Earlier in my blog I took a picture and wrote a thousand words about it based on people saying that a photograph can speak a thousand words.
It's fun to do but then I was choosing the picture so maybe not so much of a challenge.
So my friend challenged me - she sent me two pictures and I had to write 1,000 words about it instantly - no planning, nothing and here they are!
Finally the car pulled up outside the building. It was dark. I was tired. It had been a long journey. The roads had been almost impassable at times. The rain had made any little hole in the road turn into craters overnight. I loved this place but the terrain was less than friendly.
I’d been here for 6 years now. I’d come over as a student from London to travel and had decided I would volunteer at a rescue centre in Africa. I had planned to stay for maybe a couple of months. Janey, the owner, warned me my heart would take a beating, it would be lifted to the most dizzying happy heights ever at times but would also be pummelled into the ground leaving me crying until I was sore.
She was not wrong. The sights I had seen out there had been truly breathtaking….sometimes for all the wrong reasons. I had gotten to see some of the worst acts of human behaviour. Animals did not seem to matter when money and land were involved. It broke my heart. Nature has a place for everything and everything has its place but for some reason ‘man’ seems to think it knows better.
The team at Janey’s were exceptional. All of us were working for very little more than food and board. You didn’t really need much else out there. You didn’t need magazine’s as the world of ‘celebrity’ seemed a life time ago, the true celebrities round here were the animals anyway. Take like Nikita for example. She was a rescued elephant. She was only 6 months old. Found wondering, lonely, scared and injured. Her Mother had obviously been killed by poachers and they had tried to kill little Nikita too, failing that they had left her to roam hoping the jackals would get to her first, either that or she’d fall down a well in the dark. But Janey’s team had taken her in and she was now growing stronger by the day, already showing signs of being a truly amazing Matriarch one day.
All around the property at Janey’s you could hear people laughing. This was their daily work. But the joy and the pride that everyone had for it was truly a thing of beauty. It was so different to my job in rock radio back in London. The wrong things seemed to matter back then and no one seemed to be truly proud of what they did….and team work…..I don’t think they’d ever heard of it. Over here it was essential.
I had cared so deeply about getting my hair and nails done and going shopping. Every Saturday I would be out at the shops spending as much as I could, sometimes even more that I could afford too. And for what? I had left nearly all of that behind me when I started travelling and most of what I had brought out with me was utterly useless out there so I had pretty much binned it all. I hadn’t worn make up, other than for the odd night out, for…wow, it must be about 4 years now. My hair was back to its natural blonde, my skin lightly tanned and a little hardened from all the hours working outside in the sun.
The people here were wonderful but sometimes I did get lonely. I longed for some of my friends back home but thankfully Skype was available out here, but the more time I was out here the more I realised I had little or nothing in common with the people back home nowadays. I just didn’t care about the modern world, or maybe it had stopped caring about me.
Little Timmy had been brought in by one of the Volunteers 3 years ago. He looked like a baby cheetah but was a cat, obviously not too far removed from his bigger ancestors but it had been love at first sight. I could not put him down. I constantly gave him fuss and little bits of food. In the end Janey told me to take him home, she knew I was close to asking but had worried it wouldn’t be right. He’d been my little buddy ever since. And now here I was - at Janey’s with little Timmy. He’d been hurt by a jeep from the neighbours farm. It had taken me a life time to get here, Janey had been driving ahead, the injuries had been too much to deal with at home. I felt like I had been sitting here for hours waiting to hear how little Timmy was. I can’t begin to tell you what he means to me. If he dies……if he dies……well, I can’t even let myself go there, the lump in my throat is already threatening to choke me. My face was twisted in a grief that I hoped was unfounded. Timmy was my buddy.
I started to pace and stopped myself.
I heard the door of the operating theatre squeak open, I could see Janey’s assistant, they wouldn’t meet my eye. My heart started to race. I watched them slowly peel off their rubber gloves, the sound deafening in my ears. I was ready to strangle the guy. I needed to know that Timmy was ok, I needed to be with him.
David looked up. Solemnly. I caught my breath in my throat, I felt the tears sting my eyes. He was holding the door open, I looked up, searching desperately behind him….what was going on?
And there…..there he was, his paw sticking out, reaching for me, searching for me in this strange place. I dropped my bag and rushed over to him, reaching out my hand so slowly, taking Timmy’s paw ever so gently, at first he just lay there, but he awakened with my touch, gently purring then lifting his head, he reached his paw out further and then sat up. I caught the sparkle in his eye and knew everything was just fine.
And the next story:
Laughter rang out around the village. It made Maddie laugh. His sister was only 2 years old but she’d been a breath of fresh air for his family. All day they could hear her little chuckle ringing out. Times had been tough but Jenty brought about such joy that they didn’t feel so down on their luck anymore.
Maddie had nicknamed his sister the Camel whisperer because one of their working camels had pretty much been retired now and all it did was follow Jenty around all day, every day. To anyone watching it really did look like they were communicating with each other. Jenty would have a pretty much unstoppable dialogue going with the camel, who she had called Henry. They were a permanent fixture around the village now –if you saw one it wouldn’t be long before you saw the other. Normally Henry was spotted first of course. His parents would go out to work all day and he used to have to try to keep an eye on his little sister but thanks to this weird friendship she had with Henry he was free to go off and try to make some money of his own or even occasionally go and play down by the river with his friends and his brothers. Maddie had been the youngest for 8 years and then along came Jenty. He had hated it at first but now he loved his little sister. He used to be envious of the joy she used to bring to everyone but now he felt proud. The older women of the village would light up and appear to visably become younger just at the sound of little Jenty’s laughter.
They had a hard life. They were nicknamed the sand people by the richer folk because they lived in mud and dung huts. They weren’t so bad once they had been built as the sun quickly baked away the smell of the dung and it kept out the harshness of winter quite well. They were all too hungry, all of the time but the secret was to keep yourself busy so that you didn’t have to sit down and think about your grumbling belly. If you could keep busy you could quite often forget about lunch altogether. In the evening’s Maddie would take Jenty and go off into the village and try to creep about in the dark by the richer people’s houses. The food they threw out, if you could get to it, was simply amazing. It was food that his family could only dream of eating and yet these folk would just throw it out. Jenty had asked one man for the mango fruit he had in his hand ready to put in the bin and rather than give it to her he’d laughed and squashed it up in front of her face. Jenty had just stood there looking at the man not understanding what was going on. She didn’t know at two years old that she was never to even look these people in the eye let alone talk to them. Maddie had dragged her away quickly, ashamed and apologetic, this sort of thing could get his Father into a lot of trouble and due to Jenty’s age he knew it would be him that would get the blame.
Sure enough they had returned to the village that night and already his Father’s boss had come to speak to him about his unruly wayward, feral children. Maddie didn’t understand what feral meant but he understood the angry look on his Father’s face and had run away with Jenty to hide. His Father spent all day, really long hours out of the house, cleaning up the rubbish in the streets. He had to walk around on foot with a little cart. They were trying desperately to save up for a donkey or some such mule to help him. They had 3 camels that his older brothers would take off out into the desert and would charge the tourists money to sit on them and get taken around. There was a lot of competition for this amongst the villagers so his brothers used to get up as early as possible to get out there first. Their Mother would stay home and sort out the food that they had and clean the hut, she would then go to the village river with the other ladies and they would die some cloth to sell on to the tourists as head scarfs and shawls. Maddie and Jenty would sneak down to watch the ladies as they dried out the cloth they had dyed. Looking like a rainbow spread out across the side of the riverbank.
When old Henry was deemed to be getting too old for all the walks they were going to see if they could sell him for meat but no one seemed to want him. He was too thin. But then Jenty took a shine to him and his Mother could see the value of him as a form of babysitter. They could hear the laughter ringing out again, such an infectious chuckle from Jenty and he caught himself smiling. She’s brought so much joy to this village in the short time she had been around and he knew the villagers would be lost without her now. Maddie had often wondered what his sister found so funny all day with Henry. He looked around him and saw no one was about so he crept down towards the river where he could see the back of Henry. As he was approaching he could hear his sister chuckling, then a pause then a chuckle again. The shape of the river working as an echo chamber on her laughter. As he got closer he saw what had been amusing her. A hippo was walking in and out of the water, each time it moved emitting a huge loud fart that blew the hair back from his little sister’s head.