Ph: Africa: Tasting Africa (One L****ick At A Time)
Poem by Brian Johnston
1. Life's Always an Adventure (Morogoro)
Can one's life be that safe when all live in a zoo -
Friend on 'bike trail' breaks neck; a young girl gets raped too.
'Life' defined, is just pain, (1)
Yet some seem to find gain!
Though we hope for a dance, death's drum hums like Kazoo.
(1)Life's foremost teacher is 'pain, ' I believe. Still, most try their
best to avoid it or minimize their exposure. In Morogoro, a town
in Tanzania (that I operated out of during my second year as a
Peace Corps Volunteer) , one volunteer got paralyzed from the
Neck down in a bicycle accident and a female teacher raped. On
The bright side, to feel pain is a sure sign you're alive.
2. Sudden Death (Manyoni)
Dawn! A lion brings death to a child (I am guessing) ,
draws a circle of men in dense bush, few possessing
guns or rifles, most spears,
to a man, volunteers!
As dusk comes, a corpse lies by the roadside confessing.
(1)One morning as I was headed to Singita to get supplies, I saw
a long line of men with spears, drums, and a few rifles entering
thick bush near Manyoni just outside of town. They encircled
quite a large area to find some helpful trace of the predatory
lion. By beating drums and gradually reducing the loop of the
noose their bodies formed, they finally treed the lion and killed
it. African people try to coexist with wildlife! But there is reason
to fear that once a lion kills a human, it may repeat his behavior.
So, they track an offending lion and kill it whenever possible.
3. Nature's Plans are not Man's (Near Moshi)
While en-route to friend's wedding we're stopped by hard rain,
More than 'monkey wrench, ' (1)river now fills the 'flood plain! ' (2)
And no human device,
Or contrived sacrifice,
Will prevail! My guess, water not deep in the main!
(1)A 'monkey wrench' is a joke term to describe anything that
fouls up mortal plans!
(2)A 'flood plain' is a vast area of low-lying ground that is
generally quite flat and subject to flash floods when heavy
rains occur. It could be an ancient lake bed. We came over a
small hill to see moving water covering our route for more than
ten miles or so, in a groove straight as an arrow. There was no
sign of a bridge anywhere ahead of us; there remains a dug
canal defined by water with dense bush on both sides.
4. Life in Ngorongoro Crater (1)
Krakatoa's more famous, a crater most know
Though quiescent for years now, God groks it will grow!
But ten-thousand-feet high,
'Shangri-La' few deny (2)
crowned by rim that spans ten miles, vast game park below!
Long extinct, a 'lost' peak that collapsed, myth-like pit,
Now one-half mile below what remains (it's new fit},
Though crown's height's less than white,
Paradise is in sight!
There is singing! This 'vision's' (3)a planet-size hit!
Graced to live month (or more)near its stream-fed salt lake (4)
I'm 'Surveyor of Roads' future tourists will take.
Herds of Zebras near door
Of one house on its floor,
To awake from such dreams, makes this life a mistake?
Such a wondrous diversity found in this place.
The time capsule, (5)Earth, floats in the vacuum of space
But giraffe, alligators aren't here,
Sides too steep (I'm just guessing my dear,)
Must life end? Are we dinosaurs time will erase? (6)
(1)Ngorongoro Crater is the #1 wonder of the world if you ask me!
To visit there, if you see nothing else, I think, should be the main
item on everyone's 'bucket list! ' It was an incredible gift to me, not
only to see it but to live in its depths for such an extended period!
(2)Shangri-La is a mythical earthly paradise created by the author
James Hilton is his 1933 famous novel called "Lost Horizons! "
(3)Though death does exist in this volcanic valley, it is hard for me
to imagine that a more beautiful place exists anywhere else on our
(4)Frequent rain supplies fresh water for the wildlife to the lake at
the crater's center, but the minerals they carry have built up over time
so that the lake itself is quite alkaline. The lake has no outlet and has
no native fish, but some fish introduced by humans have survived.
(5)As a man might build a ship inside a bottle that amazes the naïve,
so life's evolution on our planet records itself, like a time capsule a
child buries! We live on Earth's outer surface, not inside it! But we,
too, are confined by the vacuum of space! The parallels are amazing.
(6)The Bible says that God gave man the "Rainbow" to promise He
would never destroy Earth's life again with a flood! But the Bible
prophecies and modern Science agree that all life on Earth will end
by fire! As the sun grows old, expands, and dies, our planet dies too
(though Science claims this will not happen for millions of years!)
But, Science has doubled down with a prediction fueled by a new
understanding that Global Warming, brought on by poor stewardship
of the planet, could push life to extinction by fire in a much shorter
time! Dare we laugh at both the warnings of the Bible and those of
5. Yet Another World Wonder (Near Moshi)
Feel like now I am older I need to admit
A Safari to Africa costs quite a bit!
Climb Kilimanjaro? (1)
(Hmm? Maybe tomorrow!)
For this peak soars from water-starved plains like a zit!
(1)Kilimanjaro is a world-famous 19,000-foot-high twin-peaked
volcano near the town of Moshi in Tanzania, East Africa! It stands
alone on vast Serengeti grasslands roamed by migrating herds of
wild animals following rain's seasons. This mountain once hosted a
massive glacier of ice near its summit that provided water to natives
below for their crops as it melted gradually during the warmer times
of the year. This glacier has disappeared, and many look threatened.
Might this be because of global warming? In any case, just one trip
to Tanzania would let you see both of these incredible volcanoes!
6. A Visitation!
Late one night I heard cough just outside of my tent,
As I peeked through mosquito nets, (1)lion gave vent
To cough even more loud,
Full moon's light, I was wowed!
Had a jail cell been handy, I would have paid rent!
(1)My African survey crew stayed together in a larger shelter.
I slept in a private one on a cot equipped with a mosquito net
and an additional mosquito net for the tent's door. There were
canvas flaps as well though they were generally left open for
ventilation unless it rained. I had been in bed about an hour or
so when a full-sized male lion strolled through our camp! He
was about 20 feet from my tent's entrance and quite visible
in the moon's light. There were only two flimsy mosquito nets
between the lion and me. The moon was so bright that I doubt
the lion could see me at all inside the tent, but I had nothing to
defend myself with if he had!
7. Shit Happens It Seems!
For a while, mate owned Doberman, never tied down.
Planned to stay in grass shed, at the edge of the town,
Crew's retired, dog's outside,
Jeep's not back, dog can't hide!
Heard the fight was quite short, so what ate dog no clown! (1)
(1)We got back late that night from a trip for supplies. The dog's
killer was likely a hyena, but it could easily have been a lion or wild
dogs. Wild dogs are the deadliest killers in East Africa.
Once I caught a Chameleon. Called him Mzay, (1)
His bright colors amazing, mind sees him today!
Dark Brown hue, Green as grass,
Black splotched Yellow, watch ass!
He will nip you for sure if you get in his way!
Near two pounds, not that fast, but his hiss evoked fear,
Stretched out covered man's forearm, no "fly-weight" (2)my dear
A tongue long as his length
Stealth his power, (3)hues strength
You, bee caught in his sights, yep, his suppertime's here!
(1)The actual Swahili word 'Mzee' gets pronounced 'Mzay! ' It is a
word of respect used to honor an older person like 'Sir' is in English,
but even more so. His hiss was worse than his bite though.
(2)Professional fighters compete in various weight classes, 'fly-
weight (a joke here) , ''medium weight, ' and 'heavyweight' for example.
(3)A Chameleon's ability to imitate, blend with changing surroundings
is a real superpower when its natural camouflage gets coupled to slow,
deliberate movements. I don't think I ever saw a single Chameleon in
Nature. When they try to cross a road and have not had time to adapt
yet, you can easily observe and capture them. It's fun too that some
Africans think they are poisonous, that if one bites you, you'll turn
different colors and die!
I got a reputation as a wizard walking around with Mzee on my arm,
or sitting on my shoulder. A friend told me that if you see Chameleons
making love, you will have a long life! That might explain why I have
lived so long! But perhaps, in collecting them, I was cheating?
13th of July in 2020
This is a poem I hope to make into a book someday and couple it with
art based on photographs I took during my time in Tanzania. In time I
trust there will be more new vignettes, ‘God willing, and the creek don't
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