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Friday, July 14, 2006

Will You Be My Mule?

I'm sure you know that Tanzania is most famous for its magnificent wildlife. The national parks, which cover a huge percentage of this country, are filled with lion, cheetah, giraffe, and elephants. Twice-a-year one of the worlds most magnificent natural spectacles takes place when hundreds of thousands of wildebeest and zebras migrate from Tanzania to Kenya and back again. In addition to the tourism dollars that these animals bring into Tanzania, they also have value for darker reasons. People in Asia pay big bucks for rhino horns (an aphrodisiac) and elephant ivory . The money that can be earned by poaching is extremely tempting for people who live in and around the parks - and even though it is abhorrent to think about killing these animals for money, you can sort of understand why some people do.

But for an ex-pat, none of these animals are as magnificent, or as valuable, as a mule.

Actually, I'm sitting here in my dining/living room waiting on the arrival of my very first mule. Jane. Jane, one of my best-est friends, and former colleagues, in on her way to Tanzania and arrives tonight with refills... bras, Dora the Explorer and Elmo DVDs ,and Pria Bars.

I asked her to bring a box of diapers but she said "no". I'm trying to understand.

For 13 years I have asked my colleagues in the field if they needed me to bring them anything when I was planning a trip to their country - always with my fingers crossed that they would say, "No, I can find everything I need right here in Haiti/Rwanda/Mali (etc)." Or it would be A-OK with me if they asked for something simple and light - like a book of stamps. I admit it. I asked because it was expected of me. But I cursed the heavy bags I was then asked to carry. I cursed them all...

Over the years I've been asked to carry cash (over $10,000), giant bags of popped popcorn, New Yorkers, STD specimens, New York Times magazine sections, tampons, underwear, nail clippers, balloons, Mardi Gras beads, light bulbs, and most recently - a lawn mower.

I cursed my friends and colleagues, but I did it anyway. All while at the same time telling US-based friends that I just didn't understand how colleague X couldn't live without her copy of The Red Tent. For godsake, why'd X move to Africa in the first place if she couldn't survive without Amazon.com?

But of course I take it all back now. My friends and colleagues, I'm begging you to consider me as you plan your next trip to Tanzania. I'll try not to ask for a lawn mower. But I might ask you to consider stuffing a box of Huggies Overnights into the crevices of your $300 suitcase. And I'm hoping to prove to you that the mitzvah of being a mule for a friend in Tanzania will be rewarded a thousand times over when it is your turn to move.

5 Comments:

Blogger Mom101 said...

We will be your mules! I swear, we'll pack a whole suitcase just for you if you want.

When Doug was shooting his film in Paris, all he wanted me to bring him was Mac n Cheese. Kraft. Blue box. Also Velveeta. There's class for ya.

4:59 AM  
Blogger KathyB said...

That is too funny! Good luck with your mules!

11:42 PM  
Blogger DSegor said...

i'll be your mule if I can get to Tanzania in the next 2 years.

8:53 PM  
Anonymous al said...

Jane as a mule! She's a thoroughbred if there ever was one.

As to DVD's some laptops (i.e. Dell) only let you switch zones a few times, then you have to choose one for good.

Alfred

3:54 AM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

we'll be your mules.

Tamar and Molly

12:13 AM  

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