by John Fuhring
Arrival at the Farm and
meeting my comrades
It seems that everyone at the Farm was waiting for me to arrive, so as soon as I got there, we all sat down to an elegant lunch in the dining room of the main house. This was my first chance to meet everybody and my first impression was quite positive. It was true that I was the only American, the others from various parts of Europe, but they all could speak English to a greater or lesser degree and so I wasn't worried that there would be a communications blackout on this trip (naive fool that I am).
After lunch we went to
the rear where the stables were and tried out horses. Cougar and
Queen (the horses I rode on the last safari) were still there and I tried
out some of the others too. Except for one horse that had a very
jerky canter, I really didn't care which horse I got and I can't remember
which horse I started out with. Unlike the last trip, everybody seemed
to be competent to handle their horses at all speeds and nobody fell off
or broke any bones while we were trying things out. I did notice
that a new barbed wire fence has been strung and the pasture wasn't nearly
as large, so there was less room to get the horses going.
Pictures compliment of Dr. Kolblinger
Again I noticed that the tack was the same old, patched and very heavily oiled equipment we used last time. Neatsfoot oil must be very plentiful and cheap there in Tanzania because the old saddles they use on these safaris literally drip with the stuff. As soon as you sit in one of these saddles your clothes starts picking up this oil and everything you're wearing gets soaked with it. The ancient leather is so heavy and soft from all the oil, your boots or chaps stick to the saddle and you can't slide around to accommodate for movements of the horse. For the life of me, I don't know why they oil the tack so heavily. My own saddles and tack are almost as old as theirs but I only oil them (lightly) about twice a year and that's plenty to keep the leather in good condition without it being excessively greasy and getting into my clothes. Naturally, if I'm caught out in a rainstorm, I'll oil them again afterwards, but I don't saturate them in the stuff as a matter of policy. Later I'll show you a picture of Terry's butt and you may get some idea of how oily the saddles are.
After our tryouts in the back pasture we returned to the main house for more formal introductions and to discuss the upcoming trip. It was a very friendly meeting. The riding group consisted of two charming ladies, Florence and Bernadette, Bernard (Florence's father), Stefan (Bernadette's husband), Herr Doctor Camillo, Terry and myself. In addition, we were to be accompanied by the safari staff; Janice, Annabelle and guided by Lisa and her son Tom.
Bernard is an excellent rider and preferred to ride a spirited Arab that would have worn me out. He can read and write in English as well as his native French, but (to tell the truth) it was damn near impossible for us to converse verbally. Mon Cher, Florence had a better command of spoken English, but my very poor hearing made it difficult understanding the words through her charming and very French accent. Stefan and Bernadette are from Switzerland and Stefan is quite fluent in English, but their native tongue is German. Camillo is a medical doctor (MD) from Austria and speaks English, but is obviously much more comfortable in his native German. To my great shame, I speak nothing but English and even at that; me no speak it so good - the teacher never learned me nothing in school. The last guest in the group was Terry. Terry is an Englishman from London and has a somewhat better command of the English language than I have, being from the place, don't you know - oh quite - hear, hear.
As mentioned, the riding staff consisted of Lisa, our guide, her son Tom, Janice and Annabelle. Lisa speaks English of course, but with a rather heavy Danish accent, Tom speaks several languages and he speaks English like a native American. He has a perfect American accent that (I assume) he picked up while working in Texas. Janice is an Ex patriot Englishwoman who owns a service company there in Tanzania. Finally, Annabelle is a young American college girl originally from New York, but studying Genetic Sciences in the U.K. (Scotland)..
Although things started out well enough, I eventually found that I could not or did not want to participate in very many conversation. To tell the truth, there were times I felt somewhat lonely with nobody to talk to. Here are the reasons:
As pleasant and thoroughly likable as Bernard and Florence are, I knew that it was difficult and uncomfortable for them to speak in English and knowing how difficult it was, I did not encourage many conversations. They spoke mainly to themselves in French.
Stefan, Bernadette and Camillo were obviously much more comfortable speaking in their native German and held most of their conversations in that language.
I'm sorry to say that Terry and I soon discovered that two opinionated Know-It-All's from radically different political, educational and social perspectives really don't get along very well, even if they speak variations of the same language.
Annabelle and I spoke very little together. Let's face it everybody, I'm an old geezer and she's a very young woman. What young college aged women like to talk about and what old guys (like me) like to talk about are not the same. They even have an expression for it, it's called a "generation gap" in case you don't know.
Janice and I also spoke very little. There seemed to be a stuffiness to our conversations that was probably all my fault. OK, so I'm a rotten guy for saying this, but I found Janice a bit of a prig at times. I will admit that I missed a golden opportunity to learn more about the Ex Patriot lifestyle and how they make a living there in Africa. However, the little bit that Janice did mention was really fascinating.
The only person that was easy to converse with was Tom, but again, there was a generational or life's experience gap that made a real conversation very rare.
Yes, it was lonely at times, but I had not come to Africa to have long chats with close friends. Yes, I'm not a warm and friendly person and one who makes instant friends and yes, I realize that placing myself in the middle of strangers is rarely a very happy experience for me. Still, I couldn't help feeling disappointed that I couldn't develop much more than a feeling of superficial friendliness toward my comrades on this trip. I blame no one but myself.
Enough of this foolishness. Now, let's get back to the story.
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