The Foreign Service Journal - March 2018

92 MARCH 2018 | THE FOREIGN SERVICE JOURNAL great idea! Five of us piled into the well- used vehicle along with our French- speaking Chadian driver. The Logone is one of Chad’s two major rivers, flowing northwest into Lake Chad from the wetter, more equa- torial region near N’Djamena. As we drove southeast in the morning heat, the vegetation gradually became greener, with small trees dotting the landscape. After about three hours, the 4x4’s engine overheated and the vehicle simply stopped. We pushed it to the side of the dirt road. Our team livestock specialist, a 6’6” Texan, thin and gaunt, opened the hood and announced in his heavy drawl that the engine needed to cool off. He found a small path to the nearby river and filled his nearly 50-gallon Texas som- brero with water, which he doused onto the engine. After the steam died away, he said, “Let’s try her again.” After two tries, the engine caught. We decided not to tempt our luck, choosing instead to return to N’Djamena. About an hour into our return trip, we spied a small herd of elephants and drove off the road to get a closer look. Four young elephants were standing under a grove of trees. We approached slowly. Just as we noticed a much larger mama elephant about a hundred meters on the other side of our track, the driver turned off the engine. Mama caught our scent and ran directly toward the 4x4, which was between her and her babies. Our Texan shouted in colorful language for the driver to start the engine. The driver didn’t speak English, but it didn’t take him long to spot the charging elephant, now trumpeting with her trunk high in the air. He toggled the key in the switch once, twice, then three times while pumping the gas pedal, but the engine didn’t catch. The Texan shouted even louder; we all were shouting by this time. Mama was twice our size and could easily squash our tin can of a vehicle. Finally, the engine sput- tered and roared to life. We rumbled forward with Mama just behind us. She chased us as we careened over rough terrain that had never felt the wheels of a vehicle before. Eventually, she tired and stopped running, but she continued to trumpet at us as we sped back toward the main road. From there we headed home, rolling into one of N’Djamena’s few petrol stations just before our gas tank hit empty. Taking a Dip in an Okavango Pool In 1982, after three years in Botswana, my wife and I finally orga- nized a trip to the Okavango Delta. P.J., a game hunter we’d met in Gaborone, offered to take us on a two-week safari. P.J.’s claim to fame was that his father-in- law had been the region’s most famous crocodile hunter until he died of a snakebite while croc hunting. With game hunting now illegal, tak- ing tourists around the Okavango was one of the few ways to make a living in the region. P.J. had adapted his Ford F-250 pickup with a game-viewing seat for three above the cab, a fiberglass canopy over the back and a square hole in the roof of the canopy where two Mama was twice our size and could easily squash our tin can of a vehicle. COURTESY OF JOHN PIELEMEIER