheet is not lion-grade-plastic, and the guide confirmed this saying it was “for if there is rain”. Rain was NOT MY PRIMARY CONCERN.
Salaash, my friend who is Maasai, has told me many times not to worry about lions. He rolls his eyes at my irrational phobia, and always tells me that “lions only eat you if you are being stupid”. He is failing to account for the fact that being stupid is my second favourite pastime after eating.
When he and I first had this conversation, I gave him The Look. Then, he reminded me that we live in Saskatchewan (which, as of this writing, is minus forty without the windchill and colder than either the North or South Pole). Then he said “Lions only kill stupid people. In Saskatoon, the cold kills EVERYBODY”. Which is an interesting perspective, but a little melodramatic. The cold does not kill EVERYBODY, it just kills everybody who is being stupid. Which in January is defined as leaving your house.
I think “being stupid” might be a culturally specific behaviour set, which is why last time I was in Maasai Mara (four years ago) I was not allowed to walk anywhere without a 12 year old kid babysitting me to make sure I didn’t try to pet a Mamba. (A mamba is a kind of snake that is apparently not as fun to play with as it’s name implies. I kind of feel that if they didn’t want people to pet the Mambas then a) they shouldn’t have named them after a party dance and made them sound so friendly, and b) they shouldn’t have invented Facebook Live. I think, though, that my perspective on this might be a bit North-America-Centric).
Anyway, Salaash was not with us for the Safari yesterday, because he’s already at the Oltumo site, and he seems to think of driving around in a car looking for warthogs is boring. Kind of like I would feel about driving around in a car looking for snow drifts, I guess.
Eric: Why is that warthog kneeling on the ground like that?
Guide: It adopts the kneeling position because that gives it better access to the food on the ground.
Me: That is a sensible warthog.
I am always explaining to Gary that it is sensible to put your mouth level with the food when you are eating, but Gary is invulnerable to reason. He always blah blahs some mumbo jumbo about manners, even though I was not even proposing eating from level with the ground I was proposing eating from level with the restaurant table. Which is just good common sense, when you think about it.
The warthog and I have an understanding.
Guide: In the lion king, they call the warthog “Pumba” which is derived from the Swahili word for stupid.
Me: What!? Why?
Warthog did not seem stupid to me. He just didn’t believe in adherence to arbitrary social norms regarding table manners.
Guide: Because they run for only three seconds before they forget why they are running. Look, he is about to do it now.
At this exact moment, the warthog got up, and with a great sense of purpose took off confidently. He ran for exactly three seconds, then came to a halt and looked around, perplexed, like he was wondering why he was running and/or looking for his iPhone.
Me: I think I have found my spirit animal.
Guide: They are the favourite animal of the lions, because they are so fat and juicy.
Yep, definitely my spirit animal.
Also, I just need to say:
a) they can’t be all THAT stupid if they’re able to get themselves so fat and juicy like that, so who is laughing now, huh?
b) common sense is a cultural construct anyway, and
c) I REALLY THINK THAT WE NEED TO SPEND LESS TIME SO CLOSE TO THE LION IN OUR OPEN VEHICLE BECAUSE I AM ALSO FAT AND JUICY AND I ALSO HAVE A HABIT OF BEING STUPID.
Also. That whole thing where you sing “Hakuna Matata” and then you don’t feel anxious DID NOT WORK AS ADVERTISED.