Bucket List

My cousin Shannon called me, “My friend Beth is organizing a safari in South Africa this September. Wanna go?”

My jaw dropped and my eyes whizzed around like a cartoon character, “Would I ever!”

Everyone has a bucket list destination like Asia, Egypt or Ben and Jerry’s Flavor Graveyard in Waterbury, VA. For me, it’s Africa. But, before I could commit, logistics needed to be worked out. I had kids going to colleges, and who could house-sit for me? 

Sam announced, “My college move-in date is August 10th.”

Lindsay added, “Mine is August 20th.”

Jack finished with, “I’m moving back home in August.”

Like falling dominoes, all the roadblocks were knocked down. I pulled out the globe. Holy crap! South Africa is at the bottom of the planet.

Shannon and I don’t talk to each other daily, but every time we do, it’s as if no time has passed. 

On takeoff morning, I raced into the airport frantically texting Shannon, “Where are you?”

“We’re at gate 5B.”

I checked in clutching my boarding pass and passport, passing through TSA less than an hour before the flight, and dashed to 5B.

“It’s so nice to meet you. So excited you can join us,” Beth greeted me warmly. The Michael Kors sneakers she wore gave her the extra lift she needed to hug me properly. I was mindful not to put a mark on her darling lululemon leisure suit. I couldn’t help but notice how put together she was. Even her Covid prevention mask matched.

With just the hint of an English accent, she pointed out, “We’ve been here three hours. We didn’t want to miss the flight.”

“Oh. Anyone want a pre-flight cocktail?”

They both shook their head side to side.

“Alrighty then.”

The flight from Los Angeles to Doha took 16 hours. I slept most of the way with multiple glasses of wine and felt quite refreshed for our airport layover before flying to Johannesburg. 

“The shopping is great here,” Beth announced. 

We loaded our carry-on bags onto the trolley and strolled around. With Beth’s accent and words like trolley, I felt like I was in a Harry Potter movie. Shannon bought a beautiful scarf, and I picked up souvenirs for my kids. The Victoria’s Secret store caught Beth’s eye, “I’ll be right back.” She returned, clutching their store’s signature hot pink bag.

We flew to “JoBerg,” as the locals call it, and onto the bush, where we were whisked to our lodge. That’s where I met the other four members that would complete our safari party for the next eight days. 

“Drop your bags in your rooms. Hurry, for an evening safari,” Joe, our leader, called out.

Brilliant.

Within the hour, we saw a pride of lions with the majestic male basking in the sunset. The jeep rumbled and stopped so we could gaze upon them until dark. 

Back at the lodge, we were greeted by Raymond, the manager. He stood about 6’4″ and weighed 100 pounds wet. With animated gestures, he began, “Who. Here. Is. In. Cabin. Number. 3?” 

“I am,” Beth said, moving up front.

“Oh well. The baboons broke into your room while you were on safari.”

Beth protested, “One moment, I locked my door.”

“They know how to break in.”

I imagined an unruly gang of baboons jimmying the lock open with a credit card.

“No matter. They had a grand ol’ time, ripped apart your bed sheets, tore down the curtains, and pooped on your clothing. Don’t worry. Everything is being laundered. You are now in room 10.”

As Raymond spoke, I looked around his right elbow and spotted a baboon running across the grounds. He was hard to miss, carrying a cookie jar from the room, a hot pink bag and wearing a pair of panties on his head.

What have I gotten myself into?

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