10 June 2007

Attack of the Hippo

Two of the 10th graders on our trip are avid hunters. In fact, they had to be reminded not to sneak their bows or other such deadly weapons onto the van. Of course, as soon as we arrive on the compound, an air soft pistol emerges and thereafter the bargaining for new weapons ensues.

One out of every four guards down-country carries an old soviet rifle. The other three carry 6 foot long spears. The spear tips are well crafted and the opposite end is weighted to balance the piece into a flying javelin for accurate defense and other things like, hunting.

By the third day, all 7 males (5 students and both male leaders) are all slinging spears on the way to breakfast, devotions and other daily activities. The students negotiated to buy the homemade spears from the guards for 70-100 ET Birr each. Empty water bottles are practice targets, and each night several of the guys dress in their camo get-up and disappear into the forest with headlamps.

The final night, we have a bonfire on the beach and sing and talk with hot chocolate and snacks. At one point, there is a sudden crash in the water and one of the students begins beefing up the fire. Another students flips on the headlamp and peers into the darkness. The rest of us don't pay it any mind.

Before long, the two students are clutching their spears and interrupt the fireside chat: "Ok, we need to get moving." Of course, this is rude in the midst of group discussion, so they must urge us a second time: "I think we have a hippo just come offshore and we need to get out of here." They go onto to suggest that everyone should stay calm and not worry that Hippos are one of the fastest land animals in Africa and kill more people every year than lions. Before we leave, the two guys in camo grab sticks still blazing with fire in one hand and poise their spears with their other hand over their head. Of course, I have my spear and naturally follow suit. But instead of a firestick in my other hand, I have a kettle of hot chocolate. As we near the beach's end, they look over their shoulder and remind us not to come in between a hippo and the water. Apparently, thats what makes them panic.

The 12 passenger van awaits us at the top of the hill. We only have to make it back there. Right before we clear the beach, the student in the front drops his torch and we spill into each other. With only flashlights now, the groups peers left, then right. I quickly suggest to keep moving and soon we are encouraged to be loud and make as much commotion as possible. By the time the group has reached the van, the two camo students have vanished back into the woods. We get in the van, and following our good adult leader instincts, we drive immediately back to the cabin, leaving them to spear hippos alone.


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