Wed Jun 30th, 2010 at 10:26:08 AM EST
The first three weeks in South Africa contained, for most days, the best the country can offer, and for a few days, the worst it can offer. Concerning the latter, I've grown accustomed with this, as it is bound to happen when one dares to trifle with South African bureacracy. Therefore this is just a brief post on a happy occasion - the reunion of old friends.
I met Jessica for the first time seven years ago, when I was a blessed "voluntourist" in South Africa. Jessica is an orphan. In the summer of 2000, after massive rainfall, rivers began to flood and cause mayhem in southern Africa. People in Mozambique were particularly hit, but also South African rivers swelled, and local communities and wildlife were hit. In the watery turmoil, Jessica and her brother were separated from their mother, and were left stranded on a small islet in the Olifants river. Luckily for them, the islet was behind the farm of Tony, a retired bush ranger who grew up in Zambia, and who came out of his farm to check out what the wailing was all about.
When it became clear in the ensuing days that the mother could no longer be found, Tony adopted the siblings as their foster-children. Sadly, Jessican's brother had weakened too much, and passed away a few days later. Tony and his wife thus became Jessica's sole family.
Jessica is now ten years old, and a world famous superstar. In the seven years I hadn't seen her, she has put on weight, and now is about 1000 kilos as she skirts puberty. She is expected to add another 1000 kilograms during adulthood. Luckily for us, she is still her friendly self. Tony does no longer allow people sitting on Jessica's back, as he did when I first met Jessica - which in a world without Jessica would be dumbfoundingly insane.
Jessica is a hippo, and a special one. She is, to Tony's best knowledge (and I can assure that's a significant amount), the only hippo in the world that is accustomed to humans while being free. Because Jessica is, and remains, free. Jessica resides in a small bay that connects to the Olifants river at Tony's farm - but there is no gate. Jessica can go wherever she desires. And to the fortune of the world, that is at Tony's place, where she can get rooibos thee, get regular foot massages, wander to the veranda of the house, break a door open, and sleep on the couch together with the dogs.
Jessica has now been the star of 69 documentaries for Animal Planet and the likes, and likely many more are still to follow as Jessica matures. Tony has wild plans. There should be a website with live footage in the making. Tony thinks Jessica is " the only virgin left in the neighbourhood" and he achingly hopes for a grandchild, and tells feverish how he wants to catch the calf during delivery. Some grains of salt may be in order for some of his plans.
There is a lot more to tell about the African bush, and what special place it remains. There's a lot more to tell about the business of conservation that is thriving in South Africa, which has struck me again as ambiguous and poignant. There is, also, a lot more to say about meeting up with old friends and faces. But after South Africa, it was time for meeting new friends and faces, and we've moved into new territority, Mozambique - a complete new country for me.