Sometimes I feel like a bit of a knob when I talk about working and living on the five continents. My cousin Alex said it was one of the things that made this blog stand out, but in true British style, one does not like to blow one’s own trumpet, so there’s only so many times that I can brag about being an international jetsetter until I feel like an overblown balloon… But, sometimes me and Handsome have conversations that really remind me of some of the cool things I have seen, and one of those is “by the side of the road” magic.
If you are British, like me, you will know that every Spring, there is an explosion in the rabbit population, and if you happen to drive your car at dawn or dusk, anywhere in the country, you will see multitudes of baby bunnies eating the grass verges at the side of the road. If you are also, like me, you are a romantic naturist type, this would fill you every year with unbridled joy, like you were seeing magic happen right in front of you and like the world was all fresh and new again with life.
Well fast forward to this weekend, and I was in a car with Handsome driving past hundreds of fields. We are lucky enough to see lots of wildlife in this part of the world, but our particular favorite is seeing deer, and I’m embarassed to admit it, but we both still live in that idealistic world where seeing animals in their natural state brings us joy and one or the other of us will point and say, “Look… Magic…”.
That happened this weekend, as we were keeping an eye out for deer at the side of the road and we saw a family with some Bambis and it brought us joy again. That got me talking to Handsome about the magic I had kept an eye out for in other countries.
I specifically mentioned that when I, Laura and Hayley roadtripped in Australia, the animals we looked for were kangaroos and koalas (never saw koalas in the wild, often saw the roos). Similarly, we never had much call to take roadtrips in Qatar, but when we did, along the long dusty highways, we kept an eye out for camels and would sometimes be rewarded by seeing a whole group of them, trudging accross the desert.
I wasn’t in Fiji for long, but I did take a cross country nightime trip to visit my friend Lindsey, and I was warned most ferociously about taking care not to hit a cow en route. Now, the cow in Fiji is a much worshipped animal and is worth a great deal of money to each village, but more than that, is a sacred being. Depsite the fact that the Fijian countryside is pitch black, even on major highways, one must take every care not to hit the cows wandering in the middle of the road, for fear of revengeful reprisals from angry townsfolk… I managed to get through the journey without hitting a cow, but I did have an incredible experience with horses. Like the cows, the horses were roaming untethered, but one amazing flock ended up running down the road by the side of my car, and one in particular, a silvery white, which glowed off the light from my headlamps was just stunning. It’s a moment I will never get again in my lifetime and that I will never forget.
Africa was interesting, in as much as many folks expected me to be living in the middle of a safari in Gabon and I was frequently asked if I had seen lions, or elephants or monkeys near where I was living. Now the truth was, we were in the capital city and there was virtually no wildlife there, except the kind you are used to seeing in underdeveloped capital cities: birds and an overpopulation of stray cats and dogs… However, I did get a truly magical moment in Gabon, from the vantage pint of my balcony, which overlooked a busy roundabout, but which was also surrounded by trees. Had I not happened to be on my balcony at that exact moment (I was out there a lot when I used to smoke), I would never have seen the white owl alight from an opposite tree, ascend to pass over our apartment building and as it rose, come quite close to the balcony, with its white frontage glowing in the light from the kitchen behind me. If you want magic, that’s it right there…
And of course, living in Africa brought me the incredible experience of safari in Kenya, with Sooz and the wonderful Harmon and Teri (they do amazing work, please check out Bridging the Gap Africa). In addition to Harmon and Teri’s wonderful company and hospitality (I will be putting on Teri’s recipe for roast chicken soon), we also got to experience what I always thought life in Africa would be like, with monkeys that crossed their garden every day, and who might often make a nuisance of themselves by entering the house on a thieving expedition. And the safari was incredible, as you can imagine. We didn’t see the big five, but I saw nature in its raw and natural state in the Masaimara and our guide was a Maasai warrior! That was magic every minute of every day.
As I write this I am wondering what it is about us Brits that makes us ashamed of being happy and of liking things. There is so little that can truly bring us joy in this life that we should embrace every moment that we can. We all have the capacity to experience love, joy, passion, nature, but we can let it all pass us by as we pursue the drudgery of the everyday. But when there is a stunning photograph of the sea, or flowers or a waterfall on facebook or twitter or instagram, it recives a multitude of likes and reposts. The same can be said for photos or stories about animals and nature. These are the things that connect and bind us together and it is shared appreciation of these things that highlight our humanity. So begone my shame for loving life and the creatures in it. I love this world and I love the magic it shows me every day, no matter what continent I happen to reside in…