I learned so much about people, animals, and myself on my recent African safari. I was traveling with a small group passionate wildlife conservationists, organized by a mutual friend, Beth. Unfortunately, she was also the one whom the baboons pranked.
On our first get-to-know-you dinner as a group, we took the safari Jeep to the equivalent of a mini-mall. Inside was a petite version of Caesar’s Palace in Las Vegas, right down to the painted sky-like ceiling with a blue background and puffy clouds. The obligatory, massive David sculpture was in the center, complete with correct body parts.
Multiple restaurants had varying cuisine from Asian and Greek to Kentucky Fried Chicken. I couldn’t help but marvel that of all the fast food options available, KFC was the one representing the best of American cuisine thousands of miles away.
“I’m vegan, so either Asian or Greek would be best. But, I’m open to what the group wants,” she stated nicely, being the first to pronounce her food choices.
My cousin and travel partner, Shannon, smiled, “I don’t think you’ll get an argument from us. I won’t eat KFC at home.”
That was met with a unanimous giggle and sighs of relief.
The Asian-fusion-styled restaurant was small and they had to push two small square tables together to form one large rectangular table to accommodate our medium-sized group.
Joe, our guide, spoke to the server in Afrikaans, smiling and chatting. Then, with the ease of a linguist and without missing a beat, he turned to us and said in perfect English, “Waters all around?” I’m convinced he could talk to the animals with the same ease as Doctor Doolittle.
The flip-book menu had many different options. Suddenly, Beth slapped her menu closed, “I hope you don’t mind, but we need to go.”
“What’s wrong?” Joe asked, surprised.
“They have crocodile on the menu. We can’t eat here.”
“I agree,” I said, flipping the pages until I found the section with a variety of cooking methods used to prepare the crocodile: fried, sauteed in garlic, boiled in a sauce of various spices, roasted, barbequed, and served as a croc-a-burger. But the whole idea made me want to gag. “Who would want to eat a gargantuan Godzilla-like lizard? Unless it comes with a belt or purse on the side? Am I right?” I laughed. Awkwardly, I found myself alone.
The table went silent, and they all looked at me as if I had just said, “Anyone want to split a Lassie steak?”
I should have read the room. I wasn’t prepared to be living with real animals. I’m used to buying my frozen food in packages.
Joe smiled politely at me.
Abruptly, we rose and stampeded next door to the Greek restaurant. This time we
reviewed the menu posted outside their door before entering. Nothing too exotic. Dinner proved to be delightful and progressed with a lot of laughter and a smattering of wine.
On the following morning’s safari, we observed a crocodile flipping a crane to its death. Apparently, the not-so-endangered crane was on his menu.
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