The Foreign Service Journal - March 2018

THE FOREIGN SERVICE JOURNAL | MARCH 2018 93 other viewers could stand at the same time, looking in any direction. We quickly got used to the daily rou- tine—up before dawn, a quick breakfast by the fire while his helper packed up our “Glad trash bag” tents, and a pre- daybreak trek through the bush by car or on foot to spy on game and birds. Then we’d travel on to our next destination, where we would trek before sundown to look for nocturnal species, often feeding on their kill at this hour. We had drinks and supper cooked on the fire, gazing up at the stars before crawling into tents to sleep, surrounded by the sounds of the wild and incredible stars overhead. This was the last day of our trip, and we still hadn’t seen a lion, so we started especially early. Nancy and I were both hot and hungry when we finally stopped for lunch at P.J.’s semi-permanent tent camp, built near a small fresh-water stream. As we drove up to the camp, P.J. pointed out a pool of water where the stream had been blocked by a beaver dam. We had enough time for a quick dip before lunch. I got to the pool first. I waded into the cool water, turned onto my back and started floating, relaxing as I gazed up at the almost cloudless sky. A small noise drew my attention. I scanned the bank and saw Nancy urgently pointing to the far side of the pool. She mouthed “Hippo!” A huge male hippo had apparently come out of the water just as I entered the pool to see what was disturbing his habitat. Hmmm—maybe I looked like a tasty lunch to him? I didn’t pause to look at the hippo. Instead, heart racing, I slowly paddled toward the bank. Only when I’d reached solid ground did I look back. The hippo was yawning, showing a two-foot jaw spread and clean white teeth before submerging in a swirl of water. I have often pictured that scene— without Nancy—with me serenely floating into the open mouth of that hippo. n COURTESY OF JOHN PIELEMEIER Maybe I looked like a tasty lunch?