I finally made it to the Parc W for a combo camping/safari trip! I considered it a major accomplishment; the last several tries, I've ended up staying home with sick littlers while my husband took the biggers. It was a fabulous trip - well worth the effort, and something I'd recommend to anyone traveling through this part of the world!
We did have one very exciting-to-the-point-of-actually-scary moment, however.
|Photo by Melissa Gray.|
Friends offered to give us a boat ride (thankfully they had an outboard motor), and we were cruising around a large island in the middle of the Niger River where elephants often tramp around, crashing through trees looking for something to eat. That was what we were hoping to see! Several other animal call that island home as well, so we also looked for monkeys, birds, crocodile slides and hippos; you don't navigate the Niger without continually scouting for those creatures. Since the growth along the edge of the river was thick, we were puttering along only about 20 feet or so from the shore.
I sat in the front of the boat. As we trolled quietly, I gently and repeatedly reminded the kids to stay quiet so they wouldn't startle any animals we hoped to see. Out of nowhere, a flash of grey starts running along the shore only visible in glimpses through the thinner plant growth. I pointed at it, but couldn't exactly tell what it was due to the speed at which it was moving and the brevity of those glimpses.
Then we came to a small, slightly open place.
|Photo by Melissa Gray.|
That flash of gray was a lumbering hippo racing for the water. Those animals can run, FAST! When it reached the break in the trees and growth, it turned towards the river, and plunged in... just as we passed directly in front of the enormous creature. That crash into the river spawned a tiny tsunami, rocking our boat - in more ways than one...
The motor instantly roared into a much higher gear... and our boat captain guided us out of there!
|Photo by Melissa Gray.|
He and I talked about what happened... after we were several hundred meters away, back up the river and again cruising slowly in much deeper water.
Neither one of us believes that the hippo was actually charging us, per se. We imagine it dozing and sunning itself when out of the blue we cruised by, motor puttering. It heard the motor, and on top of that, the high pitched voices of small children. It startled, panicked and then rushed headlong for the safety inherent submerged in the river.
That's what we insist (and I will continue to insist) on telling ourselves since believing that comforts compared to thinking the animal was angered and responding aggressively... Hippos DO, after all, have a nasty reputation throughout Africa and among those populating the shore and earning their livelihood in, on and around this river.
Seeing that creature rumbling along pell-mell but also directly toward a boat containing me and several of my munchkins... while knowing the potential consequences should we have any closer of an encounter than we did... inspired certain thoughts and rather intense, volatile feelings and emotions...
...thoughts, feelings and emotions with which I've been living for what seems like a really long forever right now.
For God appears to be up to something. As best we can tell, He seems to be pushing us towards a significant change. We aren't sure exactly what it is, but it feels as if it is charging towards us.
Our son graduates from high school this June, and while our original plan was that he'd be returning to the States for a gap year, probably working with someone in our church, God continues to impress upon our hearts that we all need to return to the States at this time... Once there, we will have the time and space to discern the next step the Lord has for us. We don't know that we won't be back to our present field of service. But we are leaving for this home assignment also not knowing that we will.
And so, while we always feel the pressure of finishing a term well, winding things up so that we don't leave preventable strings and loose ends hanging around over which others may trip or have to knot them together is much different this time.
Over the next few months, I'll be sharing about our journey. I'm likely to share a bit about how we, as a larger than average family, prepare for home assignment, how we help our children to finish a term well and then make the perhaps permanent (or at the very least for some of them long-term) transition back to life in our home country. And since I "think with my fingers as I write," hopefully this will help me to process all of the many upcoming changes through which our family is about to adventure.
As I think about all that entails, my heart is pounding just as hard and fast as the butterflies flitting and fluttering around in my tummy and that mild but never quite completely letting up surging of adrenalin continues to pulse.
Just like it did when that hippo crashed into the water, mere feet from our boat.
How about you?
Do you have any major changes coming up in your life,
about which you are free to share?
How do you deal with/help your children cope with all of the imminent change and transition that will ever be a part of the expat lifestyle?
- Thanks to Melissa Gray for kindly sharing several of the hippo photos in this post!