The Cast



With the release of the book it's high time I shared some mug shots of the four-legged characters with you, every now and then I will introduce a new one.
            There is only one character I will not be sharing photos of: the Ranger aka The Drill Sergeant. The reason being is not that he is so gorgeous that you will find yourself inflicted with an incurable case of Khaki fever just by looking at his photo (although some may), nor is it because he has asked me to keep his identity a secret (although I am sure he appreciates it).
The reason is this: the beauty of a book is that it allows our imaginations the freedom to paint the pictures of a scene or character the way our individual minds want to see it. Your vision of a dreamy ranger isn't going to match the one in the book and what a great thing that is because now we have created thousands of dreamy rangers and I don't want to execute any of them by exposing the one in the book. And no, I will not email you a photo; so don't even ask!
What I can tell you about this ranger is that he is a very dedicated, intelligent and wonderful person. Their job is not easy and they do appreciate all the help of volunteers. I am so grateful for the time I had there and all the lessons I learned and friends I made along the way - him being one of them.

Somebody recently, after reading my book, said,
           
"I thought elephants were gentle and liked humans?"

Ahem, do not approach a wild animal. Ever. Elephants included. Elephants are territorial, aggressive and highly intelligent mammals and they are terrified of humans - can you blame them? So, would it be a good idea to approach an animal that weighs three tons, can snap a tree with it's trunk and would rather trample you, sit on you or make a lean-on sandwich out of you than cuddle with you? The answer, No!
Elephants that allow people to ride on them are highly trained. Do not ever approach an elephant; it will attack you out of fear, not aggression - unless her name is Kittibon then it is purely out of aggression. Elephants are beautiful, intelligent, emotional, majestic prehistoric mammals that should be treated with the utmost respect.

It is with heavy heart I post here an update about Kittibon. Kittibon has passed away, the full article is here. Farewell dear friend.

Some other interesting elephant facts:
  Top running speed, 25 miles per hour
  Elephants have the best memory of all animals
  Elephants are the largest land mammal in the world
  Elephants move in complete silence because the bottom of their feet are made from a 'spongey' material
  An elephant trunk contains 100,000 muscle units capable of snapping a tree like a toothpick; humans have 639 muscles total
  The trunk has two finger like protrusions at the end of it that are more dexterous than human fingers
  A trunk is used as a snorkel when swimming underwater
  An elephant can carry up to 1000 pounds with his trunk
  Elephants are social and caring creatures that even babysit for one another
  Elephants have no predators except for humans
Elephants are clearly stronger and arguably smarter than poachers. If elephants ever decided to hunt humans, they would win every single time without the use of weapons but elephants are kinder and would rather live in peace, now that's a lesson worth noting! 
Most of us love elephants and what's not to love?

Now without further adieu allow me to introduce to you Kittibon and Selati. You will remember from the book that Kittibon is a Xhosa word that means 'I have seen' and Selati is also a Xhosa word that means 'Sugar', because he is sweet - frankly anything is sweet compared to the grumpy and aggressive Kittibon!

100,000 muscles at work

Ellies love mud

Mud keeps an ellie cool

Finger-like protrusions used for eating and exploring

I think she's giving me the bird!

Poachers kill ellies for their tusks



An ellie's steps are silent



Showing off some tusk

Don't let the puppy dog eyes fool you

An ellie's teeth are flat

THE LIONS
Majestic Creatures

The photo that appears on my book cover is one of my own photos of a lion at the reserve.  There were three lions at the game reserve - two lionesses and one male. You may remember from the book that the lions were my neighbors, the only thing separating them from my tent camp a thin wire fence that merely served as a 'mental block'.

The reserve is a sanctuary to these lions; they were rescued from a trophy hunting operation in South Africa where 'hunters' pay top dollar for the chance to 'hunt' a lion in a confined space - where the sport is in that is anyone's guess. But lucky for these lions they were rescued before that could happen to them.

These lions never learned to hunt because they were fed by humans to plump them up: the bigger the better in the trophy hunting industry. Therefore they have to continue being fed by humans - but don't let that fool you into believing these lions are friendly, they are more dangerous because they now associate humans with food and that kept me up many a night in my tiny tent camp knowing I was the perfect bite sized fatty snack right next door!

The lions are fed a cow that has died from natural causes

If you've read the book you've read all about those nights and tree planting alongside these feline predators so instead I'll toss some fascinating lion facts your way because these big cats are not only majestic but fascinating creatures, it's no wonder the lion has been a symbol of nobility and power for hundreds of years.

·      The lion's only predator is man.
·      An adult lion weighs anywhere from 300 - 500 pounds.
·      The lion is the second largest living cat after the tiger.
·      The females do 90% of the hunting while the males protect the territory and take naps - after all being King of the jungle is a tough job especially when you have a dozen or so females to look after.
·      Lions hunt together and most often at night - hence the sleepless nights in my solo tent camp!
·      A lion's roar can be heard up to five miles away.
·      The Lion is listed by the IUCN as an animal that is vulnerable from extinction in its natural environment in the near future*.
*Source: www.a-z-animals.com


MY MUM




Many readers have said they feel like they know my mom after reading this book.

My mum was Swedish and my father had been a sailor in the British navy, they met as pen pals.  She left Stockholm very young and followed my dad to foreign ports: she embraced all new cultures and people. She raised us to be open and respectful of all other people as well. She instilled in us the truth that we are all the same, we are all equal and we all have the same core wants and battles.  My mum never judged anyone, in fact if she saw someone who looked like they were down on their luck she reached out a hand to help. She was a first class lady all around.

She told us stories of fighting off cockroaches with a rolling pin in the warmer climates she lived in and her adventures ice fishing as a young girl to pass the long, dark Swedish winters.

On a recent trip to Sweden I visited the apartment my mother grew up in. A family of eight shared a one-bedroom and sublet out the other bedroom to help pay the rent. Her childhood was tough in a lot of different ways but she never shared any of those stories. Instead she worked hard to give us all the things she never had. Some things that had lacked from her childhood she had a hard time learning how to give but she tried and that's all that matters. My mother suffered a life-long battle with depression; something that today is pretty mainstream and accepted. But during my mother's time it was taboo. She suffered in silence and put on a brave face despite her inner turmoil that was rarely seen except in those moments when I would overhear her weeping in the bathroom.

No doubt what you feel you know about her is true. She was strong, so strong in fact that I think she would have intimidated the most stubborn bull if she ever came across one. But she was also compassionate and caring. In the last few years of her life she volunteered every week for a Youth organization and in her down time would knit hats and scarves for the homeless and blankets for the SPCA. I believe she found it therapeutic in helping her own illness to give and serve others. She was happiest during those times.

She wasn't one to kiss her child's 'boo-boo' better, instead she'd tell us to get up and get back in the game. I'm grateful for that because I'm still quick to get back on my feet whenever life knocks me down.

She taught me that anything is possible, she never allowed me to whisper doubts instead she would cut me off and say 'Go for it!'

My mum was a lot of wonderful things but most importantly she was and still is my hero and always will be.
I love you mum.




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