by Nancy McDaniel

Not very long ago, in the Botswana bush far far away, Russell, The Guide, and Trudi, The Hostess, asked where I got all my energy. This is not a question that people in Chicago often ask me. In Chicago, I often fall asleep while watching the 10 p.m. news. In Botswana, in the Okavango Delta, the crown jewel of the African Bush, I never want to sleep. In fact, I resent ever having to go to bed.

I have thought a lot about the question that Russell and Trudi asked me about my energy source. And I have a theory about it.

Some of the tented camps have electricity, which is solar powered. There are solar collection panels outside the tents to provide power to heat the water for the showers and the sinks. They may power the lights as well, but I’m not sure. I have no idea how these things work; it is just a minor miracle to me that they do.

A Solar Collector Implant?
It seems as though I may have a tiny solar panel implanted in my chest. Sort of like a pacemaker. I have no idea how it got there. It might have been aliens. Or it could be that, many safaris ago, some bush baby crept into my tent and put it in me while I was sleeping. I only know that when I get back onto the African continent, especially when I get back into the Bush, I have boundless energy. More than the 20 and 30 year olds who are the guides and hostesses and lodge managers. More than I had when I was 20 or 30 years old myself. More energy than I have ever had in my whole life.

Born to Yawn
My dad used to tell me that I was born tired. He said that when I arrived, the doctor slapped my butt (do they still do that or is that now considered yet another form of child abuse?) and, instead of letting out a wail, I gave a great big yawn. A true story? Well, at least apocryphal. Daddy should have seen me in the bush; I’m never tired there. Or even if I am, I never let it slow me down. Fatigue will never get the best of me in the Bush.

I Won’t Go To Bed; You Can’t Make Me!
I never want to sleep – except for the opportunity to be inside the tent, listening to all the sounds of the African night. But I hate to close my eyes, because then I can’t see the stars and the moon. Except inside my eyelids where their images are indelibly etched. I’m up well before the “wake-up drum.” (Now there’s an idea for a new travel alarm – African drumbeats. Sure better than a nasty buzzer. Or even the cock-a-doodle-do or coo-ca-roo-ca-roo of a rooster.)

I’m the last one by the campfire at night. I want to hear all the Bush lore stories that our South African guide Russell has to tell. I know he has at least nine lives. We only heard about four “close encounters of the animal kind” (“Due to the behavior of the… lion, rhino, rhino and donkey.” Donkey?) I’m sure there are many more but we ran out of time and campfires to hear them all. I want more!

The Dead Battery
I knew that it was time for me to get back to the bush. I knew that it was where my psychic battery pack would be recharged and my soul rejuvenated. It had been nearly a year since I had been back. I had been hopelessly in love and had my heart broken into bits since that last trip. I knew that the African sun and moon and stars and sights and sounds and smells would be able to rescue me. I knew that it would transport me to a blissful place, a mellow place where everything in my being is blessedly at peace and in order.

The bush is at the same time energizing and calming to me. How can that be?

On Time All The Time
Things that bother me “at home” don’t matter much in the bush. In Chicago, I am inordinately punctual and expect everyone else to be so too (my dad was a stickler for being on time. When I was in high school, I was always ready for dates too early. Being a female teen in the 60s, my mom always made me wait in my room when my date arrived – so I didn’t look too anxious. Which of course I was. Even when I try to be late for a party, I’m generally the first one to arrive. How déclassé.) City Nancy also is somewhat intolerant of inefficiency.

Now It’s Africa Time
But as soon as I get to the bush, I automatically switch into Africa Mode. I guess it’s sort of like the two different voltages on a travel hair dryer, except this flips automatically. I don’t have to push any buttons or flip any switches. It just goes over. Time doesn’t matter. Small delays don’t matter. One day the Land Rover ran out of gas (like clocks on cars in the US, the gas gauges on safari vehicles never seem to work very well. If at all.) No problem. Russell radioed to have another vehicle meet us. “Fifteen minutes, that’s all.”

Uh huh. If the other vehicle hadn’t gotten lost, that is. No GPS or AAA Trip Tik here. Just lots of tracks that look kind of alike. We heard the sound of the other vehicle lots of times but never could see it. Others in our group were getting antsy and hungry, while I was sitting on the hood of the vehicle, smiling, sunbathing, listening to everything. We told stories and I just smiled. It took about an hour. We were late for lunch. I just smiled (come to think of it, maybe what happened to me when I go to the bush is I get a temporary lobotomy; nothing seems to phase me much. Smile.)

I told Russell how things like that would have driven me crazy in the US – how could you run out of gas? How could they get lost? Who cares? African Mellowness has overtaken me. It has invaded my body, sort of like the Pod People. On the surface, I may look the same (except infinitely more relaxed, with a sort of omnipresent goofy-looking smile on my face… sort of a glow, actually) but I am not. As I once said, when I am in the bush, I am the Best Me I Can Be.

So where does the energy come from? Where does the tranquility and peacefulness and seemingly infinite patience come from? How can they co-exist so perfectly? Who needs drugs? Who needs uppers and downers? My internal solar collection system, my African-experience-absorbing sponge captures it all for me. Now I just need some if it to stay inside me until I’m back in my “centering” place once again.