…my passage back into the land of the living
Julie Anne Rhodes
I finally took Tatjana to East Africa in July of 2005. It was in celebration of her graduation from high school and her 19th birthday. Ultimately, it was my passage back into the land of the living. I found my lust for life again after seven years of merely surviving through court battles, heartbreak, and illness. In my determination to lead a life beyond reproach I’d forgotten how to live.
Observing the behavior of the wildlife brought it all back to basics, and helped me understand human nature better. I could feel myself healing. I felt as if I’d come home. If you believe in evolution, I had. The bush reminded me that I needed to take risks, or life would pass me by. I felt alive again…
Peter Beard’s prophetic words “with elephantine memories & a new afterward”
“Mom, there is something outside and it sounds REALLY big!” It was 4am, and we were in a pitch black tent on the edge of the Samburu river in Kenya. “Come jump into bed with me” I groggily offered. No sooner had I started to drift back off to sleep and something huge was not only brushing up against the tent, but threatening to knock it over. I was suddenly wide awake with adrenalin pumping through every cell of my body. I reached for the foghorn to sound the alarm. It didn’t work. Tatjana and I grabbed each other and both screamed “HELPPPPPPPPPPP!” at the top of our lungs. “What was I thinking bringing her here?” kept racing through my mind.
Elephants in the Samburu game reserve by Julie Anne Rhodes
Leopard in the Samburu game reserve by Julie Anne Rhodes
Reticulated Giraffe in the Samburu game reserve by Julie Anne Rhodes
“It’s OK, go back to sleep, just an elephant eating leaves from the branch above your tent, they like acacia leaves” came the calming words of the guard who was right outside within seconds. Half an hour later Tatjana and I woke with a start again when the elephant shook the branch that our tent was pitched to. In doing so, a monkey fell out of the tree into the dressing room and was scampering around as frightened as we were “HEEEEEEELLLLLP!” we bellowed again. This time the man came to retrieve the monkey, and promised to stay right outside to make sure the five ton bull elephant, who obviously liked our scent (because he kept circling the tent), did not come too close again.
The elephant that wanted to share our tent
Curious to see if the elephant was still around once the sun came up, I opened a window flap at the back of the Beduoin tent only to find myself literally eye to eye with the gargantuan beast just six inches the other side of canvas. The trick now would be how to get past him to carry on with our itinerary to the Masai Mara?
The guard warding off the elephant and waiting to escort us to the jeep.
The guard shot a bullet into the air to scare the elephant into backing off while we headed for the jeep, but the guard was faster than I was, and when I turned to look behind me the elephant did a mock charge. I flew into that jeep so fast I thought my heart would pound clean out of my chest, but oddly… rather than wanting to fly home to safety, I felt exhilarated and full of anticipation for next adventure.
Julie Anne & Tatjana Rhodes
Up, up, and away…
To be continued:
East African Sweet Potato Soup
Servings : 4
1 tablespoon peanut oil
2 large onions, chopped
2 celery stalks, chopped
1 red pepper, seeded and chopped
1/3 cup smooth peanut butter
1 tablespoon cumin
4 large sweet potatoes, peeled and chopped (about 6 cups total)
2 cans chickpeas, drained and rinsed
4 cups chicken or vegetable broth
1 28 ounce can diced tomatoes, undrained
salt and pepper to taste
roasted peanuts, chopped for garnish
cilantro, chopped for garnish
1). Heat oil in a large Dutch oven over medium-high heat. Add onions, celery, and red pepper; saute until softened and lightly browned, about 8 minutes. Add peanut butter and cumin, stir constantly for 2 more minutes.
2). Add sweet potatoes, chickpeas, broth, and diced tomatoes. Season to taste. Bring to boil, and simmer for 30 minutes. Puree roughly with a hand blender or in batches in a blender.
Serving Suggestions: Serve hot garnished with chopped roasted peanuts and cilantro.