December 20-something, 2006, after Christmas but before New Years, Tarangire, Tanzania.
"Wapi tembo?" (Where is elephant?) I ask our safari guide impatiently. "Mimi napenda tembo mtoto." (I like baby elephant) I add.
I am speaking Kiswahili (badly) because I believe in learning some local language when I travel, it helps connect me with the folks I meet, bridge the cultural gap, and show respect for the people and places I'm visiting. Oh crap. I wish my motives were that noble. Mostly I'm just showing off.
I am excited about seeing elephants though. We are in Tarangire National Park, the last game park in our Tanzania safari, and it is renowned for huge herds of elephants. There is something about elephants, their size of course, their amazing social behavior, and well, just those long lashed eyes that has always mesmerized me. I really want to see a baby elephant up close. Except this traffic jam of a baboon troop is liesurely ambling down the road in front of our truck. I've been in East Africa three weeks now, and I've seen soooo many baboons, including one that was a little too happy to see me.
But we have only seen a few elephants, from a distance. I want to shout, "Get your lumpy red arses off the road! There are elephants up ahead!"
Finally, there they are, and over the next two days my elephant wishes are filled. Overflowing. We even find one tiny, figuratively speaking, baby only a couple of weeks old.
Aren't they beautiful?