Wednesday, December 22, 2010

Lions lions lions

Last night Annika and I went for a special walk around sunset. First we stopped at Zion and Trust's place and talked with them for awhile. They've gotten to the point where they rub their cheeks on the fence and I rub my cheek against theirs when we greet. Nothing between my face and the face of a full grown lion with a mane and enormous teeth except thin wire.

Then we walked to see the Brothers. They've just recently decided that these 3 guys are too big and powerful to walk with people any more. (They recently took down a filmmaker who was here and could have really hurt him just with their weight.) So they miss people a lot and came running when I called "Come! Come! Come!" They were so happy to see us. They kept making lion sounds--hard to describe the way they "talk" when they're happy, but it sounds sort of like a giant, deep-throated dog who is attempting to talk human. We spent awhile with them--they were sad to see us go. Here's a picture of one last spring when I was here.

Then we moved on to the back of the enclosure where Macho, Simba and their three cubs were. The cubs and Simba were all lying along the fence, so we plopped ourselves down and "talked" with them as well. Then Annika said they sometimes run with her along the fence, so I jumped up and gave it a try.

It was amazing. Two of the cubs jumped up and ran with me, just a few feet from me on the other side of the fence. I'd run fast and they'd keep up. Then I'd stop, and they'd stop. Then I'd switch directions and so did they. It was a fun game for them, and I was laughing so hard I could hardly breathe (and I was running, after all).

Then when one of them looked away at a sound I jumped toward the fence and yelled "HA!" He jumped back and let out a baby lion roar. It was hilarious--I actually scared him.

Then we completed the circle and ended up with Zion and Trust again--and this time I ran with Trust. I was running the fastest I could and he was just loping along. It made me realize that outrunning a lion is a CRAZY thought. Your only chance in the wild would be outrunning at least one other person--then you'd avoid being dinner.

We got back to the lapa for dinner about 40 minutes late for dinner--where Cornelia and Willi were waiting for us. But it didn't matter. I felt ALIVE and QUIVERING with energy. Lions do that to me. They are astounding creatures.

Today I'm saying good-bye to all my babies until the next trip. I leave tomorrow at 9:00 a.m.--drive to Windhoek airport, fly to Jo-Burg, then 16 hours to NYC, and finally to Raleigh, NC, arriving Christmas Eve in the afternoon. It's been a great three weeks. I was hoping Harnas would work its magic on me by making me feel strong, resilient, and optimistic about life, and sure enough it has. Just yesterday I was suddenly filled with this immense feeling of happiness and thought, "I can handle whatever life throws at me. I am Woman Who Runs With Lions. Hear me Roar!"

See you on the other side of the world. --Barbara

Tuesday, December 21, 2010

this and that

Last night we had an awesome full moon. No clouds, so the light was so bright I didn't even need to use my flashlight on the way back from dinner. I tried to take a pictures, but I'm not sure it's good enough to show, but here it is.

When I got back to my bungalow, I opened all the curtains and just fell asleep to the bright light and shadows. The lions were roaring and every other thing, it seems, was enjoying the clear night and full moon.

An update on the baby caracals: both the male and female (Romeo and Juliet) are drinking milk and growing rapidly. They've almost doubled in weight since they were born, so that's a really good sign that they're going to make it. You never know with orphans since the mother's milk is so important. But the odds look good for these guys. Thanks to Cornelia Achtel, who feeds them every four hours with tiny doll bottles--as well as takes care of all their other needs.

Their eyes are open and are a deep blue. They squeal a lot. We took them out on the grass in the sunshine today so they could soak up some vitamin D and feel what grass is like. They were adorable. It's hard not to pick them up and kiss on them every time they come near.

And the final news is that Annika Funke finished my painting! I can't wait to have it framed and put it on the wall. I was going to put it over my fireplace in the living room, but once I saw it, I changed my mind. It shows Zion (my personally favorite lion) watching over a young girl while she sleeps under the stars. Now I absolutely have to put it over my bed, where every night I'll imagine Zion and the animals at Harnas keeping a watchful eye on me under a night full of African stars.

It's hard to believe I only have one more whole day (Wednesday) left here at Harnas. The three weeks have just flown by. Now I have to return to cold weather, short dark days, and working for a living. But it's been wonderful, and I'm so glad I got this opportunity to come and celebrate the book with my African friends.

Monday, December 20, 2010

finding Duma

This morning I was able to go out on a trip to find Duma in the Life Line Project area. She's one of the cheetahs who wears a radio collar and goes out in this huge but fenced area to live a life as free as possible (along with the cheetah Pride). Pride is out full time now, but Duma is on "soft release" which means she goes out for a couple of days and we check on her to make sure she's eating (that is, making kills) and then she comes in for a few days.

She'd been out for about 2 days, so it was time to check on her. Six of us went. I stood in the back of a truck with three others and we held a big antenna attached to a receiver, moving it back and forth across the road as we drove, waiting for the "beep beep" that would indicate she's close.

We had to drive around on dirt roads for an hour (the Life Line is very big--around 8000 hectares) until we heard the first beep. Then it took another 30 minutes of going slower and Herman standing out on the road with the antenna, trying to narrow down our search so we could find her.

Finally we located her lying under a big shady tree in a meadow by a place called the Dam House. It has a water hole and lots of game (we saw wildebeest, springboks, and warthogs). And best of all, she had her lunch with her under the tree--a recently killed small wildebeest. So her hunting had been successful!

We got out of the truck and walked over to her. She looked up at us and walked over to her kill and started munching--as if to let us know that it was hers. Then, she did the coolest thing: she looked up at us and purred--as if to say, "Yup, this is what I've done, and I'm mighty proud of myself."

We all stood at an appropriate distance and told her how proud we all were of her, what a good girl she was, and how amazing she is. (After all, Duma was hand raised. She had no mother to show her how to hunt, no other cheetah to watch as a role model. She figured it out all on her own, and that is a great achievement--to go from a tame, hand-raised cheetah to a full-on hunter.)

Then we got back in the truck and went home. With both Duma and Pride (who was also hand-raised) able to fend for themselves in the wild, Harnas takes a big step toward the release of many animals that it was believed couldn't be released again. This is only the beginning!

Friday, December 17, 2010

a typical morning

I thought you might be interested in a typical morning for me. I woke up at around 6:30 this morning and started getting ready for the day. While I was slathering on the sunscreen, I heard Pickles growl out on the front porch. I went out and found her in full combat with one of the fully grown ostriches here on Harnas. It seems the ostrich was coming to see if I wanted to feed her, and Pickles had a problem with that. I broke it up, sent the ostrich on her way, and finished getting ready while I drank a cup of coffee.

Next Pickles and I went on our own morning feeding tour. I always bring peanuts to Harnas--unshelled--and I give one each morning to the 2 big red macaws, Tumela the African grey parrot (who talks to me--"hello""lapa lapa lapa" "tu MEL a"), then out to the garden to give nuts to the three young vervet monkeys and finally several to Audrey, the blind vervet monkey, who likes to find the peanut in my pockets.

I also say hello to the two baby baboons that I'm assisting in babysitting right now. I put them to bed last night (bottles and diapers--and some screaming), and Angela, the volunteer who is taking the bulk of the responsibility, got them up this morning.

On to the year old baby baboon enclosure, where I play with the wild six of them. Coco grooms me (I guess she didn't think I did a good enough job back at my bungalow). Now that I'm sure I'm groomed and lice-free, I head to the lapa with Pickles across the grass.

On the way, I break up a fight between a peacock and a rooster (???????). They can't be fighting over the same female, can they? I also watch while the 7 baby ostriches run across the grass, following by Summer--the baby springbok who follows them all day. I think she doesn't know she's a springbok and has adopted the ostriches as her herd/flock.

I leave Pickles at the gate to the cheetahs and spend some quality time with Duma and Goeters, petting and purring, purring and petting. Having made my connection with them and completed my morning meditation, I sit down at the lapa where I watch a volunteer feed one of the two baby donkeys (whose fur is as soft as duck down). The donkey then comes over to my table and sucks on my fingers just in case there might be milk hiding in there.

Petrus brings me coffee, juice, yogurt, and fruit. Cornelia and Willi (friends from Munich) join me for breakfast and fill me in on how the baby caracals are doing. Marieta left them in charge, and the two kittens are about the cutest thing you ever saw. Their eyes are open now, and they've turned into squealers and runners. Cornelia has to bottle feed them every four hours, so they stay at their house.

After breakfast I go find Annika (the amazing artist who is here at Harnas--and whom I've commissioned to paint me one of her astounding new "blue" paintings--more on that later). We leave Pickles inside the lapa gates and walk out to Zion and Trust's enclosure. The brother lions come to the gate and let us pet their faces while they rub on the gate. Then--for the THIRD TIME in the past week--Zion quickly turns around and sprays urine all over Willi!! (Apparently, it's a sign of dominance, and he only does it to males). The three of us women laugh, of course, and Willi looks down at his wet shorts and shoes.

Then off I go to my bungalow, where Pickles awaits me on the front porch. She somehow sneaks out when someone opens the gate to the lapa and heads out to find me. If she can't, she goes to the bungalow and waits. What a girl.

So about 2 1/2 hours have passed since I woke up, and the day has been exactly what I want it to be--and it's only the morning. I can say to myself that no matter what happens the rest of the day, it's been a day worth living already.

The magic of Harnas repeats itself every morning.

Thursday, December 16, 2010

cheetah therapy

Some people go to therapists. Some spill their guts to their friends. But for the record, I'd rather spend 30 minutes with a cheetah. It helps me clear my head the way nothing else does.

At least once a day I try to go in the enclosure where the Five Cheetahs live--Nikita, Leuki, Shingela, Afram, and (I can't remember the name of the last one). It doesn't matter because everyone just calls them the "Five Cheetahs."

Four of the five are very tame, and the fifth lets you know he wants nothing to do with you because when you move toward him, he'll hiss (it's a BIG hiss). I usually find them (unless feeding time is near) in the back of the enclosure under a big tree like in the picture above. I call out "Cheetahs! Cheetahs!" so they know I'm coming, and then I flop down in the shade with them and let them come to me. Sometimes, like in this picture, I'll be petting three at once, and I'll be wishing for a third hand.

Lots of big cats don't purr, but cheetahs are world-class purrers. I find it so soothing. I sat down with Nikita yesterday and just started to pet her face, neck and chest. She closed her eyes and let that purr go, and I felt renewed. Some of them get enough after 10 minutes and move away from me, but Nikita for some reason will let me pet her until I get tired. She just keeps purring and it's so strong that you can even see her neck vibrating from it.

It's hard to explain, but after just a few minutes of the petting and purring, I start to feel different--like I'm in the middle of a good massage or something. At first my mind goes everywhere--what I ate for lunch, what I'm going to do next, chores that await me back in America--but soon my mind clears, the way they say it works when you meditate (which I've never been able to do since I always see myself sitting there, and my mind won't stop making lists and planning the day).

Eventually, all I feel is the purr and all my mind does is float. After awhile, I feel so much better, I say my goodbyes and go back to the real world of Harnas (which is different from the Real World wherever you are).

And Nikita charges so much less than a psychologist!

Wednesday, December 15, 2010


Marieta is leaving for South Africa tomorrow (and will be gone until after I have to leave, myself), so I'll be sharing babysitting duties of the two baby baboons, Elvis (also called Marnus by some) and Loede.

For those of you who have never tried to take care of TWO baboons (or any, for that matter), imagine herding cats--crazy cats. Also imagine the most poorly behaved three-year old in the world. Now you're beginning to understand.

They're a lot of fun, though, I have to admit. This morning I was with Elvis, entertaining him while Marieta had a meeting with staff. My best partner in all this is my dog, Pickles, who loves to wrestle with baby baboons. The play-bite, roll, run, and make evasive moves on each other. It's quite the show.

Sometimes Marieta's other dogs join in, and it becomes a free-for-all.

Tomorrow will be the test, though. Along with Marieta leaving, the volunteer who's been babysitting during most days, Jade, is also leaving. Elvis will be fine because he's become attached to me and several others, but the baby Loede (pronounced like Lloyd) has only really been attached to Marieta and Jade, and tomorrow she'll be screaming and crying for her moms (and she has a set of lungs, I tell you). It's part of the process, though, so she'll eventually be fine.

Wish me luck.

Tuesday, December 14, 2010

Zion and Trust grow up

When I first came to Harnas in February of 2007, my first experience with lions was taking Zion and Trust on a walk. They were around a year old then--still pretty big by my standards then, but young enough not to be much of a threat.

But here's a picture of Zion as a cub (taken by a friend).

As we sat in the back of the truck with them--stepping on us and falling into us as the truck sped through the dirt roads, I got up close and personal with them--their faces and tails hitting me, their hot breathe in my face. I loved it. They are amazing creatures--especially Zion, who was always trustworthy and gentle. (Trust, on the other hand, never lived up to his name.)

Each time I've come back to Harnas, I've watched them grow up a little more until now they are massive and magnificent brothers, both with full manes and roars to match their stature. They are on the food tour now--which means every tourist who comes to Harnas gets to see these amazing boys get fed. And where I'm staying this trip, I can hear them roar throughout the night. It takes less than 2 minutes to walk to their enclosure, so when they roar, it sounds like it's at my door.

I've been campaigning for a walk with Zion, but Schalk (Marieta's son) just laughs. Even though he's gentle, if he took me down in play, it might be very serious. Instead, I'm hoping I'll get a lion walk with the three Brothers--who are getting their manes now, but are gentle and sweet--the way Zion always was. Still, this past weekend, a German film crew was here and went on a bushwalk with the Brothers, and one of the guys got taken down to the ground by a lion (in play, of course--and they have learned not to use their claws--just enormous paws).

Once a male lion reaches sexual maturity, all bets are off on how tame they can be. Most will turn even against the one who raised them. But I still think Zion would be a gentleman with me. Keep your fingers crossed that I get to do more than pet them through the fence.

Saturday, December 11, 2010

Another animal story

You just never know what will happen around Harnas. A few days ago, Marieta was getting ready for her bath one evening. The tub was full, she was naked, and she was just ready to step into the bath when BANG--her bathroom door flew open and in ran six baboons.

These are the group that include Coco and Jessie, two of the baby baboons that I wrote about last spring. Here's what they looked like back then: Now they're more grown up, of course--bigger and stronger--but Coco, especially, is still Marieta's baby girl. So when someone had trouble closing their enclosure gate while leaving (they're fast little creatures) and they all escaped, the first thing Coco did was head for Marieta's house where she had so many wonderful memories.

So the other five followed her as Coco ran right for Marieta's bathroom. And there was Marieta, without a stitch on, trying to close the door before the whole world came running in to catch the baboons.

With the door closed there wasn't much extra room for one grown woman and six teenage baboons whose lives are built around causing mayhem. While she struggled to get her clothes on, they jumped in the tub and swam, grabbed things off shelves, pulled out the toilet paper, and generally did what they do best--create confusion. This is what it looked like AFTER it had been partially cleaned up, the shelves lifted back up (they had pulled them over) and the water mopped.
Finally Marieta got her pants on and a shirt (but no underwear--and she was wearing drawstring pants, so she was worried one of them would pull the string and her pants would drop). She called for help, and the helpers got all of them back except Coco--who clung to Marieta. She had to walk her back to the enclosure herself.

What fun at bathtime, huh?

I love these little monsters. I got so close to Jessie and Coco last spring. Both of them had accidents of one kind, and I spent all day with Coco once when we ran her to Windhoek to a vet (I think I have an earlier blog--in January--about that.).

This morning I went into their enclosure, gave all six a couple of peanuts each (it distracts them so I can get in more easily). Then I just watched the four play while Jessie and Coco sat in my arms, grooming me. (I can definitely say I'm free of fleas and ticks because they checked my whole body, my scalp, and my face.)
A lot of people are afraid of baboons--some of the volunteers prefer not to deal with them--but I have to admit that I'm not one of those. They can be so much fun. Sure--when they get older, they tend to become more dangerous, and at that point I'd much rather go in with the lions or cheetahs than deal with the big ones, but when they're small, they are a lot of fun. I've helped raise a lot of little ones: my first trip here, it was Moses, Ita, Jacob and their group. Then it was Gracie and Frikkie and others. Last trip was Coco and Jessie and the four that have joined them. And now I'm working my way in with Elvis and Loede (who are still a bit wary of me, especially when Marieta, their mum, is around).

Big baboon fun!

Friday, December 10, 2010

new post

Hey everyone--I wrote a new post called "every animal counts"--but it's listed as 3rd on the list and I don't know how to move it up to the most recent one! So if you want to read my amusing story--and I guarantee this one is amusing--click on "every animal counts" in the list of posts. --bb

Thursday, December 9, 2010

rude awakeninig

Some mornings I think, "I guess this will just be a regular day at Harnas," but then I remember that there aren't any regular days--most days are extraordinary in some way with drama happening all around, especially when you consider that there are 400 animals all living their lives around you.

This morning around 6:00, my African dog Pickles nudged me gently to let her out to pee. I got out of bed and opened the sliding glass door about 6 inches--then went back to bed. A few minutes she came back in and I felt her jump on the bed and settle down with me and her tennis ball (that goes everywhere with her). We went back to sleep.

A little while later, I awoke to Pickles standing up on the bed, growling her most fierce growl. Then she HURLED herself off the bed, and I sat up just in time to see her chasing two flashes of silver at the foot of my bed, headed toward the open sliding glass door.

My first thought was mongooses (her mortal enemies), but these had tails. Then I thought "cats" but these were lankier. I launched myself out of the bed and ran to the open sliding door and saw six adult and one baby vervet monkeys who were hanging out on my porch, banister, and roof.

Pickles was furiously telling them in no uncertain terms that this was HER territory and they had to disappear immediately. I slid the door closed quickly. Vervets are relatively small, but they have razor teeth that they can use to slice open your neck like little vampires. They seemed friendly enough--I think they were from the enclosure only about 100 yards from my bungalow, and several of those I knew as babies before they were released. So I wasn't afraid of them so much as afraid of the skirmish that might break out between them and my frantic dog.

So I grabbed my camera, of course, and started shooting--keeping in mind that people might find this invasion interesting. One of the females had a tiny baby and I got some good shots of it. They stuck around for about 15 minutes and then moved on to the next venue for their mayhem--which I found out later was Willi and Cornelia's bungalow across the way (although they didn't go inside their house).

I went back to bed for awhile, wondering at the amazing place this is--where your morning alarm clock might be an invasion of monkeys in your house.

Wednesday, December 8, 2010


New babies arrive all the time at Harnas--often injured ones, orphaned babies, or abandoned pets--and Marieta always takes them in. This week it is two baby caracal orphans--only hours old.

Caracals are very similar to American lynx. Caracals look like large tan housecats with ears that stand up with black and white tufts. They live in the wild and eat small rodents. And they can jump so high that they also bring down birds in flight. I kid you not. I tried to upload a video of it, but after an hour of waiting, I gave up. It looks like still pictures is all I can handle from Africa this trip. Here's one of a couple of them sitting. If you want to see the jumping one, there's a great one in my book.

The babies are the size of kittens, though, and their eyes aren't open yet. Marieta has to feed them every two hours with a doll-size bottle of special formula. They sleep in a basket in a pile of soft blankets to keep them warm. Originally there were four in the litter, but two died, so we're all pulling for these last two. So far they seem to be eating all right and seem strong (or at least as strong as a kitten can be who is only 2 days old).

They're just as cute as buttons, but a lot softer.

every animal counts

I have a great story for you today. Marieta told me my first night here while we had a drink together. I was laughing so hard I almost spit out my wine.

Every animal counts at Harnas--not just the exotic or cuddly. First, keep that in mind.

Marieta's granddaughter (who ADORES animals as well), Nica, is--as Marieta puts it--the "true farmer" in the family. She especially loves goats and sheep, so when there were two orphaned babies, one of each, Marieta gave them to 7-year-old Nica to raise. Now Nica lives in Windhoek, the capital city of Namibia, most of the time and then comes to Harnas during school vacations. So when it was time to send Nica back to the city, Marieta put the two animals in the transport with her and sent them home, too.

Nica's mother Melanie called back a bit peeved--as you can imagine: "What do you think you're doing sending a sheep and goat to my house!" Marieta explained that Nica loved the babies and she couldn't separate them. "Well, they can't stay here," Melanie said, "I'm sending them back. They make too much noise 'baaaaa-ing' all the time."

A few days later, though, she called back to say that Nica had actually trained them not to say "BAAAA" but whisper "baaa." And she said maybe they could stay--that she was, in fact, falling in love a little with them. A few days later, though, she called back: "I'm sending them back to Harnas. My daughter was sleeping with them in her bed!"

So Marieta got the sheep and goat back, but she couldn't bring herself to put them out in the pen. After all, these animals had lived with a roof over their heads and they wouldn't know what to do outside. Besides, she didn't want Nica to think she wasn't supporting her--that she wasn't respecting her choice of pet.

So the sheep and goat began to live in Marieta's house. At night they slept in Marieta's bedroom with her--along with 4 dogs, 2 baby baboons, and sometimes baby springboks or kudus. First, the sheep wanted to sleep in the bed, but Marieta eventually taught him to sleep in a bed she made for him at the bottom of her bed.

And I know you're wondering about the poop and pee. Well, hold on now--like the baby baboons, the goat and sheep wore diapers, but they were so big by then that she sent her daughter-in-law Jo to Gobabis (nearest town) to buy adult size diapers. The sheep also sucked on a pacifier all night--no joke. So there they all were: At night Marieta would put diapers of all sizes on animals of all sizes, and they would all sleep together. Marieta said the sheep became quite attached to her. If Marieta needed to get up in the middle of the night to use the bathroom, the sheep came with her, watched her, and then returned to bed with her.

On Sundays, the goat and sheep followed Marieta to the little church that is here on Harnas. They'd sleep during the service and then follow her home.

But eventually something was bound to happen--the poop that the sheep was making began to smell really bad, and when Marieta would take off the diaper in the morning, the sheep would wag his little tail and poop would fly all over. "ENOUGH!" said Marieta.

But she still couldn't bear to put them out in the elements--rain, heat, dark--so she had the Bushmen make a home for them, bigger than a dog house, with a roof, windows, and plenty of blankets to sleep on. Out they went--finally.

But when Nica goes out and calls them--as she did for me so I could get their pictures, they come running just like dogs.

Only at Harnas.

Okay, I give up. I've tried for 30 minutes to upload a picture of the sheep. You'll just have to imagine!

Tuesday, December 7, 2010

here at Harnas

I'm really having trouble with my email here at Harnas--so if you read this and normally email me at my NC State account, please send things to my gmail account instead. It's

The first two days here have been wonderful, of course. I feel so at peace already. Yesterday morning I went on a walk with Goeters, the 23 year old cheetah who has been a death's door several times lately but has survived.

We started by driving him in the back of a truck to a place called the Tree House, and then we walked for about an hour on a dirt track--then turned around and went back. He walked very slowly but seemed to be enjoying himself out in all the scents and sounds of the bush. But it was hot, so when we got back to the tree house we thought he'd had enough and called for a truck to take us home. He didn't want to get back in the truck--even growled a bit when Marnus lifted him in--and I saw him later that afternoon and he was sleeping sleeping sleeping. It's so good for the old boy, though. It keeps his muscles in good shape and makes him more interested in the world.

I spent the rest of the day going around to my favorite animals, but still didn't get to them all. Marieta has two new baby baboons--Elvis and Loede, and in the afternoon she took those two--along with the 6 others who are a bit older (including Coco and Jessie) and they all played on the lawn. A few even went swimming in a pond (baboons love the water).

In the evening, Cornelia and Willi came to my wonderful bungalow (called Caso) and we sat on the front porch and drank some wine while we listened to the sounds of Harnas. Caso is verrrry close to the lions' enclosures (which I requested) and starting about sunset, they take turns roaring their territory to each other. At times during the night they would get started, wake me up, and it would sound like they were right outside my door. FANTASTIC. Even Pickles (my Jack Russell terrier while here at Harnas--I steal her from Marieta_ would sit up in bed and look around like "Where ARE those lions?" It was magical. I couldn't ask for a better way to spend each night than listening to the power of the lions.

Speaking of Pickles, she was so excited to see me when I arrived that she jumped up and up and up almost to my chin level. She's hardly left my side since.

This morning I went on the food tour. I'll tell you more about it, but I'm afraid how long this connection will or will not last, so I'll leave it for another day.

So much to tell. I'll write again tomorrow if the internet holds.

Saturday, December 4, 2010

the African book launch party

Last night we held the book launch and fund raiser here in Windhoek--the official reason I'm in Namibia for this trip. It was fabulous--held at a newly renovated warehouse type building that used to be a brewery. It was very cool.

We started the evening with a "meet and greet" in an outdoor patio area with champagne and hugs. I was surprised at how many people came-over 200!

Then we moved into the main area where we were highly entertained by a man who is well known here in Namibia--Kevin Leo--who is an opera star but also sings contemporary songs. He has an amazing voice and is so funny, too. Lots of the evening's activities were in Afrikaans, but Marieta sat by me and translated when I asked.

We had a four-course meal, and in between courses, Kevin would sing, Jo spoke, and then I spoke. Scary--speaking in front of 200 people I didn't know who were expected an author-type. I was a great evening. I even quoted Robert Frost's poem "The Road Not Taken" because Marieta has definitely "the road less traveled by--making all the difference, not just for her and the animals, but for all the people she's touch (like me!) with her inspirational life and work.

Then we had an auction and--you won't believe this--someone bid for a signed copy of my book and paid--are you ready for this?--500 American dollars. I know the person just wanted to donate the money to Harnas, but to do it in the name of the book was astounding to me. Marieta and I just looked at each other while our eyes got bigger and bigger with each bid. And the money will go to the animals--which makes it all the sweeter.

Kevin sang some more--appropriately "I did it my way." Then we moved into the next room where people could bid on a few more items, nibble on some sweets, and buy a book and get it signed by Marieta and me. What a night!

But today we go to Harnas where my wonderful animals await me. I cannot wait to see all my "babies." I've had to prioritize which ones I'll see first. And Marieta says there are two new baboon babies that need my love! Yippee!

Friday, December 3, 2010

Here Again

Well, I'm here! After an amazingly long flight from NYC to Johannesburg, South Africa (almost 16 hours on one flight), I got off the plane and walked down the stairs to a crystal blue sky and 85 degrees. Oh yeah. It's summer in Africa. My pasty white skin started prickling with sunburn almost immediately, so I slathered on the sunscreen. But how wonderful to find summer on the other side of the world.

I'm staying in the capital city of Windhoek for a few days for the book launch party/fund raiser, so I'm at a small guesthouse called Uzuri--which already has made me feel at home with two cats and two dogs wandering through my room at all times. I was met at the Windhoek airport (no one has ever met me at that airport before!) by my friends from Munich, Cornelia and Willi, and Marieta's daughter-in-law Jo. Hugs hugs hugs! Jo talked a mile a minute (as she does) all the way into town, getting me caught up on the plans for tomorrow night's party and family news. I haven't seen Marieta yet because she always takes her first day in town to do primping things like hair and nails. (I find it both amazing and inspiring that along with taking care of 400 animals, Marieta always finds time to take care of herself, too! Oprah would be proud of this woman.)

This afternoon I've relaxed, taken a nap, done a bit of swimming in the pool, and unpacked a bit. Tonight we're all meeting at the famous restaurant here in town, Joe's Beerhouse.

I've been under such a strain at home for the past few months--both personally and professionally--that this feels like the first time I can truly take a deep deep breath. As usual, the burdens of life are lessened for me here in Namibia. I'm hoping and planning on both Namibia and Harnas to work their magic on me again.

The internet is a bit iffy at the guesthouse, so I'm not going to download any pictures today. But look for some the next time I write!

Wednesday, December 1, 2010

Every time I leave Harnas, I try to have the next time I'll go in my mind. This keeps me from crying and whining and generally making a spectacle of myself as they drag me out of the gate and force me on an airplane.

So when I left at the end of March, I knew I would be returning in December for the book launch/fund raiser on December 4th. I leave tomorrow at 6:00 a.m. (don't even ASK what time I'm heading to the airport! It's obscene!) I plan on keeping this blog while I'm there as often as power and internet access allows. I hope you'll follow me and learn more about Harnas.

(This is the spot where I shamelessly remind you that my book tells even MORE about Harnas and would make a lovely Christmas gift for someone you love--even if that person is yourself!)

So here we go again! See you next on the other side of the world!

Thursday, September 23, 2010

Buy the Book!

Hey Fellow Bloggers, The book about Harnas and Marieta is finally out. It's been a great ride to get here and I'm so excited that people will finally hear the whole story about this wonderful place and amazing woman.

If you want to buy it, you can go to one of the following places:


Barnes & Noble

National Geographic Books

And, of course, it's available at most bookstores (If it isn't, ask for it so they'll order it!).

Remember that half my profits go back to Harnas, so you can do something good for the animals just by buying the book. (And don't forget Christmas presents!)

And check out my Facebook page and also my blog on GoodReads

Friday, May 14, 2010

My Final Blog

"Oh, I'm on my way, I know I am, somewhere not so far from here," begins Cat Stevens' "Sitting," one of my all-time favorite songs.

In some ways, the past months have gone fast, but there are times when I find it hard to remember the feeling of home. I guess that means it's time to head back and resume what a lot of people would call "real life."

But not before I say a few final words--and offer a few thanks, because Cat's song goes on to say "Sitting on my own--not by myself. Everybody's here with me." In truth, I've never felt alone on this trip. Writing this blog has been an enlightening experience. It's helped me focus on details, cement memories, and analyze my feelings--and feel close to the people I care about.

Sometimes, though, I admit it felt like I was writing to the air. Thank goodness for Courtney, Joanne, and Cornelia--my most consistent comment-ers. You three women tethered me to an audience, reminding me people were out there.

And Doug--who located me on Google Earth wherever I went--you were my best email pen pal. It made me feel secure to know someone knew exactly where I was on the planet--whether it was Otjewarango, Chiang Mai, or the Kinabatongan River.

Fred, my anchor--there aren't many men who would hold down the fort (and the dogs) while his crazy partner goes cavorting around the world. I can't thank you enough.

During the past 20 years or so, I've tried to live by a certain creed: that is, when I get to the end of my life, I want to be able to say "Remember when . . . " not "I wish I had . . . " This trip has gone a long way in furthering that belief, and although I probably won't leave this life with a truckload of money, I will go with a head full of amazing memories--including the new and old friends I've spent time with on trips like this.

What can you say about a friend like Amy, who travels to the far side of the world just to be "along for the ride"? You rock, Girl.

And Randall, my brother, who takes time out from Saving The World For Democracy to zip through the rainforest canopy--never once mocking my inability to stop screaming like a little girl.

Traveling alone mostly, though, pushes me into interacting with people I wouldn't otherwise meet, and my life has been so enriched by both these fleeting and lasting encounters in airports, on beaches, on trails, or just sitting around petting a lion.

At the core of this whole adventure, though, are the animals. I've had experiences and encounters whose significances I can't adequately express. For me, the creatures of the world are my best friends, my therapy, and my hope. I wanted to have that faith reassured and renewed on this trip, and I've been rewarded more than I dared dream.

Finally, Cat's song reminds me that "Life is like a maze of doors, and they all open from the side you're on." It's up to each of us--no one else--to make life wonderful and interesting. So put your hand on the doorknob and turn . . . .