Daktari’s Birthday

Daktari’s Birthday

I missed his birthday, again. This time I really feel bad about it; the other times didn’t bother me as much as it bothered his wife.

His birthday is February 21, and nearly every year for four decades we were on safari somewhere together on his birthday. It was my responsibility to organize the cake and staff dancing and singing and drumming that would raucously hop the birthday cake into the mess tent after dinner. I think I missed them all.

Read more
Calculating Corona – III

Calculating Corona – III

You can’t travel for a year.

Nothing is available to suggest an older person will feel comfortable traveling very far from her home until she’s vaccinated against Covid-19, and Spring 2021 is likely the earliest this will happen. But once that sunrise arrives, you better be well prepared for what the fields will look like.

This is the final in a series of three blogs about managing your travel in the era of Covid-19. To fully understand these recommendations about your future travel, please carefully read first the previous two blogs.

Read more

OnSafari: Darkness

OnSafari: Darkness

It’s night in Africa. As guide I’m responsible not just for keeping all the parts of a tour going smoothly and interpreting everything we see, but I’m equally responsible for keeping my clients happy, respecting the idiosyncracies of their lives that they have turned over to our 24×7 communal experience.

That’s hard and particularly when three of my ten clients are from Texas with family and friends now worried about their every day lives, miffed by the irony that they are safer and calmer in Africa than Texas.

It’s been a long time since an African safari was cut off from the news of the day. Shielding my clients from the news is not possible and something that I wouldn’t accept if it were. The evil and misery of the world is omnipresent. There is more darkness in our souls than in the heart of Africa.

Four Hundred Years

Four Hundred Years

Twelve black American Congresspeople and two white ones led by Nancy Pelosi addressed the Ghanaian parliament yesterday. “We know our forebears did the abominable to you but we must also bear in mind that there is nothing we can do about what happened in the past.”

She didn’t say that. That was said by an important Ghanaian politician to the delegation.

Politics clash. Politics aside.

Four hundred years ago sometime early last month the modest Portuguese caravel, the San Juan Bautista, limped into Veracruz, Mexico, having horribly navigated the Gulf of Mexico managing to miss all the islands much less Jamaica which was the captain’s destination.

One of its three lanteen sails hung limply, ripped apart by a terrible storm at sea. The top third of its pole mast was split nearly in two. How the captain must have rejoiced when the lookout in the Crow’s Nest shouted, “Land Aho!”

He ordered the remaining two sails lowered so haphazardly that the weary ship tilted violently, almost sinking. Somehow, though, it managed to coast slowly towards the beach to finally end the 3-month horrendous voyage from Angola. Many of his crew were dead. Most of the remaining, including himself were seriously sick. All were starving.

But before the old man touched land the notorious British pirate John Jope commanding the modern war ship named the ‘White Lion,’ together with his partner the wealthy privateer Daniel Elrith who commanded the even more impressive ‘Treasurer’ built with a writ from the Earl of Warwick, intercepted the Bautista, killed what was left of its miserable crew, and confiscated about half of the 100 slaves in its belly.

They took only half, because the other half was dead.

Elrith’s ship was greater but Jope’s ship was faster. They split the booty including the human cargo and raced for the American colonies.

Jope showed up first, about 400 years ago exactly.

Without waiting for the normal invitation by local British authorities, Jope moved quickly into Point Comfort which later was named Hampton, Virginia, just across the James River from Norfolk.

The British colonel in charge of the port immediately contained his anger when he saw enough of the pirate flags to know it was Jope, and that Jope was Elrith’s partner, and that Elrith had connections to King James.

The townspeople, however, were not so mollified. They hastened down to the dock surrounding the British colonel protesting he had not engaged the militia. More than several unwanted British privateers were docking monthly, avoiding taxes and bringing all sorts of miscreants into town.

The colonel did then herald a few soldiers, but not to delay the ship’s docking, to keep the settlers at bay.

Among the townspeople was John Rolfe, the colony’s secretary and spouse of Pocahontas. He sympathized with his fellow settlers but he performed his paid duties for The King honorably: Rolfe duely registered the ship along with its commercial cargo, “20. plus and odd Negroes.” Rolfe was discreet. There were probably at least 50.

What thought John Rolfe? It was known that these black people were being sold as slaves in the Caribbean, and there had been animated conversations in the pubs and carriage houses about how useful they could be to the farmers who were constantly desperate for help.

I can only imagine that exact moment when Rolfe or others of the townsfolk looked upon the sick and starving blackness being raised from the belly of the caravel. There had to be some compassion after initial revulsion at the inhumane state of the human.

Was this the moment that we rationalized slavery? We would tend their wounds, fill their bellies and wash their putrid skins… in return for their souls? How easy it must have been at that moment to feel like a savior of the slave.

And so it continued. Child labor and prostitution in the slums of the dirty cities, for if not wouldn’t the kid die? Sons of Liberty dressed up as Injuns for that moment of violence.

“The legitimate powers of government extend to such acts only as are injurious to others,” wrote Thomas Jefferson, the owner of 600 slaves who were not “others.”

The Jackson massacres, the Trail of Tears.

April 22, 1889: 50,000 white people lined up waiting for the noon gunshot “bringing civilization” helter skelter over the sacred lands of the Cherokee. The Battle of Bad Axe and the treaty-flaunting wars preceding it in which a young lieutenant, Abraham Lincoln, fired his first military shot. He missed.

A catastrophic Civil War that never really ended. Tammany Hall and mafias protecting the poor.

Benches for whites and benches for blacks. Teachers for the privileged and debt-laden overworked single mothers for the denied. Food stamps for the poor and frequent flyer miles for the rich. Votes for sale. Lies for Liberty.

Americans are champions of rationalization. Did it all start that one day at Point Comfort 400 years ago?

“But we must bear in mind that there is nothing we can do about what happened in the past.”

At our peril.

Fooled Napping

Fooled Napping

When blood boils you need to take in a very deep breath of crisp, cold air. That’s what I’ve been doing ever since the story broke Sunday of the “rescue” of kidnapped American Kimberly Sue Endicott in Uganda together with her Ugandan guide.

Blood boils with the heat caused by screams no one listens to: I’ve been telling people for years not to visit Uganda and in particular where Endicott was kidnapped. Two young Brits were just kidnapped in that area last year! What’s worse?

Read more

An UnGay Time

An UnGay Time

Tourism to Tanzania may be headed into a nosedive as major media organizations around the world widely report the national crackdown started this week against the LGBT community.

EWT received multiple “special offers” and “discounts” from various Tanzanian safari companies just this week. One can only assume the publicity on the LGBT crackdown is having an immediate effect.

Read more

Kenyan Quest

Kenyan Quest

Richard Quest of CNN arrives Nairobi today for a multiple day visit exploring the country’s economic potential. His reports will appear on CNN’s “Quest Means Business.”

Preceding his arrival was an incredibly polite, perhaps too polite guest column that Quest got published in several Nairobi publications. He apologized for having not visited Kenya before and that “This week I am able to right this long-standing wrong.”

Read more

East Vs South

East Vs South

At the end of six days in two different big game reserves in South Africa each of my two separate groups was beaming. They’d seen leopards, lions, wild dogs, black and white rhino, elephant, honey badger, multiple kinds of antelope … it was a dream come true! They’d seen everything in the wild!

Or had they? Read more

Gettleman’s Gilligans

Gettleman’s Gilligans

gettlemansbookLast spring my favorite African journalist of all time (I actually think he outdid Stanley) published a memoir, Love-Africa, that so disappointed me I’ve taken quite a long time to think about before writing this.

It was actually way beyond disappointment. I questioned my own perspectives on Africa, wondering if I could be fooling myself as much as the New York Times’ Jeffrey Gettleman fooled himself, and by extension, me. Was at least some of his impactful African reporting that so deeply effected me (and thank goodness, from time to time, Congress) a sham for his own self-aggrandizement? It’s complicated. But it’s time to say something.

Read more

Reality Wreck

Reality Wreck

LintonRwandaJokes and derision poked at Americans limited understandings of far-away places like Africa seemed to diminish over the last few years. I guess not.

I couldn’t have told you who Louise Linton was until yesterday, when her juvenile, unethical behavior while accompanying our treasury secretary on an official event set off a firestorm.

Read more

Tell Us Why

Tell Us Why

gettlemanYesterday I returned from 50 days on safari, fifty days of not talking politics, pointing out mistakes, lies and misrepresentations that we’re drowning in. All I wrote about was the leopard in the tree and the wild dog nipping the hyaena and the massive Luangwa flowing into the sunset. I felt guilty. It wasn’t easy.

So anxiously I’m about to read Jeffrey Gettleman’s new book, “Love, Africa.” I want him to tell me why it’s OK to talk about game viewing when Trump is about to blow up the world.

Read more