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LIFE AS A MIDDLE MANN

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Gringo in the Serengeti overnight without a gun--The Never-Ending Adventures of Bird Mann pt 5

Had a MAJOR scare two nights back - I was in the Serengeti and got my jeep stuck in a mud hole (in retrospect it was more like a small lake and I should have driven around on the savannah - a classic hindsight is 20/20 situation - argh!). This was right after I had seen my first pair of lions resting in the shade (they are enormous and so powerful!) This pair had taken a hippo just the night before - a hippo that weighs much more than me AND my jeep - yikes! The worst part was that because of the political tensions there are no tourists here and the one vehicle I saw in an hour turned back before I could wave them down. But I needed to go forward to exit the right gate and head to Uganda. So . . . I got stuck, around 5pm and it gets dark at 6:30. The harder I spun my wheels the more stuck I got, even with 4x4. Hmm . . . the Jeep commercials were not too funny anymore. My jeep was leaning way to the left and I had about 10 gallons of swamp water . . . hmm . . . and I was afraid that if I stayed overnight I would sink in and never make it out. Oh dear. I got out and looked around. The elephants and giraffes looked a bit askance as I started down the road. You see, no one ever walks in the Serengeti, so the animals just see Land Rovers, not bipeds! My map said there was a lodge about 15kilometers down the road. I hoped it was right and started running in the beautiful evening light. This was one of the scariest things I have ever done. If I couldn't find the lodge or get there in time I thought my gravestone could read: Gringo in the Serengeti overnight without a gun. I seriously thought about writing a love note to Kitty in my bird book and giving them a number to call in case all was left was my book. To cut short the terror, I made it to the gate about 30 minutes after the sun went down. I was worn out and shaking a bit. You know (because I'm writing) that I made it, but I heard growling in the bushes along the way and didn't know how the story would end. As I came panting up, the rangers looked at me in amazement. The first thing they asked was, "Are you a man of God?" No joke - they said there's no way you can survive out there. My plan to climb a tree for the night would have been foiled by a leopard that can climb better than me. PRAISE THE LORD! I guess He's not done with me yet. I bonded with guys for a while and then we took their Land Cruiser out and pulled out my jeep without too much trouble. They were so kind to me and treated me like a brother. They live out there six weeks at a time away from their families, fighting poachers, to save this world treasure of an area. I was so worn out but they gave me a shower and insisted on treating me as an honored guest. It was my first hot dinner in a while. I slept well in my jeep and continued on at daybreak. By some miracle my clothes and books escaped getting drenched by all that water in the car. The next afternoon I had a tire blow out (the roads are terrible in the Mara!) but it was right in front of a Christian man's farm. They helped me find a good repair man in the next town and I got to bond with the people - it was wonderful! I met two cute little girls who wanted to touch my hair and giggle. The Kenyans are truly so warm and generous, and I have finally gotten used to them staring at me all the time. Before I left the Mara I got to find another pride of lions and saw a huge lioness hunting in the grass. I've probably watched this on National Geographic hundreds of times since I was a boy but it was completely different from 40 feet - God's majesty is so evident. Oh before I forget I wanted to mention a black-and-white colobus monkey - look them up if you can! Also eland and kudu! Wow. Today I had another sort of divine appointment with a kind of prophetic guy who just commands respect by his presence. He is the John Muir of Kenya and I felt so blessed to meet him at his home by a whole series of "coincidences" . . . right now he's working to save Kakamega Forest (the easternmost reach of the Guinea-Congolian rainforest) and nearby grasslands from the monstrous sugarcane, tea, and rose farms on the north shore of Lake Victoria. He is a strong believer and we were both really encouraged. Rather than calling for more guards to keep people from felling trees, he developed an innovative approach involving community partnerships (helping people to see the forest as a precious, limited resource that is their motherland, not the governments, that they can steward sustainably for their grandchildren). This is now the gold standard for conservation movements the world over. Oh, and guess what his name is! It's Wilberforce - quite a figure. He was actually christened Kenneth but he found a book about WW and changed his name. Okay, enough stories - I'm running a couple days behind and headed to Kampala, UG tonight. Love to you all! Jase =) PS: Another praise - you may recall that God blessed me with 341 birds in India, which is good. I was hoping for 800 total, with maybe 500 in Africa (and 41 overlap). Well, I'm just leaving Kenya (with ten days in Uganda left), and today I passed 900 total, including over 650 in Kenya - I can't believe it! This combined African part costs about $15,000 and they don't get this many birds . . . my world record was 863 in South America last July, but I'm not counting this as surpassing that because it's covered two areas. But still - I found 500 birds in America over 20 years, so 500 in Africa in 10 days is a bit overwhelming to say the least. A lifetime of memories (and close scrapes) with God providing through it all. Just wanted to share this joy with you.

WEIGH IN