Saturday, June 13, 2009

9 June (Tues)



Rained all night. Brad leapt out of bed at 5.30 saying he was off filming, which I thought was particularly odd as he usually has a lie in when it rains. Needless to say, when I emerged at about 7 am after having done the usual battle of dressing the kids I found him at his edit station, hard at work.

It is freezing and windy and we are all huddled in the office tent doing our respective work. This carried on for most of the day. That night we had to bath the kids in the ‘living room’ because it was so cold. There was no question of not bathing them as they were all muddy from head to foot, like little warthogs and they hadn’t bathed the previous day due to the storm. They loved the bath ‘indoors’ and there was much laughter and hilarity.

8 June (Mon)



Went filming. Found the lions early in the morning eating a male lechwe on dead tree island.

As usual I put Keita to sleep just after lunch at about 12.30. While we were lying there having her bottle we could hear the 3 boys (who no doubt had set some heinous trap for her or had some diabolical thing planned) chanting her name. She smiled around the teat of her bottle and very importantly shouted “Guys, I am just having a little dudus. I’ll see you later guys”. Too cute.

 We had a very unexpected big storm in afternoon which produced a beautiful rainbow and lots of diversion for the kids.

 

5 June (Fri)


We headed out filming before light the next morning so had to survey the lion damage by torchlight. They had ripped the inverter off the electric fence power supply, torn up all our underground cabling, chewed it to shreds and broken the electric fence in two places.

Mid-morning we went to Jesse’s pools for a picnic. As we got there about 60 elephants were drinking and another large herd was waiting to come through. We went to the usual spot and literally as we got there the herd started moving off in our direction. We sat quietly in the car watching as the various herd paraded close past us and through the water. The children were well behaved, even they appreciated the spectacular sight. The elephants were very relaxed and meandered through, dusting and playing and it was wonderful to see. We spotted the baby with no trunk or tail who Brad had previously filmed. He must have been attacked by lions and then rescued when he was a tiny baby. He now looks to be about a year old and his trunk has healed, but is very short. He can only eat by grazing on the grass with his mouth, which is probably not sustainable in the long run because a) he will eventually develop tusks and b) he is a boy so will invariably have to leave the matriarchal herd and be solitary. It is debatable whether bulls will look after him the way the females would.

On our usual route past the plover’s nest, the eggs of which we had so diligently protected from errant drivers by placing a log between them and the road, had hatched. We drove past and saw 2 tiny bundles in the nest. The one looked like a newly hatched plover and was doing all the things a newly hatched plover does, but the other was more like a bundle of damp feathers and looked as if it was breathing its last.

We attempted a full moon shot – tried to get a full moon and heat haze but moon was too pale and heat haze didn’t really work. We tried to create one by lighting a fire in a tin underneath the lens. Humphry was tasked with this, and it was quite a serious task as Moremi is bone dry and any carelessness could result in the whole place going up in flames. Thankfully it didn’t happen.

That night Frannette, Karen and I watched Sex and the City wrapped up in blankets on the Lamu bed while the boys pretended to work in the office tent. Pricka and Legae (who doesn’t speak any English) started watching but gave up, shaking their heads, about a third of the way through the film.

4 June (Thurs)



Last night the lions wreaked havoc in camp and terrified the majority of the crew. At precisely midnight the 5 lionesses announced their presence with a chorus of roaring, thereby ensuring that everyone in the camp was awake and listening. They then proceeded to pad around, occasionally rustling past a tent or sniffing audibly centimetres from ones head. The 5 sub-adults were not quite as considerate. This was far to good an opportunity to pass up, and while the lionesses were relatively well behaved, the youngsters spent their time investigating what there was to play with. The first thing in their path was the power box for the electric fence, which sits under some solar panels. They spent a few minutes chewing this before deciding to make off with it, in the process ripping all the wiring out the ground and disabling the fence. In so doing, one of them got a shock, which persuaded them all to move on to the next thing. That thing was Graham and Penny’s tent. A loud bang indicated that they had knocked over the water bucket outside the tent after which they broke the perimeter fence around the office, store and living areas. Clearly they were having great fun.

By now Keita was awake and in her fuzzy, 2 year old way, was trying to hum herself back to sleep. Every time she did this she got a sharp elbow in the ribs from either Brad or I. We were both very aware that the curious cubs would investigate this unusual sound. After 3 pokes in the ribs she looked like she was about to cry. Anyone who knows anything about lions knows that a crying baby (of any type) immediately attracts their attention and their predator instinct comes to the fore. We had no urge to pique the curiosity of the lionesses, nor the two large males who were invariably lurking somewhere on the periphery, but thankfully she fell asleep (with a pillow over her face) without creating a scene.

After a while, loud roaring by the males indicated that they were moving off northwards, much to everyone’s relief. Finally everyone was able to settle down and get some sleep.

 

29 May (Fri) – 31 May (Sun)


We went to Maun this weekend as a standard supply run and to get Ozzy to a vet. We felt that if there was something we could do to help him then we should do it now, rather than leave him to suffer for the rest of his life. The trip got off to a bad start when Rio was feeling very car-sick so we had to stop. A while later he threw up in the car and on himself. A while after that I realized that I had lost my bracelet when we stopped the first time, and we figured it was worth going back for it, which we did to no avail. After that Keita screamed for about 30 minutes and refused to go to sleep. Thankfully that was the end of the drama though and the trip actually panned out ok. We were expecting the worst because we were smuggling Ozzy out to take him to the vet, but he got through the gate and the vet fence undiscovered and he arrived in Maun not much the worse for wear.

Rob the Vet diagnosed that he indeed had 2 broken legs, the left which had healed already and the right, which had broken in 2 places, he strapped. He also filed his beak. The logic is that perhaps if we keep filing it, it will grow back straight. This was quite upsetting for the little bird. 

27 May (Wed)



Yesterday was “Mission on a stream” day, as Keita later called it.

We took a boat out for the day along the permanent channels to the north. It was a double-decker one so the kids had a blast and most of the adults, apart from Brad, spend the time stressing about the ladder that the kids (specifically Keita) were climbing up and down while that boat was moving at speed.

Much fun was had by all, as is befitting a Mission on a Stream.

This morning a breeding herd of eles came past the camp. One large cow was standing up against the fence and was very relaxed. Brad took Keita and stood only a few metres in front of her and she didn’t seem to mind. Rio was too busy playing to be interested in a mere elephant, even one as close as she was.

Frannette and I went for a walk later, with Humphry driving behind us on animal watch with all the kids on the roof (apart from Keita) who sits on my shoulders. It was an interesting walk. First we had to dodge a very relaxed herd of elephants on the road (probably the same ones who had come through camp), then we had to dodge a loan buffalo charging around in a state of high anxiety, then we bumped into Grant and Daphne, who told us about 200 more eles a short distance down the drag. Barely felt as if I had had a walk at the end of it all. 

The weather is unseasonally hot and we have so many flies in camp that we had to eat dinner zipped up in the toy tent.  There are hundreds of thousands, despite Humphry’s attempts to eradicate them all. We are all looking forward to a big freeze to kill them all.

As the days are still so hot, Rio always ends up stark naked by noon. He starts off wrapped up in layers as the nights are cold, and gradually unpeels himself. Keita often does the same. It pleases me to see them so free and tanned and toned.

 

Monday, June 1, 2009

25 May (Mon)



I pulled rank as befitting the Alpha female today so I could go out filming despite all the stuff that needed to be done. Once again we caught up with the lions close to the buffalos. I think I must be the Angel of Death for baby buffalos as once again the male lions managed to snag one. Was very pretty as they did their usual to-ing and fro-ing on the airstrip in a big cloud of dust which made for very good photos.

Soon after, while following the lioness following the buffalos through thick mopane we had a major mechanical meltdown. Something to do with the pinion and the diff. This caused much stress for Justine on other end of the skype line (she was simultaneously dealing with major electrical breakdown at nxamaseri) and much stress for me, as I was in the totally unenviable position of having to play go between for them on Skype in the process of ordering parts.

Eventually Brad and Jason hared off to Maun at 12.30, got a mechanic to assemble the part and arrived back at 8.30 pm. Must be some sort of record.  

 

24 May (Sun)


No ants in the tent last night, thank goddess. Hopefully my patch will hold forever.

We took a picnic lunch to Brad, Jason and Humphry who were spending the day with the lions and buffalos, who were once again relaxing near to each other. En route we had to go through two muddy crossings. After the first, Rio, clearly relieved that we had made it through, gave me a proud “well done mom!” 

23 May (Sat)


I woke up to a fire in the tent last night, which was a little alarming. In the morning assessed the damage and found that there was a large hole in the carpet with lots of greasy wax and melted plastic over it. Got too busy to examine it further and it was only later in the day when Frannette casually sidled up to me and mentioned that there was a column on ants moving in that I steeled myself for a peek. Indeed the candle had burned through the carpet and through our only-3-week-old tent floor. We had purchased the tent because the floor of the old one had holes and we had an ant issue, so this was truly horrible news. R7000 down the tubes.

I set about fixing it as best I could with a bit of canvass and contact adhesive, all the time muttering about how, if it wasn’t for me, Brad and the kids would probably be dead as he can sleep through a hurricane. Poor attempt to vindicate myself from having a lit candle in the tent in the first place.

I feel like I haven’t seen Rio at all. He never comes into the office anymore and if I make a special effort I get to watch him talking to his friends at meal times. He is largely absent because he is very busy playing all day every day. He never stops. Even William and Edward make time in their days to play alone, but not Rio. He takes this opportunity to play with whoever is around, and as there are two of them, there is always somebody. Keita is one of the boys, and makes for a 4th person so the dynamic is better than if there were only 3. She is invariably the “baddie” or the monster which they need to run away from, or slay, but she takes it all in her stride.

 

22 May (Fri)



Decided to go for a picnic lunch today and we all felt like exercise so took Humphry’s new-fangled frisby thing along. Brad claimed to know a spot where there were wide open spaces and no thorns so we headed off in the direction of Badumatau. New territory for all of us apart from Brad, who had previously followed the lions around those parts.

The drive there was wonderful and the area was indeed very open and beautiful. Much of the driving was off road and we had one minor incident en route when trying to cross a channel. We had many hands to help us though and apart from getting showered with mud when doing my bit for the cause, we managed to extricate ourselves within 30 minutes.

Eventually we found a suitably open space and immediately set about playing frisby while the children entertained themselves by throwing bits of anthill into the swamp. It really was a souped up frisby and after the first few throws flew about 100 metres and landed a little too close to the hippos we had to relocate. Despite this there were still some occasions where we needed a person to divert the hippos while someone (invariably Brad) dashed in and grabbed the errant frisby from under their noses.  

Afterwards we settled down to a great picnic lunch and headed off on our epic trip back. We all expected the return to be an epic because we were cutting across a thick island to the road on the other side of 3rd bridge, but I suspect it was a little more epic that Karen and Humphry had in mind. Think today we coined a new phrase – extreme picnicking.

Spirits were starting to flag after 2 hours of ploughing through thick sand and croton bushes on a hot afternoon, but all perked up when we spotted a 10-foot python near the vehicle. We all crawled out from under the kikois we had over us to protect us from leaves and twigs and insects and got a good look at it. Was a very relaxed character. 

 

20 May (wed)


Humphry is also on a mission to eradicate every fly in our camp. He spent the morning alternately wielding a fly swatter and helping create the buffer zone around the camp. He maintains he is having an effect on the fly population but we all know that it will only be a short time before the flies return en masse. Nevertheless he continues. Very tenaciously. I think a good clean will have a far better effect so plan to hand pricka the bleach and a brush and get him to clean all the surfaces this afternoon.

Today is Frannette’s day off, so she is out filming with the crew. They stay out all day on principle so we don’t expect them back until after dark. Karen and I are holding the fort. Had an interesting session at school and decided that Wednesdays will be art days. Much easier. Then had a fight with Rio because he interrupted me putting Keita to sleep and woke her up after 40 minutes of trying. Then had a fight with Keita cos she wouldn’t go back to sleep so all in all felt like a crap mother. Slowly getting over it though.

Last night, trying to put Keita to sleep early so I could get to eat the very wonderful fish pie Karen had made for dinner at my special request I had the sweetest interaction with Keita. Rio had fallen asleep, I was holding Keita in my arms, trying to get her to fall asleep sooner and reading my book at the same time. I find that when I do this it keeps her still and allows her to sleep easier, so I was reading my book and trying to ignore her when I became aware of her little hand patting me on the face. “Mommy, is you ok?” she asked. “Yes Keet, I’m fine, how are you?”

“Fine. Why are you holding me?”

“So that you will go to sleep easier.”

“Oh, can you put me on the bed now please?”

“Ok”

My 2 year old going on 10.

18 May (Mon)


During the night the lions killed and ate one of our resident impalas about 100 m from our camp. Shame. They are practically tame. Frannette thinks it was Bernie, one of the two males in the herd. Frannette, Jason and Humphry went tearing off in the vehicle in response to the obvious sounds of feeding very close by at 7.30 pm. They found the lions, bloody and terrifying at the sign for the camp.

They proceeded to roar close to camp all night which was exciting. Had visions of Frannette cowering in her tent, because out there on the perimeter she happened to have the tent closest to the action, about 80 metres from where they ate the impala.

Was my turn to head out with the film crew. Left early, before light. Rio was awake but was ok about staying behind because his friends are here and he would rather be in camp with them. Last night when I was putting him to sleep he said, “Mommy, I love my friends”. He is so happy with them here and I am beginning to dread them leaving. We are now taking turns begging Karen and Humphry to stay longer. The whole of June if possible.

The lions killing the impala so close to camp must have had an effect on Humphry as he was galvanized into picking up a panga and cutting a 10 metre buffer zone around our camp where the vegetation was quite close to the fence. This was after spending much time day questioning me about animal (particularly lion) behaviour. He concluded that we are being blasé and doesn’t want to be in a position of having to learn from his mistakes. Neither do we. I notice that he has also taken to carrying a knife in his pocket.

Later, when bathing in the big silver tub on the grass, I overheard Rio chatting to Edward. He had mentioned something about how his parents might die. Edward had then said something along the lines of … then your granny will look after you … to which Rio replied “well my granny is old and will die soon and then what will I do, I will be all alone”. Very sweetly, Keita, who was playing close by and had overheard all of this, went to Rio and gave him a hug and said “You are my sister Rio”. The intention was good but the effect was to have Rio reprimand her about how he was her brother …

Clearly he is still dwelling on the topic of death.

On this note, he may not be far wrong. Brad continues so smoke himself into oblivion and most of my nights are taken up with listening to him wheeze. 

17 May (Sun)


Back from Maun uneventfully. As usual Maun was a mad run-around of meetings and stuff. Think we did the deal with PJ on Buffalo Trails so we can get going soon on building and establishing a life. Now that it is happening of course I am beginning to dread getting into a mundane normal existence, although I know my perceptions currently are coloured by the fact that the Hamiltons are here, making life fabulous for all of us. I keep having to remind myself how different it is when Rio doesn’t have company and I am sure that once they leave I will be happy that our move to Maun is imminent.

Met up with Lesley McNutt in Maun. She had some interesting, encouraging things to say about raising kids in the bush. According to her, early childhood in the bush changes your perception of the world for life. Being the scientist that she is she claims it is scientifically proved fact that kids brought up in an environment where they actually use their senses and have the additional stimulation of exposure to the natural environment are better rounded, happier, better developed individuals.

On another note, I am now becoming convinced that I am heading down the long dark road to altzheimers. Starting to have large gaps in my mind, mid sentence. Sang Rio and Keita their usual good night Leonard Cohen songs, which I have been singing since Rio was born, and went blank twice on the lyrics.

She-who-is-eternally-thoughtful made a fabulous mothers day surprise for us. It was official mothers day last week but we were stuck in the bundu and couldn’t do anything good enough about it so we delayed it and then promptly all forgot, all that is, except Steppy-Netty who, with the kids, made very sweet cards and presented Karen and I with a kikoi each and a cappuccino. My card from each child had portrait of me, carefully drawn and two things that they loved about me. Keita’s was animals and armpits, and Rio’s was colouring and playing football and rugby with me. Ahhhhh

Brad shouted at Frannette for remembering mothers day when he had forgotten. She consistently shows him up.

We watched Slumdog Millionaire in a heap on the Lamu bed. Was very cosy. 

12 May (Tues)


Did a game drive and had a picnic at Jesse’s pools in the hope that the elephants would come down for a swim. They didn’t but it was great fun anyway. Saw the lions on the way back, all 12 together, looking thin. Both males with them for the first time in ages, just in time to poach whatever food the lionesses manage to catch. Must be quite a stress on them having to feed the 2 males and the 5 cubs.

I feel like I am in a hormone-induced hell. Don’t know what has happened but the past few days I feel like someone else is inhabiting my self. Have been ratty, bloated, sore, tired and irritable. Hoping to god I am not pregnant. Don’t feel pregnant but definitely something weird happening in my system. Not nice at all.

Starting to get really cold in the mornings and evenings and am loving the snuggling in the mornings with the kiddies. Keita wakes up to come into our bed every night now and she is very snuggly. She still has her armpit fetish and lies there purring and playing with armpit while sucking her thumb.

We are off to Maun tomorrow to have some meetings with PJ and the school. Slowly starting to lay the foundations for a life there. 

10 May (Sun)


Had hippos mating in the lagoon front of our tent at 1am. At breakfast this morning it turns out that the whole camp had been woken by them and everyone, once they had got over the initial shock of thinking there were lions tearing each other apart, had lay awake sniggering at the very odd noises emanating from the creatures. They make a gutteral roaring and bellowing that progresses into squeaks, pops and gurgles. They then fling themselves around in the water to create a great splashing. This went on for about an hour after which they settled down to a low rumbling, engine idling sound which was actually very soothing and comforting. Somehow the kids managed to sleep through the cacophony. Lovely evening.  

Keita has discovered her fanny. For the past few days I have frequently found her peering intently at it, legs akimbo, with a quizzical look on her face. She points it out with great glee saying “look mommy” and “what is it?” I told her it is her fanny and she burst into uproarious laughter. Clearly she finds it amusing.

Brad built Ozzy a great little play / training area with perches and flat areas to stand. It is lovely and he seems to like it. Ozzy is starting to walk around on his own which is so cute. He stomps around like a hunched old man. I am thinking that maybe he can be a free-range owl and just come home for food. This morning we found him at the base of the large green drum where his dish had been put so he could get warm. He must have jumped out, but this could be the first inkling of an urge to fly – unless he is just stupid or suicidal, which may be why he left the nest in the first place when he was a few days old and Joyce found him in a heap at the bottom.

Once again we went out last night to do a moon shot. Did the ususal walk to the swimming hole and the to Gnu Poo pan with Humphry and Frannette. Managed to tear a hole in my foot so eventually had to cut the walk short. Once again the kids went wild. Had a warm fuzzy moment in the vehicle on the drive back with Keita and Rio both snuggled in my lap. Didn’t last very long because Rio got a bit uncomfortable being the ‘cheese’ in the sandwich, but was lovely while it did. 

9 May (Sat)



Usual sort of Saturday. Full moon, so we wanted to film a particular moon-rising shot for the feature film. Karen, Humphry, Frannette, me and the kids walked (alternating drivers) to the swimming hole. When we got there we found a breeding herd of elephants scattered 360 degrees around. We decided to swim nevertheless, with an elephant lookout posted at all times. I was first lookout while the others swam, then I had my turn. Once we were all cool and wet we walked (again alternating drivers) to Gnu Poo pan for the sunset shot. En route a game drive truck snuck up on us. Frannette completely missed the interaction and only saw up pointing excitedly ahead. She thought we were gesticulating because there was a lion and flew into the car at a speed that I didn’t think she was capable of.

Rio and Edward spend their days determinedly demolishing the anthill. I barely see Rio these days as he is very busy playing. We have a new system now whereby Frannette gets one day a week off (Wednesdays) during which I will take charge of the kids and the cooking. I think, theoretically, it is going to be good for me to have a day a week of solid ‘kid time’. It is all too easy to wander into the office tent and get caught up in some work related thing every 10 minutes.

This past Wednesday Brad, Frannette and Jason spent the day with the lions who were still following the buffalos in the mopane. The day ended on a horrible note when the 2 old females and the young male who had taken up residence at Magxwagana chased our 5 females away and left the cubs all alone and very vulnerable in the mopane. We were all very worried about them the whole night. They were all back together again the next morning.

We have our new tent up (as of about 10 days ago) and the design is such that the entire back and front open up to be only mesh. We sleep with our bead at the open mesh side, so it is much like sleeping outside and with the moon so full we are literally bathed in moonlight.

Sunday, May 24, 2009

8 May (Fri)



Keita now wakes up every morning saying “the naughty swenis stole Frannetty’s food”.

Went out filming with Brad while Jason was in Maun. Loved being back in the bush and taking photos. Was an interesting day, with much going on, not least when we found Ra Noka, the dominant male lion, just at first light and Brad flung me out of the vehicle literally at the feet of this lion to get low angle photographs. After having done it once you tend to get blas̩ and I spent a good portion of the day crouched at the front wheel of the cruiser, a few metres away from the lions, getting fabulous photographs. I lost my nerve once when Ra Noka, after polishing off the baby impala, started walking to the lionesses. The way we were parked his only option was to follow a path that cut directly in front of the vehicle, or to follow the path that ran along side the vehicle, between us and a bush. As I was at the front tyre of the vehicle, crouched on the ground, he literally would have had to squeeze past me (a sum total of about 50cm between me and the bush Рis 50cm even enough to fit a male lion?) or walk directly in front of me, within 1 metre. Both were too close for my liking and I lost my nerve and stood up just as he was approaching the corner of the vehicle where I was crouched, so I never saw what route he would have taken. This gave him a huge fright but I figured it was better than having him literally bump me out the way to get past. Close is fine, but that close is madness.

We spent the day watching the thin and desperate lionesses follow the buffalo herd. They managed to kill a young impala and then a baby buffalo in fairly quick succession, but both times were relieved of the kill by the grossly full male lion who had only recently returned from shagging two aged lionesses nearby.

I returned to camp at lunchtime, feeling guilty about staying out all day. I really need to get over this, specifically because Rio is so busy playing with his friends that he really isn’t aware if I am around or not.

That evening, the buffalos, the lions, and Brad were all close by so we decided to do a sunset game drive, with Champagne, and meet up with them. We had meant to drink champagne the day before to celebrate the baboons raiding the tent (the only thing to do in the circumstances – beats moping about it) but none of us had been up to it. We headed out and pandemonium ensued on the vehicle. I thought Rio and Keita were difficult to contain and keep quiet while game driving but William makes them seem like angels. We had to park far from everything, which was fine with me – I don’t need to see a lion killing another buffalo, and neither do the kids. Who knows what this would do to Rio’s budding theory of life and death.

The kids ran wild and the parents got increasingly stressed. Jason (Brad’s assistant) looked positively alarmed at the noise and the chaos that was unfolding on the vehicle. He is not a parent. 

The evening gradually got better because we drank the champagne and all the mayhem on the vehicle didn’t seem to matter anymore. 

6 May (Wed)



I delivered Brad his lunch today as he was filming and didn’t want to leave the lions and the buffalos who were sleeping within 30 metres of each other, as they often bizarrely do. I took Pricka with me so that he could get out for a bit, leaving everyone else in camp.

An hour later we arrived back in camp to see Humphry and Frannette marching down the road looking murderous – he with a seriously smart catapult and she with a spade - and some baboons walking nonchalantly down the road in front of them. It turns out that some members of a baboon troop had raided Fannette’s tent, decimating her birthday care package from her mother (filled with Woolies iced coffee, Argentinian chocolate biscuits and other such delicious things) and her birthday care package from Joyce. They had strewn everything all over the floor as well as smeared pooh on her pink duvet.

This had made She-Who-Is-Always-Happy a little unhappy, although she hid it well. She still had a smile on her face when attempting to look threatening at a large male baboon who was barely bothering to run away from them. It was only when Humphry zapped it in the bum with a marble fired from his catty that it moved. Later Frannette told us that at one stage she had been in her tent, mourning the loss of her goodies, when the marauding male had returned. She had quickly zipped it up, locking her inside, and him outside. By the time we arrived back they had been waging war for quite a while already. This is a worrying turn of events because we haven’t had a baboon problem before.

Pricka soon sorted out the problem though. As we pulled into camp and it became apparent that baboons were the source of the commotion, Prika leapt off the vehicle, grabbed a nearby log from the woodpile and took off after the baboons, yelling and yodeling and generally sounding like an insane banshee, terrifying the troop and all the children. Young baboons screamed and ran for their mothers, adults barked and scrambled for cover and there was pandemonium all round. Only about 20 minutes later Pricka sauntered back into camp, sweaty and satisfied that he had chased them far enough away.

I went directly into the camp and found Keita very wide-eyed on Karen’s hip. She earnestly informed me that “the naughty swenis had eaten Frannette’s food and that they were going to eat her”. She must have thought that her dream of a few days before was about to become a reality. Rio and William and Edward were quite uninterested and continued whatever game of pirates or soldiers they were engrossed in, practically without missing a beat.

At about 5pm a breeding herd of elephants wandered past. We stood and watched them and then I snuck into the shower with Rio and Keita. We watched them from there for a while until the kids got bored and we snuck out again, just in time it seems because a cow with a tiny calf wandered up and ate the grass under the shower while resting her head against the raised shower platform itself. It wouldn’t have been so fabulous to have still been in there with two restless kids.

That night I did get an “I love you as much as a great white whale” from Rio just before he fell asleep, which made my year. 

2 May (Sat)


We arrived back in camp from Maun with the Hamiltons (Karen, Humphry and their twin 5-year-olds, William and Edward) who are going to be staying with us for a while. For the first time the trip there and back was uneventful. Maun was great thanks to the copious amounts of friends and fun. Fantastic to have Hamiltons here. All seem to be enjoying so far, although it is only day one. Brad had left ahead of us in the supply vehicle early this morning so I arrived to a brand new tent already in place with all my things restored to their usual position. What a fabulous husband.

We had a big storm in the late afternoon and into the evening. It hailed for a bit, the first time I have seen it in Botswana. Rio was thrilled. Ran around yelling “its raining ice” and gathering up the hailstones to eat. 

Ozzie owl is thriving and is beginning to get the distinctive heart-shape formed out of feathers framing his face. He still looks ridiculous though but we all love him nevertheless. Humphrey caught a lizard for him, which impressed us all. 

Saturday, May 23, 2009

26 April (Sun)


We have a dead mouse in a bag in our fridge. It is on the feta. The reason we have said mouse is that we are now the proud parents to a baby barn owl. It is very possibly the oddest, ugliest creature ever and it is Frannettes 3rd attempt at raising a baby. Third time lucky hopefully. Good thing she is having more luck raising children, considering they are my children.

Ozzy Owl has a badly broken beak and looks like he is in pain. He probably fell out of the nest onto his face. He doesn’t look very bright. Joyce found him at South Gate. Apparently he had been lying in the hot sun all day but when she brought him to us later that day he was fairly sprightly and was taking water eagerly.

The downside of raising a baby barn owl is feeding a baby barn owl. I had just banned Pricka catching mice in traps, which he had been doing with alacrity while we were on leave, but now have to tell him to resume the repugnant task. It is one thing to catch a mouse but neither Frannette or I have the stomach (or heart) to chop it up. So we waited for Brad, who wont develop post-traumatic stress as a result, to do it. I have seen him dissect a dead lechwe, examining it’s heart as if it was a good book, and not bat an eyelid, so I doubt he will have any qualms about making mince out of the mouse. (Don’t ask him to change a pooh nappy however. That is too much, and he will physically vomit. I have witnessed this myself). Brad duly chopped it up before dinner. From the table we could hear Frannette retching as she attempted to get the gooey bits of innards into the baby. She certainly is pushing all her limits. Nothing wrong with her determination or her spirit.

Pricka then caught a large rat for Ozzy and filleted it, so it is all ready to be tomorrows meal. I have discovered that Ozzy loves having his head and body rubbed with ones nose while making clucking sounds. This makes him close his eyes and swoon with delight. He is very perky and prospects for his survival seem good. I have e-mail a vet about his broken beak and injured leg. Hopefully we can get him to a point where he is able to fend for himself so he doesn’t have to be fed his whole life.

It is going to be interesting teaching him to fly…

Of course Keita loves Ozzy and wants to hold and touch him all the time. We have to hide him (we think it is a him) or physically restrain her. She calls it the chicken.

Frannette had a very bright idea today. Pity she didn’t have it earlier, before Brad cruised into Kalahari Canvass and bought a P7000 replacement tent. None of us had thought to simply turn our tent around and use our (unused) back door as our front, and sew the broken door closed. So simple …

In addition to everything else she does, Frannette is teaching Pricka to drive – brave girl. He seems to be doing well despite the fact that he hasn’t even steered a car before.  They head off diligently for 30 minutes every day and return with her pale and shaken. He is clearly enjoying it though and needs something to stimulate him out here.

 

Tuesday, May 19, 2009

22 April (Wed)


I am working in the kitchen this morning because I arrived in the office this morning to find ants swarming all over Brad’s desk and his computer. I was happy to leave them there (after all it wasn’t my computer) but Pricka, the World’s Most Fabulous and Efficient Camp Hand, rushed in and sprayed a can of Doom on them. Needless to say this fruck me out and I won’t be able to go in there for at least a week. Good thing we are planning a trip to Maun tomorrow. I am not a believer in Doom and he got The Lecture about what it does to ones brain cells, let alone the environment. He probably won’t do it again.

We had ants in our bed last night as well. More specifically, Keita had ants in her bed and I inadvertently transferred her, and the ants, to our bed. Also, our zip packed in so we had it fastened with clothes pegs, which wasn’t quite enough to keep the hordes of mozzies out. I am at a loss at to what to do about the ant thing. Clearly my and Pricka’s frantic patching had no effect. I suspect as things get drier it will only get worse. It is hideous getting crawled on and having everything else, including ones children, crawled on, but don’t want to Doom them. It is ideologically and environmentally unsound, not to mention unhealthy. I am informed by Brad-Who-Knows-Everything that we wont be able to put in a new floor as the walls of the tent are too thin and will tear. It is also prohibitively expensive and for that amount of money we may as well just get a whole new tent built.

Rio continues to be fixated on death. We have a massive fly infestation and everyone takes turns with the fly swatter. Rio usually loves this task and it can keep him occupied for hours. Today he was collecting the victims in his bug box, and after having had a look at the carcasses he got all tearful and said “mommy why do we have to kill flies? Lets not kill anymore”. It was too sweet. The vegetarian in me relates to this and I remember feeling exactly the same when I was a child (and still do). I have vivid recollections of feeling so desperately sorry for little things that others killed with such indifference. I always felt (and still do) that they are little beings doing the best they can, and that they are trying to live their lives and get through each day like all of us are. I manage to conveniently get over this when it comes to flies and mozzies though.   

Work like a Trojan in the morning and then head to Maun in the afternoon.

We are beginning to get to know the Parks People at the gate. As we drove through I said to the man, in my token Setswana “cheers Ra, see you Saturday”. Keita, trying to be very polite, added “cheers, Rassie”.  

20 April (Mon)



First thing this morning I found Rio sitting by Mouse’s grave sobbing. He was genuinely very distraught and saying again how much he misses mouse and how he loved mouse and that mouse was too little to die. I again stumbled out an explanation about how Mouse’s spirit is in the sky and he has gone to a better place where he is with others who love him. Rio wanted to know who, which was a tough one, but I told him other squirrels who had died and who would look after him ‘up there’. Still need to formulate some sort of coherent theory on this.

I am beginning to think we did the wrong thing by telling Rio all about Mouse’s death. He is developing an issue with it, I would say bordering on obsession. Today he asked me why I don’t die. I told him I was too young to die. Later, as I was putting him to bed, he asked me again. He quickly latched on to the fact that “granny Marion is old, why doesn’t she die”, which of course is a good question. He also pointed out that Mouse was just a baby, so what about him and Keita, why don’t they die, all of which freaks me out.

Now, when I head off to the long drop, or in the vehicle with Brad, he hugs me and says earnestly “be careful mommy, don’t die”. This is causing him much anxiety.

The day progressed as most of our days do. I work until 10.30 or if I am very lucky, until 11. Then the kids are let loose and all hell happens. Today they were both very needy and strange, finding me wherever I was in camp and latching onto my limbs. The only thing to do is put everything aside and get into their headspace, which is frustrating from a work perspective. Keita has had diarrhea since her illness in Jo’burg and it seems to be getting worse.

Very hot, unseasonably so, which makes doing anything difficult. Brad has spent the past 2 days out from sunrise to sunset, despite the fact that the lions are sleeping through the heat of the day. He is feeling anxious about the feature film he is putting together. He realizes that he isn’t going to get any support from anyone and it is entirely his baby.

Surprisingly Brad returned with some giant mushrooms which we find occasionally, but not usually this late in the year. These are enormous white, plate-size mushrooms that grow exclusively on anthills and emerge after thunderstorms. We usually braai them with butter and gariic and one big one can be sufficient for 10 people. This find was a treat and Frannetty was immediately dispatched to cook them.

Keita spotted the vine snake again, which is rapidly turning into ‘our’ vine snake, or devine snake, as Keita says. I was rather impressed that she managed to find it, considering it is also called a twig snake because it looks very much like a twig.

 

 

17 April (Fri)



Heard lions roaring early on in the evening. Sounded like major politics happening in the pride. Generally had a very disturbed night, with all of us experiencing odd dreams. Frannette and I have finally become one. It has been getting to this stage for a while. It is the norm for us to be ‘Mom-in-Stereo’, often barking the same thing at the kids at exactly the same time, which they are completely used to. Now even my dreams coincide with hers.

I had a very disturbing dream about Keita being bitten by a puffadder and then becoming a puffadder, but because of the bite she was a very sick, hot, shriveled little adder. Frannette dreamed about Keita being a little rat, which she had to hold in her hands and protect from a pack of dogs that was trying to get her. I am quite used to Frannette having weird dreams. I am convinced that is how she manages to be so happy and easy-going. All the bad stuff is channeled out at night while she sleeps, leaving this happy soul to face the world, unlike the rest of us who regularly inflict our personality disorders on everyone else.

This rat dream makes a change from Frannette’s usual dream, which she has at least once a week, and which is some variation of lions eating members of our crew. A few days before I moved here I had a very vivid dream about lions trying to get into the tent where I was huddled with the kids, and some poor injured soul, bleeding profusely from his right hand, getting shooed away by me because he was smearing blood over the front of our tent and I was afraid it would attract and enrage the lions. Every time I think of this I think we should be more vigilant …

Keita awoke at 1 am saying that the monkeys were eating her. She barely slept after that and was up and bouncing at 4.45. Makes one wonder what was going on in the universe. We both kept a close eye on Keita all day.

Went out on a family game drive again this morning. The kids are getting used to these drives, and assume their favourite position in the vehicle. Their limit is about 2 hours before they get very bored and Keita starts hanging out of the vehicle to entertain herself. This morning, Keita fell asleep at 8 am, no doubt exhausted by all the energy directed at her during the night.

We spotted a vine snake in the tree next to the kids tree house. Reading up about it is a bit alarming. The are very poisonous but timid and back-fanged. This one has been sitting in the same spot all day so at least we are able to keep an eye on it. 

14 April (Tues)



Spent the day unpacking and sorting through mountains of stuff as usual. I keep forgetting what is where so end up bringing everything anyway, and then get here to find there are enough clothes for 10 children, even without what I have carried all the way from SA. Vow to give away at least two-thirds of what is here by end of June.

Had a major infestation of ants last night. I was in Rio’s bed at about midnight when Keita called me to her bed. As I lay down my skin tingled all over as what felt like a million things crawling over me. I turned on a torch and found her bed to be black with ants, hundreds of which were crawling all over her. I wondered how she managed to stay asleep for so long with this going on. It took me about 20 minutes to extricate them from her hair. I woke Brad who (only then) discovered that they were all over him in our bed as well. We established that Rio’s was the only bed unaffected by them, but we had to vacate the tent anyway. Brad dutifully set up bedrolls in the main area while I was pinned under Keita, who was massively traumatized by the whole thing, trying to calm her down. The kiddies and I crowded together on the lamu bed (under a much needed mozzie net, but rather short on space) and brad slept on the floor. By now it was all wildly exciting to be ‘sleeping out’ and it took us all about an hour to settle and go back to sleep.  

This morning Brad went off filming muttering about buying a new tent. Ours was inherited from Joyce and was far from intact. I took everything out of the tent and lifted the carpet to patch the numerous holes in the floor with duct tape. Thank goodness Pricka came to my rescue and helped. It took him about 2 hours to painstakingly tape each miniscule hole closed. Eventually he ran out of tape with only half the tent done. I gave him the ok to Doom it (against my better judgement) and replaced everything.

Keita continues to be high maintenance and wants her mother every 3 minutes. This could be a reaction to her recent illness, from which she is only now recovering. She does these dramatic slow motion runs with her head flung back and her arms out at her sides (like a soldier being shot in a war movie) calling ‘momeeeeee’ with a pained expression on her face. She then flings herself at me. If it wasn’t so distracting it would be hilarious.

I am making a concerted effort to teach the kids Setswana. I told them a baboon is a tsweni. Rio calls it a sweni and Keita calls it a tweni. We are getting there. 

We went on an evening game drive to find sites for the camera mounts so we can start doing the time lapse shots for the feature film. Spent a happy sunset time at the pan, watching the hippos watch us and picnicking on the bonnet of the vehicle. 

Thursday, May 14, 2009

Back from Holiday

Finally I feel I have settled in enough to write. A few days ago we returned from a 3 week trip which turned into a 4 week trip to Durban and Jo'burg, the purpose being to let Rio have a real 5th birthday party with his friends. It involved much moving and packing and squatting in friends houses but in retrospect it was just what I needed emotionally. I have arrived back feeling infinitely better than when I left and am quite enjoying this place, having the correct head-space. I can immediately sense a change in Rio as well. Within 3 days of leaving Moremi he stopped his incessant high-pitched humming to himself. The silence was blissful and only once it had stopped did I become aware of how demented it had been making me and I felt some semblance of sanity return.

The Surfside Gang in Dbn gave him a hero’s welcome, running the full length of the field en masse, arms open, shrieking his name as they saw him walking down the side stairs. It was beautiful and I was practically in tears. It only took him a few minutes to regain his usual self and play as if he had never been away. Durban was a bit of a social whirl and Dylan and him got on very well, contrary to my expectations as they have a history of bugging each other.

Spent a week in the office sorting out all sorts of work stuff and then as we were getting ready to play and have a true holiday Rio came down with mystery illness. We were expecting chicken pox as he had played with Tadgh on the Saturday that we had been in Jhb. On the Tues Sue phoned me to say Tadgh had it and we should expect to get it. The following Saturday night Rio developed a terrible fever which seemed to be spiking alarmingly. We knew that we couldn’t rule out Malaria so on Sunday evening when his fever was even higher (and in my opinion, too high to be chicken pox) we took him off to Umhlanga casualty. He was extremely ill and was just beginning to show a rash so the particularly useless doctor diagnosed chicken pox (at my instance) and proceeded to sedate him and take blood from his groin to do the malaria test. (Neli, my much loved and trusted Jo’burg pediatrician, nearly had heart failure when I told her she had done this as apparently the procedure is excruciating.)

Over the next few days Rio proceeded to get worse, with the fever breaking sporadically, and it became clear that it wasn’t chicken pox. By this time he had a severe rash on his face and torso, occasionally spreading to his limbs. On Wednesday 25, the day of his 5th birthday we bundled them into the car and drove back down to Jhb. By this stage Keita was ill as well and had had sporadic fevers since the day before. She was also showing the first signs of the strange rash. Both of them were so ill on the drive that they literally couldn’t get out of the car even to have a wee break.

We drove them straight to Neli (our pediatrician since Rio was born) at the Parklane Clinic. She took one look at the limp, red-spotted, moaning figures that Brad and I had carried in to her consulting room and declared them to be extremely ill and, after a thorough examination each, said her guess was typhoid. She admitted them as outpatients to the pediatric ward, ordered immediate blood tests (which she had to do herself due to the slippery nature of Rio’s veins) and put them on a 5 days course of intravenous Rocephin. Then we were in hell. The kids shrieked and screamed as if their limbs were being amputated and it didn’t get any better. Brad was patently shaken by this whole thing, being unused to seeing such things. That night Rio was as sick as I have ever seen him, feverish, moaning and clutching his head complaining of intense pain. It was unbelievably stressful. The malaria and typhoid tests had come back negative and we were all at a loss. The results did show his system was fighting something but we had no idea at that stage whether it was viral or bacterial. At 10 pm I had Neli on the phone as I feared my inexplicable lifelong terror of meningitis was beginning to make sense. Neli, although very concerned, explained that they were on the biggest does of the most powerful antibiotic and there was nothing more we could do. We had given him Voltaren and Impeped suppositories and all we could do was wait and see.

In her opinion it was unlikely to be meningitis because he would have been dead already, but if it was he was on the correct dose of antibiotic. If it was incephalitis then it is viral and there is nothing we can do anyway and basically all we could do was wait until morning and see if there was any improvement.

The next morning he was a little better but the rash persisted for a few more days, as did the fever. Both children had to go back every day for 5 days for their daily dose of intravenous antibiotics and twice the doctors had to resite the drips, so all in all it was a hideously traumatic time for all involved.

Keita's rash lasted much longer, but her illness seemed to be much lower grade, taking about 2 weeks to clear, but without the same terrifying fevers as Rio. They both had terrible diarrhea.  After thousands of rands of blood tests later we had no diagnosis and it continues to be a mystery. We know what it wasn’t, but have no idea what it was. As it didn’t respond very well to the massive doses of Rocephin we suspect a virus, but nobody around them contracted anything despite the fact that we had been living so closely with people, so it was all very odd.

As soon as we were sure that the antibiotics hadn’t been masking any symptoms and they were both well again we returned to Moremi.  And here we are. Back home. 

Saturday, May 9, 2009

7 March (Sat)


Had another hideous night last night. Keita awake at 2am with nightmares, saying monsters are coming to get her. Just as she had fallen sleep she was woken by Brad coughing and then took another hour to get back there, at which point she was shouted at by Brad for not going to sleep, at which point I shouted at him at which point he shouted at me. So Keita and I were awake for the next hour. Rio up at 5, then Keita up at 6, so no sleep at all for me. I spent the night with awful thoughts about how all my concerns have come to fruition (as they bloody do). We have taken our happy go lucky, outgoing, sociable little boy and isolated him in an environment that is not stimulating for him once the novelty has worn off, with nobody his age and adults who aren’t the least bit interested in improving his situation – least of all his dad, (although this isn’t intentional the outcome is the same). Brad is not seeing the very obvious signs of stress that Rio is exhibiting and somehow unaffected by the incessant high-pitched humming that Rio has taken to doing all the time. Rio has almost completely vanished into the world of Wally Books. He goes to sleep at night clutching them, spends all day pouring over them reaches for one as his eyes open in the morning. He only reads certain pages - the ones with dragons and knights and creatures. I wish I had some reference for what a nearly 5-year-old boy is like. I don’t think I had ever spoken to a five-year-old before I became a mother. I feel like I have a better grasp of astrophysics than parenting.     

I had to play the role of Brad’s assistant this morning and head out early filming. Everything was swimming before my eyes from exhaustion. It was rather like a hallucination – memories of a beach in Greece with the rocks breathing …

We found two new lionesses (actually very old lionesses but new in this territory). They were with a young male who had been badly damaged in a fight and looked as if he may not survive. If he does pull through he will probably lose the sight in his eye. He has an abscess from a bite on his jaw that has become very septic and affected the entire right side of his face. Poor thing.

As on the way home a very large cobra reared up unexpectedly from in the grass on the side of the road. There was a moment when I was literally eye to eye with the creature as we drove past it. Oh the joy of doorless vehicles …

I felt much better after the drive this morning. Perhaps my depression is just cabin fever.

Later that day I was chatting to Rio while he was half-heartedly playing on the jungle gym. He told me that he had a secret (which immediately set off numerous alarm bells - as it does). He whispered in my ear that his secret was that he wanted to go back to Durban with Anthony. When Anthony had left Rio had asked if he was leaving too, and I told him he was staying and asked him if he was happy about this. He said he was and I was very relieved and felt that my stress was unfounded and he is happy here and I am indeed projecting all this stuff onto him. Today he told me now that actually he does want to go back to Durban, but clearly doesn’t want to upset us or make us angry (don’t know why he thinks this would make us angry …) so he says it is his secret.

Brad is very busy, if not actually filming then doing maintenance on the vehicles which fall apart rapidly in this environment. Keita and Rio spend whatever time with him they can get this afternoon proximity to dad meant helping with the vehicle maintenance. The main appeal was the drum of old fuel that Brad and Graham were using to clean various nuts and bolts. In no time both Rio and Keita had paint brushes and were painting intricate petrol portraits on a bit of board. As I was filming (a great behind the scenes clip) I was vaguely contemplating how far from a northern suburbs mother I had come. These days most moms panic at the thought of the merest hint of lead getting within range of their kids. Here I was (relatively) happily watching my children smear themselves in petrol and oil. But they loved it and it made good footage …

When we had them in the bath that evening trying to get petrol out of their pores with a scrubbing brush and Sunlight liquid Brad confessed that the day before (unbeknownst to me) they had both managed to get completely covered in Creosote. To get it off he had washed them with engine cleaner! I don’t think this is the sort of thing a mother should ever know. 

6 March (Fri)


Rained all night. Keita up at 4.45 again. Everyone grumpy this morning for some reason.  Cold and grey.

Nick, Amanda and Anthony left this morning which is sad for us. Rio was fighting with Anthony all morning so I am trying to see an upside to their leaving. My little man is taking strain. Keita gets on very well with Anthony and she may miss him, although generally Rio is enough company for her.

As the day goes on I start to feel more and more depressed. Don’t know whether to hope it is hormonal or not. Started with the fight with Brad a week ago about parenting and have been feeling very flat since, only really wanting to be in bed and asleep. Today I feel like I am in a real, pervasive depression, the likes of which I haven’t experienced since the mind-blowing Larium incident when I first came to Botswana 14 years ago. I feel utterly devoid of humour and completely unable to create or do anything. Hope it is a phase and passes soon.

My crap day is compounded by the fact that Keita was again munched by mozzies last night and has enormous red welts all over her face, arms and feet. She reacts terribly and itches for hours until she scratched a hole in herself which later leaves a scar. She looks terrible and this time in the bush has really taken a toll on her physically. 

We now have a resident vervet monkey. This is a large male who must have been kicked out of his troop. He doesn’t seem very old and looks to be in good condition. He has been hanging around close to camp since yesterday but so far hasn’t launched any raiding parties.

 

Monday, May 4, 2009

4 March (Wed)



Bucketed down all night. The heaviest rain I have experienced in ages. Even Brad was anxious and we lay awake for about an hour. Every now and then I heard a “hmm’ from him as the rain came down harder and harder for hours. Didn’t get much sleep. Camp was a swamp in the morning. Rio and Keita found frogs and chased them around, wading through the puddles and getting drenched.

Later that day I had one of those “never live it down” moments. Sitting on the long drop having a wee I see a wild dog walking past, about 30 metres from me. Very excited I run back to camp to grab a camera and some kids with the intention of getting a shot of all in frame together. There is a general flurry as all the bodies in camp start heading off in the direction of the long drop. Brad gets on the radio to Graham and tells him to stop everything and get here cos there are dogs. We march off en masse to the loo. When we get there we see 3 little impala head peering at us above the grass. There can be no doubt that there are no wild dogs in the area, and what I saw must have been an impala. Very embarrassing. Needless to say on our drive later I was not allowed to forget it, and every impala we pass, at least one person sniggers and says “oh look, there is a wild dog”. Ha ha.  

Worrying how I could have made such a mistake though. Don’t know whether to hope it is an eye thing or a brain thing. Rather hope I am going blind as opposed to senile.  

The rain set in from 5 o clock and didn’t stop all night. Brad brought me the large silver tub with masses of hot water and set up a kikoi screen and a hurricane lamp. I had the best bath of my entire life outside our tent. Was just getting dark, rain was falling and I could have stayed there forever. Couldn’t even get to dinner that night. Was clean and warm and had no inclination to venture out into the cold. It was the sweetest gesture from Brad and really what I need right now. Love Brad madly. 

 

30 years ago




I came across these old photos of Brad and his family in the Delta, setting up Xaxaba Camp, where Brad lived for the first few years of his life. These were taken in the late 1970's when Brad was about 2.

2 March (Mon)




This morning we are infested by ants. Nick and Amanda had had a sleepless night as a result and when we opened up the office tent we found that they had made a nest in Amanda’s laptop. She clearly wasn’t having a good ant day. Had to embark on a big clean up so didn’t get around to any work until late. Amanda spent most of the day trying to coax the “donderse miere” out of the workings of her computer and swearing profusely in Afrikaans all the time.

From the window of my office tent I noticed Rio freeing a frog over the fence. He walked past Mouse’s grave, did a double take and started sobbing. He came running to me, tears and snot all over his face, body heaving, howling that he missed The Mouse.

We sat at his grave and chatted. Rio wanted to dig him up to play with him (because he said he missed playing with him) so I had to explain how he couldn’t because the skin and body decomposes and only the bones are left, so it wouldn’t be very nice if we dug him up. Rio had a litany of questions: “Why did he die if he was so little?”, “wont he be lonely?”, “how will he breathe?”, “wont he be sad?” so I had to stumble through an impromptu Life, The Universe and Everything chat, wishing that I had had a little more time to prepare a satisfactory story. I gave some vague answers about how his spirit has gone into the sky where he would be with other squirrels who love him and would look after him. I was glad he didn’t pick up on certain gaping ideological gaps in this story. I made an immediate mental not to formalize and solidify my views on this (something that I had been working on for 20 years but had largely put on the backburner) so I could at the very least offer his a cohesive philosophy. It is on my to do list.     

We both had a good sob and decided a game drive would be a wonderful diversion in the circumstances. We didn’t see much but it was good to be out. I pointed out a Yellowbilled stork to Rio who thinks it is called an Old bald stork.

Rio is getting all grown up. Increasingly I am finding his interactions more mature. He is occasionally very sweet to Keita and this afternoon he was pushing her on the swing and helped her off. She loves it when he is nice to her and they were hugging and loving each other which was so great to see.