Elephant Poo - The size of my melon!

Elephant Poo and Arrogance

August 29th, 2014 - Lifisi area, Salima, Malawi

After "cheese" the first word I learn in any new country is "yes." It's a survival thing.

You see, despite my red hair and funny looking face, it is not uncommon for someone to begin speaking to me, in their native tounge, as if I were their neighbour. And though I could find polite ways to stop them, I have found that it requires less effort if I just say "yes" after each statement, occasionally throwing in a "No!" for texture.

In the Salima area of central Malawi, a group of eager children followed me up a ridge. The scorching heat turning their excited screams into an inaudible haze, I can vaguely recall a young boy staring at me, exclaiming "Elephant!" Feeling mildly insulted, but too tired to care, I gave him the thumbs up with my usual "yes." This continued until I launched 30 minutes later; "Elephant!" "Yes." "Elephant!" "Yes."

The flying was intense, soaring low over the 100 metre high ridge with a personal goal of making to the other end and back; a daring out and return along this interesting geographical feature. Over tall trees and no landing opportunities I flew cautiously, until a feeling in my stomach told me to turn back. I tried, but the lift had gone and now my feet were dangling but 20 metres over the tall trees below. Pointing down-wind to make distance, but without a clearing in sight, I was mentally preparing for a tree landing. Then, by some great fortune, I spotted three mud huts and a small garden close by. I had just enough height to make it!

Upon landing the small remote community, the 15 villagers and children kept back and went about their business. It was as if I didn't exist. Strange. I waved and said hi, but to no response whatsoever. While packing up a young boy found reason to approach me. "Elephant," he said.

As interesting as this was, I had 8 km of bush to whack by GPS before dark and chose not to care; not until after covering my first few hundred metres. There before me stood a pile of poo that could have filled a Mini.

Then, a tree fell "Krrrrrr-pommmbb" right next to me. I froze and looked around. Another rustling came from behind. I turned slowly as not to startle what turned out to be a handsome old lumberjack wearing an antique "Via Rail" conductor's coat. In perfect English he said "What are you doing here? The elephants can kill you!"

A tsunami of emotion overtook me. So sure of myself, missing all the warning signs, I had ultimately been chewed up by my own reality and crapped out into the obtuse ball of humiliation that I was. "Yes" was no longer the answer.

The hours which followed offered much time for self-examination. How could I have been so arrogant? Who am I serving in behaving this way?

Having reached camp just before dark, I had escaped the hoofs of the hungry mammoths behind me. But that night, nothing could have felt more crushing than the realization that, having become so absorbed in what I had to offer these communities, I had ripened into a self-important cow pie, neglectful of the gifts they offered me in return.
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