there’s hippos in yonder water

(left-to-right)  Journalist, Henry Morton Stanley and Explorer, Dr. David Livingstone

Journalist, Henry Morton Stanley and Explorer, Dr. David Livingstone

 Dr. Livingstone, I presume?

 

I’m sure y’all know by now I loves me my history. However.  I will, with great reticent, admit that there are particular areas of the past in which I am either unschooled … 

Wait.  Did I just hear you gasp? 

Oh.  Sorry.  That was me.

Anyhooo.

Shall we continue?

There are some bits of history that I’ve got nothin’ for y’all.  A large, gaping, lonely void there, folks.  Some bits of the past I have not (yet) delved into and/or there are certain events-slash-eras that simply do not inspire me to dig any deeper. 

For instance, to me military history is an immense yawner.  While I love Revolutionary War-era history (read:  Thomas Jefferson, John Adams and the like) … I do not have much knowledge of the actual war whatsoever.  I can give you the basics such as dates, the reasons behind the war, and why the flag originally had 13 stars … but puhlease don’t ask me about battle strategy. 

Cause y’all know I’ll only lie, pretending I know something and all.

DON’TMAKEMEEMBARRASSMYSELF.

I also love Civil War-era history.  But.  Quiz me about the actual battles and scrimmages … and, again I’d only be able to give you the Clown College version of those events. 

‘Umm. Yeah. The North fought the South. 
They carried guns. They ate hardtack.’
 
‘The End.’

If I’m going to be introspective about my Love of History I’d have to deduce that the core of my passion for the subject comes from my curiosity about the people themselves.  The dynamics of their relationships.  The differences (and similarities) between the life I know now … and how people lived … and sometimes merely survived … in other points in time, in other places on the globe.

So.

All that being said, I think one of the greatest advancements in cable television was the introduction of the History Channel.

I DO DECLARE.

Someone better have gotten a promotion for that brainchild.

AMENANDHALLELUJAH.

I honestly think we ought to celebrate such an important accomplishment with an official, governmentally-recognized anniversary every year.  Oh yes.  And to get into the mood we could eat Wild Boar Acorn Brittle and drink Ye Olde Pond Water from pewter mugs.

But.

Tripping around the History Channel I found a new summer-filler series,
‘Expedition Africa’.   

Now. I know nothing about African history other than what I’ve read about our oldest living ancestor, ‘Lucy’, whose wee little 3.2 million year old bones were dug up somewhere near Ethiopia.

Oh.  Well yeah.  

There are also all the times we’ve taken family trips to Disney’s Animal Kingdom and done the whole safari trek ride in which we ultimately (every time!) manage to save the baby elephant from Evil Fake Poachers.

Or the early mornings where we sprawled in lawn chairs on the balcony of our well-appointed hotel room at the Animal Kingdom Lodge sipping coffee in Mickey Mouse cups watching the employees feed the giraffes grazing on the man-made savanna.

Beyond that.  Hmpphh.  I guess you’d say my well is dry.

I see vast opportunities in ‘Expedition Africa’. 

I do.

The premise of  ‘Expedition Africa’ is built around the true story of the travels of two gentleman, Dr. David Livingstone and Henry Morton Stanley.  British missionary-slash-explorer Dr. Livingstone traipsed about Africa in the mid 1800’s on various expeditions, for a myriad of reasons.  Notably, he was the first European to view the Mosi-oa-Tunya waterfalls in Africa, which he subsequently re-named ‘Victoria Falls’ after Queen Victoria. 

Cause y’all know that’s just so much easier to pronounce.

Livingstone did lots of other interesting, historically-important things in his time, but for purposes of this blog we’re going to skip ahead somewhat.  During what would ultimately be his last expedition, Dr. Livingstone apparently lost all contact with the outside world. 

For six years. 

A mighty long time.

So.

In 1869, the New York Herald newspaper dispatched journalist, Henry Morton Stanley, to go to Africa to track down the good, albeit elusive-and-could-actually-be-dead Dr. Livingstone.  I wonder how far down in the pecking order Stanley had to be to pull that assignment? 

‘Whoah.  Sorry, buddy.  Short straw again.  Sure sucks to be you.  Welp.  C’mon, Ed.  Let’s you and I go down to Broadway and catch up with the showgirls and do some manly-type carousing and let our man, Hank, here get off to his business.’

So.

After trekking nearly 1,000 miles over Hell’s Half Acre, the ending to the story is that Stanley eventually finds Dr. Livingstone, alive but unwell, suffering from malaria and dysentery, in the African town of Ujiji. 

Phonetically pronounced You-Gee-Gee.  In case you care.

You may not. 

I’m just sayin’ …

Then Stanley utters the now-famous words, ‘Dr. Livingstone, I presume?’

Blah blah blah.

Flash forward.

‘Expedition Africa’ takes four explorers with various outdoorsy-type skills (a navigator, a survivalist, a wildlife expert and a journalist) … and of course, the requisite camera crew …oh … and I’m fairly certain there are some off-camera emergency medics and whatnot … and re-traces what they believe to be the trail that Stanley took to track down Dr. Livingstone.  The four explorers are also tasked with hiring local porters to haul their goods and enlisting the services of two incredible Maasi warriors from Tanzania.

Now. 

If there is one thing that has far-and-away impressed me about the show are the two unlikely ‘stars’, the Maasia warriors.  And. I’m sayin’ this all serious now, CROSSMYHEART.

The Maasia are very, very remarkable men.

If they’ve given their names in the show, they have long-since eluded me. 

However. 

These are two young men who ought to be role models in every sense of the word for our young men today.  They present themselves with confidence … without any trace of arrogance.  They are respectful without giving away any of their own quiet pride in the exchange.  They are beautiful, graceful, brave, highly-skilled, multi-lingual warriers who exist in one of the harshest environments on the planet without an iota of complaint. 

It is just incredibly fascinating to watch them.

Okay. 

Back to our story already in progress.

‘Expedition Africa’ follows the group through widely diverse African terrain on their 970-mile journey to Ujiji.  The jungle treks, river crossings, and mountain climbs are interesting to watch.  The march across the arid deserts, quite a bit less so.  

I mean, really.  How much barren landscape, sweltering sun (read:  120-degree temperatures at high noon), and non-stop ruminations about losing the water-carrying donkeys can one mere viewer be asked to bear?

But. 

In one recent episode they trek out of the frying-pan flats and happen upon a lake filled with an army of roly-poly hippos.  The Maasai warriors soberly warn the group that hippos are the leading cause of death-by-animal-attack in Africa. That, in essence, y’all think they’re these cute, chubby, cartoony beasts … but given their girth and ornery disposition … you’d be best served to keep right on walkin’.

Well.

It wouldn’t be an exciting reality show if they heeded Good Advice, now would it?

The group’s cantekerous leader, Pasquale, deems the land adjacent to … and encompassing … the very-clearly-marked hippo trail their new campsite.  Then in a stroke of what can only be described as sheer genius, he sends the others down to collect drinking-cooking-clothes-washing water from the hippo swimming pool.

The fact they all actually went without a murmur of dissent … well … that surely shocked the pants off of me.

However. 

Upon seeing the water close up … filled with not only ginormous bathing mammals but also their … shall we put this delicately … large quantities of excretement … the group finally … FINALLY … pulls long, concerned faces.  They then proceed to move to another location and fill their water-bearing vessels with water that is merely milky in color and contains the Good Luck Charm of abundant tadpoles.  The presence of said tadpoles means the water is ‘clean enough’ to support life.

Where’s a good bottle of Dasani when y’all need it?

The group presents the water to Pasquale who blows a lid… stopping a lion’s-whisker short of calling them pansies … and marches them back to the not-so-sanitary hippo hole.  He proceeds to show them how they can filter the water using a big ol’ hole of ‘clean sand’.  Umm.  Sorry, Pasquale, but this viewer wouldn’t drink anything that hippos have even remotely come in contact with.

But.  I wonder what else he could get them to do? 

Amazing.

And where, pray tell, are the Maasai warriors when you need them?  Oh that’s right.  Having adequately warned their employers of Nearby Hippo Danger  … they are now required to stand an all-night vigil around the bonfires to keep the hippos from attacking their ill-positioned camp, that’s where.  I’m sure they were also pondering the ancient, perplexing mystery of Large Groups of Stupid People.

I believe the next episode is called ‘Expedition Kenyan Hospital Emergency Room’.

I’ll keep you posted …

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