It was at some point during Ray’s explanation of the mating behavior of lions that I lost it. Ray was our guide on the two day safari my sister and I recently went on in Tanzania. He was friendly, funny and knowledgeable. He also had an impressive sixth sense when it came to spotting animals, and at one point led us to a sleeping leopard that I swear was invisible to the naked eye. Ray was very animated and liked to talk a lot about animal behavior. Most of his stories revolved around feces and/or sex. I guess those are pretty basic elements of wild animal existence. He spoke very good English, but had a tendency to mispronounce things. Kate became Cat, birds became beds, shock absorbers became sosh absurbers. Kate caught on quickly, and acted as a sort of translator for me. This particular speech about lions was fast and long, and included many comical pronunciation errors. He lost me about half way through, and as he continued I found it harder and harder to repress my laughter. It was like a biology lesson from another dimension. Finally he earnestly uttered something along the lines of “while the female is going through evuolution the spearms from the male must move . . .” I could contain myself no longer. Kate and I both collapsed in laughter. Ray looked on in confusion, or as he would say, he was very surprising at our reaction.

Kate, Ray and I next to the trusty Land Cruiser.  I look scrubalicious.

Despite the light communication problems, Ray led us on two gorgeous days of safari. We toured Lake Manyara National Park and the Ngorogoro Crater in his open-topped Land Cruiser. The scenery was stunning, especially in the crater. The rainy season had created a vast savannah of long blonde grass and tall wildflowers. We drove through yellow and purple meadows, under bright blue skies. Zebras and wildebeest came so close to the car we could have touched them. It was sunny and warm the entire time. Since it was just the two of us we could determine the pace of the day, announcing ‘twende’ (lets go) whenever we were ready to move along.

An elephant in the Ngorogoro Crater

We saw monkeys, giraffes, impala, zebra, hippos, rhinos, buffalo, wildebeest, elephants, a leopard, and a lion. Not too shabby, although the lion sighting was slightly disappointing. It was a lone lioness, lounging among the tall yellow flowers, a good distance back from the road. It was difficult to see her clearly. There were several other cars parked along the roadside watching her, and Kate and I joined, poking our heads out through the roof hatch. It was at this moment that my miniscule bladder once again decided to ruin the party. I had to pee. The nearest toilet was at least a half an hour drive away, so it was going to have to be a roadside job. Kate and Ray, god bless them, took this in their stride, and we began to problem-solve. The other vehicles were departing, so that solved the problem of a human seeing me pee. We were still left with the slightly more intimidating possibility that the lion might see me pee and decide to come closer and check me out. The day before Ray had told a comforting story about a woman who was mauled by a lion while she was sitting by the side of the road, waiting for her guide to change a tire. Kate said that we had to drive somewhere else, but I rationalized that I should just pee here because no matter where we went in the park there could be a lion lurking nearby. “Yes, but we know that there’s one here,” she replied. This, to my urine-crazed mind, was a positive point. At least we could keep a close eye on this one. We drove on for about ten seconds, and then I insisted I just get it over with. Kate took up a lookout position out the roof hatch and scanned for approaching lions. I hopped out, left the door open, and prayed. Everything went according to plan, and I was back in the car within thirty seconds. Ray said I had a strong heart. “But a weak bladder,” Kate added.  I had to agree.

Incidents of high-risk peeing aside, the vacation was extremely relaxing. After two days of safari we said a sad goodbye to Ray and boarded a little six-seater plane headed for Zanzibar. Actually, that part wasn’t relaxing. The improbability of flight is never more apparent that when you’re sitting in a vehicle roughly the size of a mini-van, feeling every bump and shudder, and staring at the ant-sized people far, far below. Kate and I studiously watched how the pilot controlled the plane, in case we were forced to take over in some sort of emergency scenario. Of course we landed safely, and were efficiently transported to beach resort paradise. It was low season, so the resort was quiet and they upgraded us to a luxury suite. We had a whole house to ourselves, complete with an open-air roof patio with swinging sun beds. The good weather held, and for five days we did nothing except sunbathe, eat, and read. Kate can get through a book a day when she’s in the mood, and I think we read about eight between us over the five days. We gossiped about all the other guests at the resort, played games of scrabble (she’s a goddamn scrabble genius), and carefully monitored each other’s sunburn. It was pretty much perfect.

Kate chillaxing on the beach.

Sunrise, Zanzibar-style.

My flight back to Uganda was delayed for four hours, it rained torrentially in Kampala, my eight dollar hold-all completely disintegrated in-transit, and the journey back to the village took a total of eight hours in various crammed matatus, but I didn’t care. I feel like my batteries have been re-charged. I’m at the three and a half month mark, and I’m refreshed and ready, and still thrilled to be here.

*Insert cute comment about sisters here*

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