Jan 29, 2012

Risk is the blade that shapes a life.

Mudds visit Mikumi-244 African wild buffalos are one of the most dangerous animals on the continent, they attack and kill hundreds of people each year. That's why, when we went to the gate of Hell, one of the most terrifying experiences of my life was when I came face to face with an angry bull while on a bicycle.

As we rented bikes to cruise around Hells Gate National Park we asked what animals we would see.  We were told ostriches, giraffes, warthogs, and buffalo.  'Wait, what was the last one!?  Aren't Buffalo dangerous?'  Yes they are, we were (not!) assured, but usually when they're in a herd they don't bother people.  It's actually single bulls that you need be afraid of.  If alone, it means they've lost a fight to dominate their herd and are likely angry, irritable, and anxious to prove that they can gore a living being to death.

Me, biking past a herd of one of
 Africa's most dangerous mammals
With that advice, Erin and I smiled, and started peddling towards the park.  It turns out, both of us are willing to take careful risks even if we don't know exactly what the rewards will be.  It's why we found each other, as well as why we find ourselves in Africa. A couple years ago, we had a little too much wine while in the Colorado mountains and somehow got the idea in our head 'Lets both apply to jobs in Africa, and if either gets one, we go.' A month later, Erin had a job offer for a little school in Tanzania.

Ernest Hemmingway, the author who popularized the idea of the African wildlife safari, once said, "Always do sober what you said you'd do drunk. That will teach you to keep your mouth shut."  So before we knew it we'd taken an 85% pay cut, rented the house and were on a long journey to Iringa.  I'd like to say it seemed like a good idea at the time, but it really didn't. The world economy was in the midst of crumbling into the deepest financial crisis since the great depression.  In our mid-30s, we both had given up stable and decent professional jobs each doing something we believed in a city we both love surrounded by friends and family.

Today Erin has a job developing the reading curriculum for thousands of underserved Kenyans. I've got a dream job, I'm starting a factory for a company that uses advanced technology to save lives, forests, and money via hyper efficient stoves.  We're engaged, living in a beautiful place in Kenya, and life is coming together surprisingly well.  After living frugally, except for many 'once in a lifetime' vacations, we're now actually saving money every month.  In hindsight, we couldn't have planned this epic journey any better but in the beginning we didn't have much of a plan.  We knew we were taking a big risk and had little but the hope that some unimagined rewards would make it worth it.

That's not unlike the risk of riding a bike through a buffalo infested landscape because we'd heard it was  nice place.  In that case the reward was a gorgeous day, stunning landscapes, and even a heated waterfall cascading down a cliff from a hot spring.  On our ride home sunburnt but smiling our legs were tired and after such a lovely day I was thinking more about dinner than the landscape.

That's why I didn't notice the single male Buffalo until were almost on top of him.  He noticed us though, and was getting visibly angry.  By accident, the road we were following curved along the side of tall sheer cliff, making it seem to the buffalo that we were trapping him.  He was not about to put up with that so started started snorting,  shaking his head and lumbering towards us.

In Africa in general, we're plunging ahead to see what life has to offer.  There, however, we turned around and pedalled back so fast that Lance Armstrong himself couldn't have kept up.

PS)  Speaking of risk, as I write this there are reports that a lion escaped from the national park and is loose somewhere in my neighborhood.  No wonder why I love it here.
Mudds visit Mikumi-600

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