Charge of the White Rhino
Fred came home from work one afternoon and handed me a tan government transmittal envelope, printed on both sides with lines and spaces for the date, the recipient's name and office designation. The last line read, "Date: April 5, 1983 – To: Nancy, Dakota, and Tina – Subject: SURPRISE!" I fumbled with the waxed cord that wound between two closure disks on the flap. Inside were four tickets to Nairobi, Kenya.
"I figured we deserved a get-away vacation during Spring Break."
I answered with a smile, a hug, a kiss and a whooping cheer that brought the kids running to see what was going on.
Fred whetted our appetites with an enticing description of the superb breakfast buffet at the Nairobi Hilton. I could almost taste the pink strawberry milkshakes, sweet golden pineapple, and crusty fresh bread (without the ever-present weevils found in local loaves).
Fred brought out the photos from his TDY in Nairobi five years ago and we talked about all the animals we might see. I looked forward to the chance to reunite with Barbara Koch, the embassy nurse who took such great care of Tina when she had quinsy in Cameroon. Fred had already called Barbara at her new post at the embassy in Kenya and she promised us another treat – a guided tour of Nairobi National Park.
For our trip to Nairobi's game park, Barbara borrowed a Land Rover, a large sturdy four-wheel drive vehicle with bench seats front and rear as well as jump seats in the cargo area. Barbara drove, Fred sat next to her, I shared the back seat with our picnic supplies, and our kids perched on the rear jump seats to take advantage of the great view out the open hatch. We chatted steadily, making up for lost time, while keeping a sharp lookout for animals. Barbara stopped first for a mother monkey sitting in the middle of the road nursing her baby. The monkey watched us watching her. She gave us a bored look after a few minutes and sauntered off into the bush. We moved closer to the river to observe a fat hippo basking in a sunlit pool.
On the next slope, we spotted three giraffes nibbling tender young green leaves from the high branches of an acacia tree. Their nimble blue-black tongues and limber lips slipped around and between the sharp acacia thorns and captured bite after bite of leafy nutrition.
(click here to find the audio clip that tells the rest of the story)