March 06, 2008

My first reaction to obstacles in my life is never to run. And I think this is so deep rooted that even on the face of danger, I tend to freeze on the spot, rather than run for my life. I'm Nyctophobic and has been since I was a kid. I used to sleep with my lights on and still do sometimes. My solution has been to switch off the lights, leave the TV on, then (maybe) set the off timer, in which case, by the time the TV went off, I'd be dead asleep. Most of the time, I have to admit, I sleep with my TV on. Bad habit, I know, and I'm not interested in breaking it. One incident comes to mind. I was 9 years old. My mom's sister had come to visit us with her 5 month old (or so) baby. We were all sitting in the kitchen, my aunt holding my 5 month old cousin Tony, and I sitting on my mothers lap. We had a had a power blackout for over two hours and I was dying to go wee-wee. I had been holding it in for so long, to an extent that if I breathed out, I would pee on myself! My mother was accustomed to me and knew that I would hold off going to the loo for hours, only to start shuffling on my feet and performing non-rhythmic dances. These dances included my hands tightly pressed between my legs, my teeth clenched menacingly. No I did not look as cute as Mizpee here. She'd pee on herself and everyone would wow at her incredible she looks while peeing or some other sycophantic actions / words that people do / say when beautiful people do otherwise absurd things. I looked more like one of my old time favourite cartoon character from Down Under. My mother would catch me doing my wee dance in front of the TV and had to practically take to the loo at times. I always viewed going to the bathroom as a waste of my time. I can't remember the argument I had with myself to justify that theory, but knowing myself, I'm sure it was very logical (for a 9 year old, at least). This night however, it was not about time management. It was about fear. Everything was so dark and scary looking. Then, (in the dark) everything became alive. Suddenly the chair would have eyes, and I could swear I could feel it looking at me. I could almost tell you what the chair was thinking, and most of the time, they were not good thoughts... always directed towards me. No, I was not mad, though I will cover that topic later. To the contrary. I had a very active imagination (I still do) and I could make anything come to life in my head. The chair with eyes would conspire with the table and the whole room would join in. And in my head, I played out the scenes so well they became almost real. I'd be so absorbed in my 'observations' that I would actually loose track of what was going on around me in the present. And as I sat on my mother lap, my legs tightly clenching my hands in between them, I had thoughts of the toilet swallowing me up. Why I got these thoughts only when it was dark beats me.

When I could not hold in anymore, I asked mom to take me to the bathroom. She offered me a flashlight, which I obviously refused. It was either she accompanied me or I was not going, the latter not being an option anyway. My aunt suggested, joking that I should take Tony with me. I agreed! At first , they thought i was kidding. So I picked Tony from my aunt and carried him with me. I got to the bathroom, wiggled out of my trousers and sat on the toilet seat, with Tony asleep in my arms. My aunt came just as the relief that comes from letting go of a wee you've been holding for hours came gushing at me. She could not believe it. In my mind, then, 5 month old Tony was a person, and if anything when was going to happen to me, at least I'd be with him. I have not yet figured out whether that was selfishness on my part, such that if I died, then I would not die alone, or I was just taking comfort in having a human presence with me. Whatever the case, sitting there on the toilet, with baby tony asleep on my lap was, I had a feeling of security.

I started by saying that my first reaction is never to run. When I was 6 year old, our house caught fire. It was just me and my mom. I saw the fire and stood still. mom had to yank me and take me outside. I can't quite remember what I was thinking then. About two years ago, my boss and I went for location scouting in Voi. Were were getting ready to film an episode of Hunter Hunted, a National Geographic series. (see credits here). The story involved investigating why the otherwise calm cow-relatives, the Cape Buffaloes, would attack human. We were going to re-enact some stories of people who had been attacked (and killed) by wild and tame Cape Buffalots. In Voi, we have a friend who had a ranch - Rukinga Ranch that housed tame buffalots. PS- I call them Bufallots - (A lot of buffalo). We went on a recce drive round the ranch and came to a watering hole. The owner of the ranch (and also a trained and experienced safari guide and game warden) warned us to be careful when getting out of a car near watering holes. Most predators hang around the water, waiting for their prey to get thirsty and maybe drop by for a drink. I made sure - or so I thought - that I had thoroughly checked the area and when I was sure it was clear, I got out of the car to take pictures. I walked about 200 or so metres from the car. My boss called me back... softly. As I was still taking pictures - ohh, they were beautiful - I answered but did not turn to look at her. All she said was ' Get back into the car.'



I hesitated, taking more pictures, her voice became firm and I decided to go back. I turned to get back from the car and stopped dead on my tracks. The car below is what we were driving.

My boss and the ranch owner were in the car, and I was about 200 meters away from it. On the other side, just beyond the car sat these cats.


They were actually 4 of them, but I was shaking so much as I took this photo (now from the car) that I could not think well enough to zoom out, frame and focus at the same time.

I realized why my boss had not wanted to tell me why she was calling me back to the car. She had not wanted to alarm me and was maybe hoping that I will not see them.

It would have been better, had the car been between me and them, but I had walked in front of the car, hence nothing between us. My blood ran cold... literally. I felt a shiver start at the base of my neck and run down my spine... all the way to my toes. I tried to walk, my legs became tom heavy. It's like I was rooted to the spot. I remember thinking - I'm not going to make it to the car. I can't move! At the same time, my mind refused to register that it was real. I was not in my body. I was looking at the whole scene from somewhere above me, leaving my body immobile and decision-less.

I don't know how I did it, as it's all blurry now, but I did walk back to the car after a few minutes of being immobile. I was mum for over 10 minutes, all I did was sit in the car and stare the lions.

Five minutes later, I took these (not great photography, you have to zoom into them to see the four lions.

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