Tuesday, October 19, 2010

Observations from Outside--Texas Trip

My inner chameleon has shown itself again, prompting me to exit the government in search of the next adventure. I head to London shortly, where I will immediately feel a bittersweet sense of homecoming. It happens every time, from the second I arrive to the dusty South Kensington tube stop, heavy bags in tow. Up the Old Brompton Road I go, meandering towards Queen’s Gate, the location of my first London residence. Nostalgia overwhelms me, smacks me like a rude double decker bus.

I’m happy and tormented by these trips back to London, when I want to dig my boots into Hyde Park and never leave, peacefully contented by the cloak of gray. But I will, foreshadowed by a prior post. I’m off to Africa in November, to visit my favorite cheetahs and glimpse the lions, now-grown, who stole my attention last summer and a focus for "real life" that's yet to return.

A recent trip to Texas whetted my appetite for the open range, and the wildlife that so perfectly inhabits it. The similarity between the terrain at my family’s ranch and that of Namibia is uncanny.
My first trip to Africa caused me to remark, “The Namibian bushlands that envelop the Harnas Wildlife Sanctuary eerily resemble the Edward's Plateau in central Texas. Rust-colored dust blankets the earth, its expanse broken only by acacia trees and straw brush, replete with menacing thorns. Open spaces as far as the eye can see. An expanse of blue sky that provides the illusion of a flat, wide earth. These images tie together memories of the ranch with my initial sights in Namibia. It seemed as though I'd traveled many miles to an unknown place just to find myself back home, except that armadillos and alligator gars had been replaced by larger, more interesting creatures: lions, cheetahs and baboons, to name a few.”

The ranch is greener this time, thanks to heavy summer rains. Light shimmers across the lake, where my Mom and I kayak in tandem and absolute silence. Like Namibia, the quiet nature of Texas ranchlands silences you, leaving us to nothing more than a constant buzz of grasshopper chatter. And they are everywhere.
Leaping from spot to spot, crispy little things that are easily mistaken for leaves, except for their constant mobility. My enthusiasm for wildlife is well-served by this quick weekend trip and the cool fall weather. The exotic pasture, home to various African game, teems with energy. On walks and game drives, we encounter oryx and zebras, including a young foal, maybe 4 months old, human like in its shy attachment to its mother.
I immediately picture two people: my grandfather, the African game enthusiast responsible for bringing these animals here, and Frikkie, the man who mentored me and my fellow volunteers in Namibia last summer. Two completely distinct characters, one a sophisticated storyteller, and the other a stoic man who held no interest in conversation.

And then I think of the animals, those native to Africa. I’ll next see them on their turf, and I’ll be the captive.


  1. What a great post-- hope all of your travels ahead suit your inner chameleon...