Apparently, last Thursday I fell off of the top of the moving Land Rover and hit my head. I had a concussion, I was unconscious for a few minutes, and I do not remember any of that day until the evening. I’ve seen several doctors – luckily, I was traveling with a doctor, as well – and I’ve been getting better, but it still hurts a lot.
I was on safari, to the Serengeti and the Ngorongoro. I left Tuesday – interesting story, actually; I had been talking to several safari companies about the pricing and timing of budget safaris, but as I was only one person, they were looking for others to join me (it’s a fortune to do alone). I was running out of time and while I was sitting in an internet cafe (like always, these days) I heard about a safari company that was looking for a few more people and was ready to leave immediately. (Martin, who works at the hostel I was staying at and had helped me take my camera somewhere to get it fixed, was the one who found the flyer, knew the people, and told me what was going on.) I was a little concerned, a little worried, but I went to their office and asked dozens of questions. They wanted to leave in 2 hours, and after going into the bathroom to call home, calling my father’s friend Buck who lives in Arusha and runs a high-end safari company if he had ever heard of this one (he hadn’t), calling the volunteer coordinator in Dar, and speaking to one of the other guests (though only very briefly) that they already had on safari, I decided to go for it.
So, in the two hours after I decided I was going, they took me to the bank so I could get cash to pay, I had lunch, I bought a pair of binoculars, and I packed. And then I sat on the curb in front of the Meru House Inn waiting for them to pick me up, convinced with each passing minute that I had been ripped off and they were never going to show. They did, though, two and a half hours late.
I got to Lake Minyara, met the people, and was having a great time. David and Abrahim, the driver/guide and the cook, were very nice (I was “lady” at first, then “sister”, and then once I’d had the accident, “lady” again). Lisette and Ybo are from the Netherlands. Lisette is a doctor with medecins sans frontiers (Doctors without Borders) in the Congo, and Ybo is a law professor and dean of a university. They were very nice and interesting people and the first day of the safari, in which we went to Olupai Gorge, and saw some of the Serengeti, was amazing.
I don’t remember much of the second day; I’m told that I fell at 11:30 in the morning and the first thing I can remember was just after sunset, being in the back of the car, having been asleep, and being ready to wake up and sit up just as we were trying to get out of the park and David was telling the rangers that he had a sick person and had to get out, and I could just barely understand that I had to pretend to be sick.I was taken to a hospital and looked at, and we spent that night in a lodge rather than continuing to camp. They offered to take me back, but I felt I was ok to continue. The next day went a lot slower for me – I stayed in the car, firmly in my seat, with my pillows, and looked out the windows.
I’ve been staying at Buck’s house, sleeping a lot (and I do mean a lot – I think I was awake 3 hours Friday), and resting – which is what all of the doctors I have seen have firmly told me to do. Apparently head injuries can heal at drastically different rates and I am doing pretty well. I had an xray taken yesterday (that was fun – there was no electrify in Arusha and the generators failed halfway through; I got to take a nap) and they gave me some Tylenol, which is helping more than ibuprofen was. Standing isn’t bothering me any more, either, and I’m able to stay awake. My memory’s coming back in bits and pieces, but I think I already have back most of what I’m going to get. (That evening, I could still speak Swahili but I didn’t know what I was saying; it was incredibly disconcerting because I would answer someone reflexively and feel like I was on the outside of a conversation I was having.) I took a taxi out into town today.
The area around Oldupai was amazing. The only way I can think of to describe it is to say that it was gorgeous (and it was!) but that’s almost a misnomer because of how barren it was. It was dry, and dead, and bleached, and purified. It was as if nothing was there on accident, and every piece was so deliberate, so determined, and so significant. Climatically, it was similar to a desert, I suppose, but even fewer plants – there was nothing left but stone and bone – and it was like looking at time. It didn’t feel dead, either, or old – it felt like it was outside of time, more important than time, or as if nothing but the most essential remained. (I can’t explain, so the best thing to do is stop.)
The Serengeti was dry and warm, but quite pretty, and quite alive. We saw a lot of lions. The Ngorongoro is closer to a rain forest, and we drove down into the crater. There were animals everywhere – wildebeest, buffalo, zebra, gazelle, warthogs – absolutely everywhere that we looked. The sheer number of animals that were everywhere was just amazing. … I just wish that I hadn’t fallen and hit my head and missed the second half of it. And worried everyone so much. But I am getting better now!
Arusha really is a small town! In the time between since I wrote the first half of the email, and left to go have some coffee (another sign that I’m healing – I have an appetite again!) with Martin (who was supposed to have some things of mine; left them at the Meru House Inn instead when he couldn’t reach me for a while) and I was recognized by the people who ran the coffee shop (who apologized for my injury) and ran into Sara, a doctor who had seen to me and will be seeing me again Monday. (Martin, of course, knew the other half of the coffee shop.)
I am now at my third internet cafe of the day, and it is about to close. (The first one’s generator broke, the second one had some random unspecified and untranslated problem, and this computer just shut itself off on me but luckily, came back.) Today is not my day for computers, or internet. (Buck has internet as well, but it’s been down as they’ve been working on the phone lines near where he lives for two days now.) The effort it has taken to send this email (not to mention the number of baked samosa-like-meat-filled-pastries and cups of coffee I have had to consume while waiting) has indeed been mighty.