For my Secondary English education methods class, we had to write a sample of "memoir" this week. I dashed this description off pretty quickly for it, but I kind of liked remembering these moments, so I figured I'd go ahead and share it with y'all. Again, it's nothing fancy, just some good memories...
Our usual weekend getaway from our home in Addis Ababa was a small volcanic crater lake called Babogaya. We would stay in cabins perched on the slanting hillside that led down to the lake and spend afternoons swimming in the freezing water, which no one actually knew the depth of. Come nightfall, however, the lake turned a little too frightening and so, for entertainment, a group of us kids could usually convince one of our dads to take us “hyena hutning.”
This consisted of us clambering up onto the roof rack of a Landcruiser while the dad took off down unlit, unpaved roads – us clinging to the metal edges for dear life while the mothers all had to look away. We’d charge out into the darknes, looking for the neon glow of hyenas’ eyes, calling for them – not the famed laugh, but rather a “whooooop, whooooop, whoooop” noise that we were used to hearing late at night.
We’d usually catch sight of one or two relatively quickly, sloping along in the field alongside the road and yell until our driver would swerve into the field, aiming his headlights at the animals and chase them down. Often we would just park and watch them – such ungraceful, gangly animals; mangy and pitiful, yet still making you fell a little unsafe and adventurous as you clutched the spare tire atop the car a mere twenty feet away from them.
The best nights were when someone from the nearby village had a dead horse to get rid of, and would drag the carcass out to leave on these rural roads. The hyenas would be in a frenzy then, crowding around, digging in, spilling open the horse’s guts, yapping and fighting each other off. One claims a leg while another darts in and grabs the stomach, running away with it like a trophy. The stench would be powerful but we would be riveted by the animals below us, cleaning the carcass to the bone in the glow of the headlights.
Then, finally, we would turn back, drive to our safe, walled compound and climb into our beds. We would listen for their whooping as we fell asleep, shivering with fear that they might be just outside the door, but knowing we were safe in our beds and they were in their fields.
P.S. Another time I got up close and personal with hyenas.
[picture by me! At Amboseli Game Park, last Christmas in Kenya. Y'all, I usually try and only put pretty pictures on this blog, but sometimes the content will just not allow for that...]