Friday, January 1, 2010

A Bed-time Story

Once upon a time, there was a girl named Jacque whose parents gave her the travel bug. She traveled all over the US in her family’s mini-van on family vacations seeing sights and making memories. She went to Australia and New Zealand with People to People Student Ambassador groups the summer after her freshman year in high school, and studied abroad in Italy her junior year of college. Three days after graduating from college, she hopped on a plane and led a campaign to New Zealand for six weeks, staying for an extra week just to fall in love with the country a little more than she already was.

One day, she and two friends named Bethany and Sarah met at Carino’s in Atlanta, GA. They drove to the airport, where their parents helped them check their bags then hugged them goodbye. The girls went through security, got their first final Starbucks, and boarded a plane that took them to London. At Heathrow, they got their second and final final Starbucks, looked at chocolate shops, and boarded a plane that took them to Accra, Ghana, West Africa. They sped through customs after retrieving their trunks and suitcases, met two new friends named Nicole and April, saw big guns up close, and went to sleep in the Baptist guesthouse. The next morning, they piled into Nicole’s little truck, and drove 11 hours to Kara, Togo, West Africa, where they moved into Nicole’s house and got over their jet lag.

They settled into their routine pretty quickly once the other families got back and school started. Bethany taught sixth grade and Art, Jacque taught fourth grade and Science, and Sarah taught the kindergarten class and French.

Before they knew it, the first half of the school year was over. They had a Christmas party, complete with a snowball fight and snowman building contest, and went on break. Les trois filles (“the three girls,” a nickname given by Brett Emerson), had their first Christmas away from home, first at their adorable apartment, then at the Kennell’s house where they spent Christmas Eve and Christmas day. They caroled at their fellow expatriates’ homes, and had hot chocolate and popcorn.

Then, they went on safari. This is that story.

Les trois filles piled into the Emerson’s car bright and early on Sunday morning. Spirits were as high as they could be at 6:30am, and they were off! They drove all the way to the border of Benin, crossing into their first new country since August. A few hours later, they were at the gate of Pendjari, the safari park that is the site of this particular adventure.

They saw cob (deer-like animals), antelope, hippos, and crocodiles at their very first lake.

Before the day was over, “Elephant, elephant, elephant, elephant,” saw the car backing up for their first elephant sighting- four young males. It was terribly exciting and was a great end to the day. The safari crew got to the hotel where they ended up setting up camp and going to bed, eager for the next day. As they fell asleep, they heard a lion making its presence known to all.

The next morning, the girls bundled up and climbed on top of the truck. They watched the sun rise through the dust as they drove around the park looking for animals. Throughout the day, they saw warthogs, more cob, baboons, a jackal, more antelope, more elephants... and a lion.

Actually, they saw two lions. It was quite a rush, actually- these particular lions were quite close to our three heroines and their fearless leader, Brett. They had been informed of the lions’ location by some of their safari friends. A not-too-distant bush was under close scrutiny for a few minutes, but the lions were not making an appearance, so the troupe drove off. They returned not too much later and were looking intently at the same bush, wondering where the lions could possibly be.

“There’s the lion!” Brett exclaimed and pointed at a tree even closer than the original bush. The lioness had just stood up less than fifty feet from where les trois filles were sitting! As everyone turned their cameras to the new location, Jacque turned on her video camera, which is why she was able to capture one of the best videos ever. The four on top of the truck were excited to see the lioness, but they had been told there was also a lion. As they pondered his whereabouts, they heard a growl and their eyes flicked to see Artie the lion (as he was named by Jacque to protect him from Brett) leaping out of the tall grass right next to the lioness... toward our happy crew who were still perched on top of the truck, with nothing between them and the agitated lion who was less than thirty feet away.

Someday, maybe you’ll get to see the video of this event. Until then, you can just fill in your own conversation following the lion’s emergence from the grass. Needless to say, lots of pictures were taken, and footage that will make anyone laugh (and maybe some cry) was taken and now rests on our narrator’s computer. At one point, a truck came and blocked the road to escape, panicking our brave friends, but they survived the ordeal and lived happily ever after.


Author’s Note: This story is true. No names have been changed to protect identities, because there would be no fun in that.

I enjoyed our safari immensely and will always remember it as one of the super-cool things that teaching missionary children in Africa has allowed me to experience. I loved watching the sun rise and set from the top of the truck, and I loved seeing God’s beautiful creation without the confines of cages. I’ve always loved the zoo, and I always will- safari was no substitute for the joy of going to the zoo. However, it was an amazing opportunity that was thrilling in a completely different way that will always be a part of me. Yay safari!!

I hope your Christmas festivities were full of joy and family and amazingness, and that your new year is blessed.

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