A few weeks ago, I was walking to my house as night fell. It was probably around 7:30. It was somewhere between dusk and really dark. The moon had not appeared in the sky.
I was returning from Basketball. With the help of some eager students, we had rebuilt an abandoned basketball court at the nearby teacher’s college. A few days a week, we play games and I teach them the basics. Often times we play 21, and at first It would be hard for any other player to make a basket. Now, after months of practice, they have become very good, and one or two of the players can beat me (shocking I know). Am I the right person to be teaching them basketball mechanics? Absolutely not. My basketball skills are similar to my relationship with modern art. Sometimes It looks good, but most of the time it’s pretty awkward. In a way, I get it, but for the most part I’m just pretending like I know what’s going on. But we have a lot of fun and are trying to put together a team to compete in a regional tournament. I think we would win.
Anyways, I was walking to my house through the shortcut. This shortcut is possibly my favorite place in Ethiopia, and one of those few spots in the world where time stops. There are certain locations in my life that are so nostalgic, I can feel them. Sycamore Island where I kayak, the Cinque Terre, The Brahma Pit (A high school hang out of mine), the Deane’s Arlington house, etc…
Every time Carly and I walk through it she says it feels like a dream. It is an amazing little patch of wilderness. There is a long green field dotted with a few homes. There are flowers everywhere, and it is almost always surrounded by a cloudy mist. In the distance, you can see rolling hills and banana groves. Two giant (GIANT) trees come out of nowhere. The trunks are probably the width of my college apartment, and it looks as if 8 or 9 trees grew into a single trunk. Monkeys, eagles ravens and cranes are often camped out on the branches. Just past the field there is a winding river, which careens around a giant eucalyptus forest. Several types of monkeys and baboons call that forest home. The river itself belongs in a National Geographic magazine, under the headline, long lost awesome badass African Jungle River
Anyways, I was walking past the field and the two giant trees and nearing the river. To cross the river, there is a dilapidated bridge made from a few large logs. It is a neat little bridge. To the right is the large eucalyptus tree. Surrounding it are some palms that seem to be falling into the river, and on the left are the beginnings of my landlords coffee groves.
As I approached the bridge, I heard an awful sound. Immediately I knew that a cow was stuck in the river, possibly drowning. It was a deep moo/moan accompanied by several splashes. I knew I had to act fast. I planned to run to my neighbors, grab some rope and some men and try and save the poor guy.
It was dark so I needed to use my flashlight to locate the struggling bovine. From the middle of the bridge, I shined my flashlight in it’s direction.
At that moment, a huge (HUGE) hippopotamus lurched out of the river. (apparently the best way to piss off a hippo is to shine a light in its face.) About 5 meters from me, at the end of the bridge it jumped onto the river bank and looked around wildly.
Vulnerable is the only word that comes to mind. There are only so many things you can do, when stuck on a log bridge over a river, staring into a several ton animal that kills more people than any other African mammal. I suppose you could run. Or wait. Or pee in your pants. I did one of those things.
Luckily for me, the hippo did not seem to spot me, and scampered off into the Eucalyptus forest. It was really scary, but makes for a great story, and makes the river paradise that much cooler.