I know that no will be surprised to hear about my numerous wildlife encounters. It’s always given me great fodder for the party game, “Two Truths and a Lie” since people don’t usually guess that yes, I’ve had my lunch stolen by a monkey (this is NOT as cute as it sounds when you’re tromping through the Amazon jungle basin and the nearest place to grab a bite to eat is like an entire country away). Or that St. John had once narrowly escaped getting charged by a hippo by running into a (thankfully also narrow) mud cooking hut, and that I’d once availed myself of one of my infant daughter’s diapers rather than risk a literal run-in with the party of hippos that were spending the night right smack in between our tent and the latrine. (Laugh if you must, but more people are killed in Africa each year by hippos than by lions. Sure, they seem like slow and gentle creatures, but you’d be surprised how fast and aggressive those bulky babies can be.) And what, you might ask, were we doing camping – with an infant no less – right smack in the middle of a hippo hang-out? Well, they were all hanging out way over there in the river when we set up camp. We didn’t know that THEY camped out at night in the campground, too!
Then there was the excruciatingly painful time I got too close to a Portuguese Man-O-War on an Ecuadorian beach. And the time – when I was six months pregnant, no less – and spent six insane hours hacking my way through the aptly named “Impenetrable Forest” to visit with mountain guerrillas (totally worth all the agony, at least as far as I was concerned. Not so sure about the poor guides who had to carry me back down!)
I won’t have many good tidbits left for Two Truths and A Lie after people read FIRST COMES LOVE, THEN COMES MALARIA since most of these stories are in the book. (But that’s a price I’m willing to pay.)
But for me, the strangest encounter yet just may have occurred this past Wednesday night. I spent most of this week at a CARE Conference and Celebration in Washington, DC. Since 10% of my book royalties are being given to CARE, they invited me to a celebratory dinner at the French Ambassador’s residence. So there I am, rubbing elbows with Ambassadors and Generals and fancy-schmancy folks and being served haute cuisine on silver trays with a different wine (or champagne!) for each course. I’m looking around at the exquisite art on the wall, the candelabras, huge rose centerpieces, monogrammed silver and Republic Francais china pattern and I’m thinking s’il vous plait, passez le buerre – because I can’t think anything else in French! No, really, I’m thinking now this is a looooong way from the Peace Corps, from Arua, Uganda, heck even from little old western Massachusetts. I’m thinking THIS is a wildlife encounter of the strangest kind.
Well, it is for me, anyway.