“A STRONG WINTER STORM APPROACHING FROM THE WEST WILL BRING BLIZZARD CONDITIONS INTO CHURCHILL, MANITOBA…SNOW AND STRONG SOUTH WINDS ARE EXPECTED TONIGHT ACROSS NORTHERN MANITOBA AS AS A POWERFUL LOW PRESSURE SYSTEM APPROACHES FROM THE WEST. CONDITIONS WILL DETERIORATE NEAR NOON FRIDAY AS A POWERFUL COLD FRONT ROARS THROUGH THE AREA, WITH NORTHWESTERLY WINDS GUSTING TO 80 KM/H, NEAR-ZERO VISIBILITY IN SNOW AND BLOWING SNOW, AND TEMPERATURES PLUNGING CLOSE TO THE -20 MARK IN JUST A FEW HOURS. THE BLIZZARD WILL END FRIDAY NIGHT.” — weather forecast from Environment Canada.
Welcome to the world of polar bear photography! The plan is that our chartered plane will outrun the blizzard and hopefully get us into Churchill tomorrow morning before the storm shuts down the airport. A dramatic beginning to what promises to be an exciting week.
Reports are that this is shaping up to be the best polar bear seasons in years. The bears are gathering in large numbers in the remote area where we’ll be based. There have also been several sightings of the beautiful Arctic fox, an animal that I’ve always wanted to photograph. At our hotel tonight, spirits are high and adrenalin is flowing. Photographers LOVE polar bears and tomorrow we’ll be among them.
There is no internet where I’m going, so I won’t be able to post any further updates or photos until I return to Winnipeg on November 12th. See you then!
Traveling to Canada’s north in winter is basically like opening your freezer door and climbing inside. Have you ever had a burning desire to sit down beside your frozen chicken thighs and ice cubes? “Of course not”, you say. Well, you’re right — it’s pretty much insane. Most sensible Canadians wouldn’t even consider a trip to the frozen tundra. At this time of year, they’re all booking vacations to relax among the beaches and palm trees of Mexico, California, Florida and the Caribbean. I’ve been sent an email listing the names and home cities of my fellow travelers on this photography trip — I see only Americans and one person from Northern Ireland. I am the lone Canadian. Hmmm…
So what’s the payoff for trudging through snow dressed like the Michelin Man? It’s the unusual chance to see the “king of the Arctic” — the polar bear — in its home environment. The only polar bear I’ve seen in recent memory is the one that lives at the Singapore Zoo. He lives in a large beautiful enclosure and looks quite content, for a bear in captivity. But still, there is something not quite right about a polar bear living in Singapore. What if the air-conditioning breaks down?
Polar bears are solitary animals, yet at this time of year they gather together near Churchill, Manitoba, waiting for the ice to freeze over on Hudson Bay. Once that happens, they will quickly disappear onto the ice floes for their winter seal-hunting season, making the window of opportunity to photograph the apex predator of the north a comparatively short one.
I will be staying in a mobile “tundra lodge”, which looks more like a train than a lodge. The tundra lodge has been placed well beyond the outskirts of town, in an area of high polar bear density. Based there, we’ll hopefully see and be able to photograph the bears 24/7. I’ll share the photos with you…
I’ve just arrived in Canada and am surprised at what I see — which is not much. The flaming colors of autumn are now lying on the ground, drab and faded. Color is rapidly disappearing from the world, in preparation for winter grays and white. It makes me feel tired. Very tired. In fact, I had no idea how tired I am. I can’t stop sleeping.
In the tropics, color never fades. Life never stops. Flowers bloom endlessly and birds sing year round. Life is punctuated by only two seasons: wet or dry. I always seem to be busy with one project or another. Maybe I should rest more.
As I look out a window in Canada, I think that maybe we are all meant to rest more, like the land. We plant our seeds — our projects and ambitions — with enthusiasm. We grow them, nurture them, and with luck, we harvest them. But do we stop and enjoy the fruits of our labor? Do we rest and sleep like the earth in winter? It’s never occurred to me to stop and rest — until now.
I’ve been busy the past few months, with seemingly endless travel, photography and writing projects, and most recently, moving into a new house. Maybe it’s time to take a break and enjoy this year’s harvest.
To rest will be my new ambition. But first I will go to Canada’s north to photograph polar bears, and then I will return to Hong Kong to discuss an exciting new direction for my writing, and then I will continue to work on and decorate my new house. Rest will have to wait…
If you were to ask India to describe her ex-landlord, she would likely say that he’s an aggressive little runt who looks like a cross between a Chihuahua and a pot-bellied pig. She would then laugh and say that she meant no offense to either of these fine animals. India, in animal terms, is definitely a cat. And though she may have grown a little lazy and soft in recent years, due to rich food and comfortable living, she is very much a cat in her prime. She is a cat to be approached with caution.
Here is the story of a recent confrontation between the dog that looks like a pot-bellied pig and the cat…
Last Sunday morning, the cat was resting in her new house, recovering from the stress and exertions of a hectic week spent establishing and marking off her new territory. The cat hoped that she would not need to move again for many a long year. She was pleased to come across a chair in a sunny corner which she decided was an ideal place for a nap when she heard a commotion outside her front door. Rousing herself from her drowsy state she padded across the floor and looked out onto the verandah.
Good god, there was a dog out there — and not just any dog — it was THAT dog. Her Australian former landlord, fresh off the boat, an old dog who had decided to retire in the Philippines. Yapping away, as usual. The cat was celebrating her freedom from two years of living under the thumb of this annoying dog — and yet here he was, practically in her living room! The cat could feel her claws unsheathing.
The dog attempted to barge in, yapping away about his house, the one the cat had vacated almost a week ago. He began without so much as a “hello” or a “good morning”, a fact which irritated the cat immensely. What the hell was wrong with this dog, didn’t he know that every encounter must begin with a proper greeting? The cat would never consider marching into another cat’s territory without first engaging in a proper ritualized greeting. The cat has met many stupid dogs over the years, but this one takes the cake, she thinks.
The cat arches her back and puffs herself out, effectively blocking the entrance to her living room and growing far taller than this bloody runt of a dog. The dog continues to yap nonstop: the house is dirty, the chair slip covers have faded. On and on. All minor, normal wear and tear items. The cat yawns. This makes the dog even angrier. The cat wonders how long it has been since the dog had a good look at himself in the mirror. It can’t have been very recently, or he would realize how ridiculous he looks, spittle flying from the corners of his snapping jaws.
The cat wonders why the dog is here, why he is behaving this way. This is not normal expat behavior. The cat is quite sure that she left the house in better condition than she found it. What is this all about?
The cat dislikes this dog because he is pompous and arrogant. He uses expressions such as “when Melanie and I take up residence” instead of just saying, “when we move into the house”. The cat thinks the dog wishes he were physically more impressive, that he had been born a German shepherd or a Doberman rather than a Chihuahua that looks like a pot-bellied pig. The cat feels no sympathy for this uppity dog and thinks he needs to be knocked down a peg or two.
“Well, you’re off to a good start”, says the cat. “You’ve been here less than 24 hours and you’re already fighting with your neighbors.”
The dog lunges, pulling a strand of fur from the cat’s neck. “You stole my refrigerator”, the dog says.
The cat is shocked. “Say that again? What did you say I did?”
“You stole my beer ref from the downstairs apartment.”
The cat begins to hiss. Fangs are bared. “How dare you barge into my house all pumped up with your aggression and testosterone and accuse me of stealing my own property. That ref is MINE. I have the receipts to prove it. You can check the serial number. I have photos of your house from when I first moved in and there was only one beer ref — MINE.”
“Well, what happened to my beer ref?”
The cat was not the first tenant of this fool’s house. “I don’t know and I don’t care. I know where mine is and that’s all I care about.”
The dog that looks like a pot-bellied pig stops yapping. He begins to back up. He is momentarily speechless. Then, pompously, he says, “well, you needn’t grace my doorstep ever again.”
This dog is so full of shit, thinks the cat. The cat has had more than enough.
She roars and begins to chase the dog. “Get out of my house”. She slaps her front paws together, and shouts, “Chop chop! Hurry up and get out of here. And don’t come back.”
The dog runs as fast as his short legs will carry him. The cat watches him close the front gate. The cat is very pleased that she never throws a receipt away. Who knows when a dog might accuse you of stealing your own stuff? The cat strolls through the neighborhood and warns everyone she sees that an ugly, stupid old dog might come barging into their houses, accusing them of stealing his refrigerator. She laughs. This fool of a dog has lost a serious amount of face over an eleven-year-old beer ref.
Five days later, the dog sends his female to the cat’s den to collect money to pay the cat’s share of the electric bill. The female does not dare to enter the cat’s compound, but sends a messenger to summon the cat to where she is waiting across the street.
The cat demands that the female sign a receipt and says, “I don’t want to see that ugly dog in my living room claiming that I haven’t paid my bills. And make sure that ugly dog understands that he is never to come near my gate again.”
“Don’t worry,” the female says, “we will never come in this area again.”
“Good”, says the cat, who retires to a lounge chair beside her swimming pool…
And now, for something a little different from my usual posts… Last night I was in Hong Kong, reading an excerpt from my published story, “The Rainiest Season”, at a book launch party (that’s me in the photo, signing books). I thought I would share the same piece with all of you. It’s a very personal, true account of the breakdown of my marriage in the Philippines ten years ago.
This excerpt begins at the point where I’ve been alone for more than three months and I really, really want my American husband back. This is not an uncommon story among expat marriages in Asia, particularly in the Philippines, where sex comes cheap and is for sale pretty much everywhere. Girlie bars are an accepted part of the culture and are found in every tourist area. Many a husband succumbs to temptation, as did mine. Here’s how it played out…
As each week passes, I find it easier to live on my own, knowing that it is only a matter of time until Edward comes back. I am ready to put this terrible episode in our relationship behind us. Eventually, he will tire of playing Hugh Hefner and come back to me.
Sure enough, three and a half months after he walked out of our house, he texts me that he wants to come for a visit. I am jubilant but nervous. Everything must be perfect. I clean the house until it shines; I plan meals and shop. On the morning of his arrival I put on a new dress, jewelry, and mascara.
He arrives in the early afternoon, smiling. I notice that he looks happier and more handsome than he has in years. I hope this is because he has come home, but I am wary: he is carrying no luggage. I cannot upset him, cannot interrogate him, cannot accuse him. I cannot live in limbo anymore; I cannot live in borderline poverty. I must get my life back.
He compliments me on my appearance and the changes I have made to the house. I serve wine as lamb shanks braise on the stove. He receives text message after text message, and is quick to answer them. I cannot ask questions. Foreboding creeps into my chest.
I light candles and serve dinner and he praises my food. The texts continue and my anxiety grows. He says he is tired and asks if he can sleep in our bed upstairs.
“Of course,” I say. “Do you mind if I sleep there too?”
“That’s fine, sweetheart,” he says.
I climb into bed and seduce my husband, as I have planned, eager to show him that I can do anything those girls can do.
The next morning, I am triumphant. Take that, you whores! Might there be some irony in the victory?
At eleven o’clock his cell phone rings. When he answers, a woman’s voice is loud and angry. He is placating, using a tone of voice I have only ever heard him use for me.
“I’ll be back tomorrow afternoon, sweetheart,” he says into his cellphone.
“Who is that?” I yell.
“A friend, that’s all.”
“A friend? You don’t talk like that to a friend. Why is she calling you?”
“Okay, look, I didn’t want to upset you, but I’m living with her in Subic. It’s nothing serious, I’ve lived with a few girls in the past few months. I really just came down here to take back the electric oven.”
That was definitely one of life’s bizarre moments… If you’re interested in reading the whole story, “The Rainiest Season” is included in an anthology of 26 essays, titled How Does One Dress to Buy Dragonfruit? True Stories of Expat Women in Asia, edited by Shannon Young. The paperback version is available through amazon.com and is also available in all e-book formats.
Thanks for reading!
I have just resurfaced from a horrendous ordeal — which is the reason there have been no blog posts for a while. Some of you may remember from an earlier post (“Homecoming” in July ) that the owner of our house gave us three months’ notice that he would be moving to the Philippines from Australia in October. And yes, this is now October.
I always knew that we could only stay until the owner retired — but stupidly, I deluded myself into believing that he would work forever or change his mind or put the house up for sale. He has never struck me as the kind of person who is suited to living on an island in the Philippines. I loved living in that house and couldn’t imagine leaving it. Besides that, I hate moving. Who enjoys packing? This was the first time in my life that I would be forced to move against my will. I prayed for a miracle.
Well, the miracle did not come and with the combination of my procrastination and all the traveling I’ve been doing lately, last week I found myself with four days — yes, FOUR days — to find a new place to live, pack up the contents of an entire house, and move. But we did it!
And here is what I have learned from this whole ridiculous experience:
- When a landlord says he’s coming — believe him!
- I own a serious amount of junk. Why the hell am I carting around a broken aquarium and boxes that haven’t been unsealed since our last move, two years ago? I would estimate that 75% of my stuff could go into the trash heap and I wouldn’t miss it. Many, many years ago I decided to spend a year in Tokyo. I packed up my apartment in Toronto and put everything in a storage locker, for which I paid monthly rent. Well, one year turned into four and then I met my husband and realized that I was never going back to Toronto. After five years I returned to the storage locker, which had cost me thousands of dollars, and when I looked at all the stuff which had been my prized possessions, I was shocked. “It’s all junk”, I shouted. “All of it!”. And most of it went into a dumpster.
- Things turn shabby without our noticing. It was kind of embarrassing watching my furniture being carted out of the house by strangers. I found myself apologizing: “It just needs to be revarnished and it’ll look brand new again”. Yeah, right. It’s strange though, how our perception of reality can change. We might love our sofa and think it’s beautiful — but when we see it through the eyes of a stranger we suddenly notice its faded cushions, the red wine stain on the arm rest, and scars from when the cat used it as a scratching post. Then there is that frightening possibility that if my furniture has grown shabby, how about the rest of my life? Maybe I’ve become as stagnant and outdated as my dining room table. Time to sit down and evaluate where I am and what I’m doing. Maybe even do a few sit-ups. My worst fear has always been to wake up one day and realize that I’ve squandered a couple of decades of my life.
- I am not as low-maintenance as I thought. I was happy living in a tent in Africa. Surely, I could be happy in a small, simple house? Not so much… While hunting for our new house, I heard myself saying things like: “Oh my God, this place is way too ugly”. “Are you kidding me, I could never live in this dump”. “This is a box. I can’t live in a box”. “Sorry, I can’t live next to a rooster farm.” “The windows are too small. It reminds me of a prison.” “It’s too close to the road, my cats would be run over.”
- It’s better to be lucky than smart. In the end, I got lucky. I had been looking at a small rental house on a very large piece of land. The rental house was too small for us, but the owner’s house was big and gorgeous, with a swimming pool and a huge garden courtyard in the middle of the house. I said, “Hey, I wouldn’t mind renting the main house. Do you think the owner would move out?” I was half joking when I said it, but to my great shock, the owner answered that he would love to move into the smaller place. I said, “But we need to move in three days”. “No problem”, he replied. And so we have our new home.
- Emotional attachment can tie you down. In retrospect I realize that I shouldn’t have clung so hard to the old house. I actually like the new one better. One week ago I was miserable, shaking my fist at the sky, whining that I was being cursed by the gods. Today, the morning after our first night swim in the pool, under the Milky Way, I am happy and excited at our great luck.
We are fully moved out of the old and into the new, and even though we are stepping over boxes and I have no idea where my underwear is, I know that everything has turned out for the best. Though change is a scary thing, I’m reminded of a billboard I saw in Singapore: “Goodbye yesterday. Hello future.”
I was flat broke. My estranged husband controlled the purse strings and since he had run off with the maid, those strings had been pulled tight. I was so broke that I hadn’t left southeast Asia in five years. New clothes? Only in my dreams. When I lost my sunglasses while swimming in the South China Sea, I was left squinting in the bright tropical sun for more than six months until I could afford a new pair of good quality shades. My bank balance rarely floated above zero. True, I was renting a lovely little house with a beautiful garden, had many good friends, and managed to live quite happily. But where money was concerned, I was a fiscal mess.
There was an easy way out of that mess — but I resisted. For years, Edward, who lived in another part of the Philippines, had nagged me to sell our sailboat — which was legally in his name but in my physical possession. Despite my dire need for cash, I didn’t want to sell her. She had been our home for the seven happy years Edward and I had spent galavanting around the Pacific, before we fell in love with the Philippines and out of love with each other. I had deep emotional ties to this boat and an irrational resistance to letting her go. But it seemed I could no longer fight the inevitable. Edward was becoming very nasty about it all.
To placate Edward, I reluctantly posted one very tiny ‘for sale’ sign on a single bulletin board, hoping that no one would reply. I asked a ridiculous price, $25,000 for a twenty-five-year-old, 10-meter boat. Aside from sentimental value, the boat was probably worth no more than $12,000. A German named Helmut called me and asked to have a look. He spotted some rotten interior teak and offered to pay $10,000. I scoffed at him. “Here’s what I’m going to do”, I told Helmut. “I’m going to have this wood replaced, which will probably cost about $500 (which Edward would pay for), and then I’m going to raise the price to $30,000”. Surely, no fool would buy her at that price.
A few months later I received a text from my Filipino boatman, saying that a buyer wanted to meet with me. I was loafing on the sofa, reading magazines, but texted him back that I was too busy. “Please show him the boat, Dante. I’m very busy”. An hour later Dante insisted that I really needed to meet with this guy. “OK, tomorrow at the yacht club, 11 a.m.”, I texted.
The next day, a Canadian man dressed like Ralph Lauren asked me what I was really willing to sell her for.
“How about 25?”
He held out his hand to shake on the deal. I had done everything in my power not to sell the boat, but how could I turn down such a ridiculous offer?
Three weeks later the Canadian returned to finalize the deal. He had wired 26,000 U.S. dollars to his bank in Batangas City, on the main island of Luzon. I was to meet him at the bank, collect the cash — then deliver it to Edward, who would be waiting at his bank in another part of the city. Though I expected the inevitable snafu, the transaction flowed surprisingly smoothly. Until the bank clerk began converting the $26,000 into Philippine pesos.
“But I don’t want pesos,” I said to the clerk. “I need U.S. dollars because we’re sending a wire transfer to the U.S. later this morning.”
“I’m sorry, Ma’am, these are government regulations. Unless you will be traveling abroad and need U.S. dollars for your personal travel use, we can’t give it to you. It must be converted into pesos.”
Edward was becoming a nuisance, texting and phoning. “What’s taking so long? Where’s my money?” he kept asking — as though he suspected that I was going to run off to Mexico with his cash.
“So, what am I going to do?” I asked the clerk. “I need to convert these pesos back into dollars. Do I go to money changers on the street? That will take me all day and it’s too dangerous.”
“Well,” the clerk said. “If you would like, we can call our black market representative to deliver the U.S. cash to you here at the bank. You will have to buy back the dollars at their rate of exchange though.”
Hmmm. Black market representative? That didn’t sound very good to me. Another text arrived from Edward. “What the hell is taking you so long?”
“Okay”, I said. “Let’s do it.” I wondered what a black market representative would look like. Would he be dressed in dark glasses and a trench coat?
Fifteen minutes later, a very petite office lady walked through the bank’s front door, carrying a small shopping bag. Smiling, she headed our way. “Good morning, Ma’am”, she said. I have $26,000 for you.” She pulled the cash out of the shopping bag and placed a stack of hundred dollar bills on the clerk’s desk. The bills were so crisp and new that I wondered if they had come straight out of the Xerox machine or whatever contraption counterfeiters use over here. This was making me very nervous, but what was the alternative?
“Ma’am, you need to count the bills.”
“Can’t you use the machine?”
“Sorry, our machines only count pesos. These are dollars.”
The bank was crammed with customers, all seeming to stare at me. Look at the white woman over there with all that money, their expressions appeared to say. Feeling paranoid, I stacked the money behind my purse and huddled over the desk. What if one of those customers sends a text to a friend who robs me when I leave the bank? I began counting the 260 bills. And I started to sweat. In my nervousness something very strange happened to my brain — I lost the ability to count. I could not keep track beyond $8000. All I could think about were all those customers who were watching me count these $100 bills. My memory flashed with stories about foreigners who have walked out of banks and been ambushed by thieves who were tipped off by security guards or other customers. I could be killed for this money.
I was sweating from parts of my body that I did not know had glands. My eyeballs were sweating. My toes were sweating. Someone brought me a glass of water. Still, I could not count without losing my concentration. “Are you alright, Ma’am?” I finally gave up and just pretended to count the bills. “Okay, it’s all here. Thank you very much”, I said, embarrassed by the amount of liquid that had pooled underneath my chair. By the time I walked out of the bank I was a complete wreck. Would an ice pick be shoved into my ribs and my handbag stolen? Even in Canada I would worry about carrying $26,000 on public transportation in a large city.
With relief, I spotted a jeepney lurching towards me. I flagged it down and jumped aboard. It shouldn’t take any more than ten minutes to get to Edward’s bank, if traffic wasn’t too bad. Surely, I could survive for ten minutes. I looked around at my fellow passengers. Everyone looked harmless until I noticed a man holding what looked like a large pickle jar now filled with a clear liquid. A huge cloth wick poked through a hole in the jar’s lid. There was masking tape on the jar, on which an upward-pointing arrow had been drawn and one word written with a black marker: FUSE.
Holy fucking shit, was this a bomb?! I couldn’t believe it. There must be a thousand jeepneys rattling around this city. How the hell did I manage to choose one with a fucking bomb on board?! I had to get off before I became a CNN breaking news headline: “HOMEMADE BOMB EXPLODES ON BUS IN THE PHILIPPINES. SIX PASSENGERS DEAD, INCLUDING ONE CANADIAN”. The problem was that I had lost so much body fluid that my legs felt like rubber. I honestly didn’t think I could get off this jeepney and manage to flag down another one. I looked over at the Bomb Guy, who smiled at me. “Good morning, Ma’am”, he said. I tried to decide if he looked like someone who was about to commit suicide. He was smiling and chatting happily away with the driver. No, I didn’t think he was going to blow us up. Everyone else on the jeepney appeared calm and unafraid. I decided to chance it.
Ten minutes later, I knocked on the jeepney’s roof to signal the driver to stop. The Bomb Guy said, “Have a nice day, Ma’am” as I exited. I called out behind me, “Thanks — you too.”
A few more minutes and this nightmare would be over. Inside the bank I was met by an angry Edward. “What took you so fucking long?”
“Watch your language”, I said, handing him the cash. He slowly and carefully counted out all 260 bills in a single attempt, making neat little piles of ten, something which I hadn’t dared to do. I breathed a huge sigh of relief that all the money was there. He handed me my share.
“Okay”, he said to the bank employee, “let’s get started on this wire transfer”.
She picked up the cash and carried it to a desk at the rear of the bank, where another woman began examining each bill and writing something on a sheet of paper.
“Hey, what’s she doing with my money?” Edward wanted to know.
“She’s writing down the serial numbers of the bills. I’m sorry Sir, it’s bank policy that the serial numbers of these bills must be verified. It will take about three weeks before you can send the wire.”
“You’ve got to be kidding”, Edward said, getting really angry. He pointed at me, “But she just got these bills from… uh, what bank was it?”
“Chinabank”, I said. Something had happened to my voice. I couldn’t hear it.
“What was that? Speak up, I can’t hear you.”
“Chinabank”, I croaked. Edward berated the bank staff. “This money comes from Chinabank. Don’t you people trust your own banks?” Edward looked over at me. “Why are you sweating so much, India? Have you started getting hot flashes or something?”
“Shut up. It’s hot outside”.
Finally, Edward surrendered and we both went home to await the phone call announcing that his bills were okay — or not.
Until I knew whether the money was good or not, I decided not to take mine to my bank. I hid the bills in my house and began planning how I would unload them if they turned out to be bad. I would rather have my fingernails pulled out than tell Edward those bills came from the black market. I didn’t sleep well for the next three weeks, nightmares of counterfeit money leaving me tossing and turning. Eventually, the call did come. The bills were genuine. Edward was happy and I vowed never again to delve into the Black Market…
Africa is a great teacher. To watch a lion kill with savagery, then gently share the meat with its cubs is a reminder that despite our best attempts to disguise ourselves, we too are animals. Let’s not think for a moment that we don’t kill. No matter how much pretty wrapping paper we use, those bacon strips we ate this morning were once a pig. Last night’s barbecued steak was once a cow. And those nasty emails we sent our ex last week? In Africa, that little drama would be fought with claws and fangs. Africa strips away the veneer of civilization and shows us life boiled down to its most basic elements: Life and death. Love. Family. Conflict. Interdependence. Instinct. Territoriality. Predator and prey. Freedom.
I hope you enjoy these photos from Botswana…
On a sweltering afternoon in Botswana elephants gathered alongside the Khwai River seeking relief from the heat. At one point over twenty male elephants stood in the water, peacefully going about their business of bathing and drinking, with little social interaction. Then a new elephant arrived and it was obvious that he recognized an old friend. The two walked up to one another and embraced for a very long time.
Don’t you love elephants?
In Botswana the earth is parched and cracked from months without rain. Water pools sit dried up and abandoned, forcing animals to travel long distances in search of a life-sustaining drink. Not all of them make it. For those that do, taking that long sip of fresh water may cost them their lives, for in this driest of seasons, while the world waits for the spring rains to come, the water hole has become the easy hunting ground of Africa’s predators — lion, leopard, cheetah, hyena, African wild dog and, of course, the ever-present and dangerous crocodile.
The water hole is where I am as well, on a photo safari aptly named “Predators-Prey-Survivors”. For ten days we will be watching and filming the action, based in mobile tented camps in the bush, not far from the stage.
When it’s over, I’ll share the results with you. See you at the beginning of October!
(P.S. The above photo of me was taken at Tiger Canyons in South Africa, with two cheetah who have been hand-reared by John Varty. Do not try this at home!)