Sunday, April 30, 2023

"Butt" the ZEBRAS...!

I know I said that baobab trees were my favorite… and then I added elephants. But maybe my heart saved the best for last and it’s really all about the zebras. 


I don’t think I’d ever seen more than a couple of zebras together before this trip, and that at some dusty enclosure at a local zoo. To see thousands of the animals together on the African savanna, their black and white-striped bodies mingling with tails swinging is an incredible sight! 


Zebras are migratory animals, too, coming to calve in the Tanzanian grasslands in February, sharing the same dangers of crossing the Mara River that the wildebeest face, and then following a circular route back into Kenya as the rain and resultant food supplies dictate.


A zebra is simply beautiful from all angles and aspects. So many of the African animals in total that we tried to photograph seemed to “turn tail” just as the camera clicked that we joked about making a collage of animal backsides, as most of our shots seemed to feature that view! But a zebra butt is simply striking, especially in a line of animals standing together, as hopefully the attached photograph shows!


And how fitting, as I now look at my great African adventure in hindsight with this last post… truly a trip of unimaginable beauty and incredible excitement, every day along the way! I am simply so grateful I got to go. 


“Every good and perfect gift is from above, coming down from the Father…”

James 1:17 NIV


Saturday, April 29, 2023

Say YES!

It’s a simple choice.

It started with the purchase of a necklace… the word ”YES” stamped in a silver circle... bought after a crisis of faith I experienced when my husband passed away despite prayers and pleas and his firm belief that he would be healed. It took a couple of months, but God and I eventually came to an understanding about what had happened, and I wore the word after that as affirmation of my decision to trust Him no matter what circumstances I found myself in and whether or not I understood His decisions in the same.

More time passed, and as I looked ahead to the future as a single person I realized it was important for me to say yes to new experiences and opportunities if I wanted to live a life that was vibrant and full. My approaching retirement only amplified this decision; I simply didn’t want to sit on my couch all day and waste away.

That doesn’t mean it was always easy. An introvert by nature, I can happily entertain myself  without adding a whole lot of other humans and outside activities into the equation. My job provided plenty of social interaction by day, allowing me to be a happy homebody at night. But in its absence I knew I would have to push myself to engage with the world outside the walls of my home or else become the sad and lonely recluse I was anxious to avoid. And everywhere I turned it seemed I came up against another article or news program that emphasized the need to try new things and stay socially active to keep one’s brain sharp as the aging process progressed.

And so I started to push myself, saying yes to invitations to dinner with a friend when I’d rather stay home and watch a ballgame and knit. I obeyed the urging of my pastor to meet regularly with a fellowship group at church, and followed the suggestion of friends to hang out with some of the ladies at the yarn shop. Soon I’d made plans to swim at the gym occasionally instead of exercising solely by myself at home, to volunteer my services at a place or two I’d never had time to investigate before… to finally learn the language of my Italian ancestors… and then travel to their native land, as well!

Recently I watched an episode of the TV show, Grace and Frankie, in which Frankie fondly remembers her “Say Yes” date nights with her ex-husband, Saul… recalling how once they left the house they had to answer every question put to them in the affirmative, no matter what crazy situations they found themselves in as a result! I almost feel sometimes that God and I have added similar moments now to our relationship…  where I simply say yes to whatever opportunity He puts in front of me, knowing that I can trust Him to have only my best interests at heart and that He will work all things out to my good.

So when the question of going to Africa arose, I knew I’d say yes… despite my hesitation over the many unknowns, the travel hassles I knew we’d face, and the fears and difficulties I was sure would arise. And it turned out to be one of the greatest adventures of my life to date.

On our last day before beginning the long journey back home, we stopped at a gift shop and I bought a simple ring in the shape of Africa. I wore it proudly for several months, considering it almost a merit badge of sorts, for having said yes to an opportunity, and then having the experience of a lifetime as a result. I only took it off when I replaced it with the ring I bought on the next adventure… but that’s a story for an April Blogging Challenge yet to come!

“Ask and it will be given to you; seek and you will find; knock and the door will be opened to you.”

(Matthew 7:7 NIV)


Friday, April 28, 2023

Extremely Grateful for he XERUS RUTILUS!


Whew! I knew “X” was going to be a tough one, so I was eXceedingly happy to discover the Xerus Rutilus, otherwise known as the unstriped ground squirrel, and to find that its range includes Tanzania! I wish I could say that I was specifically looking for this particular rodent while we were there, because had I spotted one, I would surely have jabbed my traveling companions in the ribs and said, “Hey! Get your gaze off that common cheetah over there, and take a gander at this unstriped ground squirrel! It’s going to be very important to me, a few months from now!”

But, no. There were probably lots of these creatures running about the savanna we were traveling though constantly; my eyes were just tuned in to bigger game. Still, this squirrel is significant to the ecosystem in which it lives, even given its diminutive size. It differs from the other squirrels in the area in that it doesn’t have the distinctive white stripes down its brown back, instead sporting white rings around its eyes. It eats both plant material and insects, and has excellent foraging skills which help it to survive in times of poor food supply. A mostly solitary animal, it lives with another adult or two in overlapping burrow systems in the ground, used for shelter or sleeping, but is active during the day.

“Then God said, ‘Let the earth bring forth the living creature according to its kind: cattle and creeping thing and beast of the earth, each one according to its kind’, and it was so.”

(Genesis 1:24 NKJV)

Thursday, April 27, 2023


If the idea of speaking their wedding vows to one another on the Serengeti was a dream, the accomplishment of the same was an adventure, to be sure.

When booking the safari, Alex and Kevin discussed their plans with the contact person, who assured them that it would be no problem to make time in the schedule to fulfill their desire in that regard, and the team would do everything in their power to help them accomplish the deed.  And so somehow Alex fit a folded and vacuum-sealed wedding dress in her backpack of essentials for the week, and Kevin miraculously managed to fit a suit, a shirt, tie and extra belt as well as a pair of dress shoes into his! And then we went on with the safari and waited for the right moment to appear.

Days passed, however, and we saw all manner of incredible things, as detailed in the posts before this one… but no wedding. We were nearing the end of our week-long trip when Kevin one morning pulled our guide aside and asked him if he could think of any suitable location we would encounter that day where we could stop for a few minutes so Kevin and Alex could speak a few words to each other and pose for a few photos. Being photographers, they knew that early or late in the day would have the best sun position for photos, if that were possible. Kevin promised they would make it quick, knowing that Lazarus had a schedule he had to adhere to, and the latter promised to think about it and find such a place.

And so the day began and was filled with all manner of wondrous sights! We saw a flock of vultures picking a zebra carcass clean… a herd of zebra on the plain, so many moving at once that the sight of so many stripes in motion made one a little dizzy!... a gold mine of hippos in a stream… the wildebeest crossing!!!... TWICE!!!... and took our pictures by the monument marking the border of Kenya and Tanzania. We even encountered a swarm of bees that had us pulling the top down on the Land Rover and slamming the windows shut in a hurry!

But by now it was getting on into the afternoon… and there were ominous-looking clouds appearing in the distance. Giving up on the idea of perfect lighting for the photo shoot, Kevin tapped Lazarus on the shoulder from the seat behind and said, “Even if you could just find us a nice-looking acacia tree to stand under, that would be fine.” But Lazarus said nothing and simply drove on.

We passed lots of suitable-looking trees… but the Land Rover didn’t stop by any of them. We were getting increasingly edgy when suddenly Lazarus pulled up to a stone building set in the middle of nowhere! Amazingly it had restrooms for Kevin and Alex to change in, a couple of benches a distance away to pose on… even zebras grazing in the background for added scenic effect! It was perfect! Quickly we all jumped out, and Alex and Kevin changed their clothes while the rest of us debated which view would make the best backdrop for the pictures! The next twenty minutes or so were a flurry of words, smiles, kisses, poses and camera clicks… until Alex called, “Enough! We’ve got to get moving!” She quickly changed back into her khakis.

I had been wandering around looking at the scenery while Alex changed again, when her father called me back, reminding me not to go too far alone… a reminder I appreciated, especially when we had just gotten back on the road and came across a lioness sleeping just feet off the dirt track we were traveling on! That sight still fresh in our minds, it was more than a little frightening to suddenly pop a tire, just a little bit farther along! At the same time, the clouds that had been gathering started to spit rain. We heard the sound of thunder in the distance, and knew that a storm was quickly advancing upon us. Lazarus warned us that lightning strikes are a huge danger in the Serengeti, so we had to hustle. The men, with Kevin still in his suit, all worked in the dirt of the road trying to change the tire in a hurry, crawling under the truck to find a level place to set the jack and keep it from slipping off the rocks. Meanwhile Alex, her mom, her sister and I were on lion sentry duty…keeping watch that no predator would sneak up on us while we were focusing on getting the truck going again! The rain fell harder, and we huddled in our slickers, eyes constantly on the move, and shuddering with every boom of thunder. It seemed to take forever, but truly was just a matter of minutes before we were on our way again, and then not very much longer after that that we pulled into our camp for the night.

The rain was falling hard by this time, but our spirits were high as we headed into the mess tent to eat the hot supper that was waiting for us, surrounded by the laughter and conversation of so many other people groups enjoying the end of a great day, as well… the rain drumming heavily on the roof above us!  Soon Lazarus arrived with a couple of bottles of champagne to join us for the meal and to celebrate the newlyweds, and a happier wedding day couldn’t have been planned! No one knows what lies ahead for Kevin and Alex, but if the start of their marriage is any indication, this will be a union marked by unimaginable fun and continued adventure!”

“Two are better than one, because they have a good return for their labor: If either of them falls down, one can help the other up. But pity anyone who falls and has no one to help them up. Also, if two lie down together, they will keep warm. But how can one keep warm alone.? Though one may be overpowered, two can defend themselves…”

(Ecclesiastes 4: 9-12 NIV)


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