by Gary Wingenbach
Thank goodness for youthful reactions!
Sometimes we (the royal “we,” for all those 29 and older) aren’t impressed by the unusual because we’ve “been there, done that.” Then, along comes an opportunity to watch someone young see something so extraordinarily unusual, that you can’t help but be excited for that person. Maybe it even causes you to think about your own extraordinary circumstances.
And so it was that I came to own a truly unique African experience, vis-à-vis, Beth’s reaction to a troupe of baboons. Baboons are, for argument’s sake, interesting creatures, but not the warm and fuzzy beings I’d go out of my way to see. They certainly don’t measure up to Black Jack and Holly Brown, two smiling, laughing Labradors who are tearing up my back yard while I’m away.
Yet, Beth didn’t care about equating baboons to lovable labs. She was in the moment, as it were, and I couldn’t help but laugh at her enthusiastic praise for the lowly baboon.
Namibia 2012 isn’t my first, and I hope won’t be my last trip to somewhere cooler for the month of July. Yes, it’s been very cool, even cold, here as southern Africa grinds through the steely grip of winter. Texans suffer July’s increasing furnace, but here in Namibia it’s cold enough that my good friend Dr. Martin Schneider had to loan me his trusty sleeping bag. Ah, a reprieve from frostbitten nights at the University of Namibia’s Neudamm Campus!
Anyway, back to the baboons.
Beth Alexis is a dedicated graduate student at Texas A&M University. She has a bright future, as do many Aggies in the ALEC Department. Like other graduate and undergraduate students participating in the Namibia 2012 study abroad program, Beth is a first-time visitor to Namibia.
We all braced against a rough and dust-laden trail on the Neudamm Campus, when a troupe of baboons thought it a good idea to jump not one, but two fences, to cross our path as we made our way back to the Neudamm farm’s headquarters.
I saw the baboons running through the brush to beat our oncoming vehicle. Beth saw them as they scaled and/or jumped the fence in single bounds.
“This is so wild!” Beth screamed. “This is AWESOME!”
Her words were ringing in my ears as I watched the last baboon scurry safely into the brush.
I hadn’t really thought about it before that moment, but Beth’s words hit me like ton of bricks – “we’re in Africa!” You’re right Beth, this isn’t some sad zoo or game farm in Texas, WE ARE IN THE AFRICAN WILD! Scream it! Shout it out! Remind yourself and those around you about the wonderment of it all. Your experience is truly unique to you, but your reaction to it helped me remember the same feelings, thoughts, and reactions I had so many years ago in South Africa.
Thank you, Beth, for sharing your baboon enthusiasm. Thanks for making me smile and laugh. Thank you for reminding me why the wonderment of this experience should be shared, even the wonderment of encountering the lowly baboon in the African wilds.