To begin with I am White when the very word ‘African’ implies Black. Even Americans who have added the word African to their identity, seem to have a greater claim on the continent of my birth than I do. To complicate matters, I am the child of European immigrants, always suspended between two cultures and two continents, never fully belonging to either. Continue reading
One powerful voice resonates through the air. A few tentative voices join in, but by the end of the first line we have all found the chord and are singing, some loud, some soft. This is Africa however, and it isn’t long before a voice breaks off into a harmony. Then another confident alto echoes the refrain, leading several voices into a completely new part. By the time the song draws to a close I am surrounded by a chorus of harmonising voices, all woven together into joy-filled praise. Never before has the simple melody of ‘What a friend we have in Jesus,’ filled me with such a sense of awe. Never before have I felt more united with those around me, even as each of us sang different notes and words. Continue reading
I look up in time to see that the two largest elephants have broken away from the herd. They must have heard Neema’s distress call.
“Everyone, back in the car!” Uncle Rob hisses. Adriaan, Samuel and the other ranger are backing away towards their vehicles and Samuel grabs Jabu by the arm and pulls her along with him.
Uncle Rob clambers in to the trailer, desperately trying to undo the last two ropes that hold Neema in place. There is no way of knowing what the elephants will do to the trailer to get to Neema. For her own safety she has to be free. Continue reading
The next day all the preparations start. The specialised relocation trailer that my father had had made is brought out again, and its lock repaired. Adriaan is called and asked to be available the following day. Samuel keeps a track on the herd’s movements and—as if they sense Neema’s presence—they keep moving steadily in our direction. Jabu and I spend one last bitter-sweet day with Neema while Aunt Christy takes photos of us kicking balls, rolling in a muddy pond together and feeding her her last few bottles of formula. Continue reading
The next morning I wake up to an urgent hiss. Next to me Neema is asleep; Uncle Rob and the ranger’s anxious faces are pressed against the fence.
“Anna! Get out of there now!”
I have the sense that, despite his many stern words, Uncle Rob is actually a little proud of me. He allows me back into the enclosure almost immediately with a bottle of the formula. Neema’s attempt at drinking is clumsy and most of it spills onto the floor, but Uncle Rob and I agree that we’ve made good progress. Continue reading
Throughout that afternoon, Neema continues her destructive behaviour. Nobody can get near her to try and feed her and Uncle Rob is adamant that Jabu and I stay out of the enclosure, reminding us constantly just how heavy she is. By nightfall Jabu and I are forced to go home, no closer to giving Neema the formula.
But I know what I need to do. That night I lie awake listening to the house falling silent. When I am sure that even Uncle Rob is asleep, I pad to the door in my slippers and gown, and slip into the cool night. There is almost no moon, and the Milky Way ribbons across the sky in all its splendour. I remember my father’s words. Seeing an African night sky is like touching the face of God. I look for the two distant galaxies he once showed me, for the super-nova and the Southern Cross. I trace their shape with my fingers and marvel at the silent vastness, feeling my own smallness as never before. Is this what it feels like to touch God’s face? Continue reading
We find the elephant pressed back against her mother’s side and Uncle Rob brings her down with a single dart. That’s the easy part. Next Samuel brings a thick piece of canvas; it takes six rangers to roll her onto it. The material strains under the weight as they half lift, half drag her back to the camp. Every twenty steps or so the men are forced to stop and new carriers take their place. Once inside the camp, a crowd of people push around to take a look at the elephant and the progress becomes even slower, until my uncle shouts for a path to be cleared to the enclosure. Continue reading
Earlier posts of Orphaned Grace: Part 1
That night my sleep is restless. Elephants charge through my dreams, catching me in their wild stampede; poachers’ guns maim my uncle and cousins; and a small elephant is surrounded by a pack of hyenas, moving in closer…closer. I wake with a start, my breathing laboured. The image of the hyenas crouching down for the jump still burns behind my eyes, but I am relieved to find it’s just a bad dream. There’s no baby elephant, no hyenas. Continue reading
Good books fall into several categories. There are those that keep you entertained till the end, but you forget about them as soon as you start another. Next, there are those that linger with you and leave you wondering what became of (often fictional) characters for days—even weeks—after you read the last words. And then there are those that change you, that shift your perceptions and allow you to see the world in a different light. These are not just good books, they are exceptional. “The Shadow of the Sun” is such a book. Continue reading