My Newest Village Friend

Friday started out just like any other day. I went to the health clinic, made lunch, and read a book. Life can be so pleasantly quiet here sometimes.

Then, a knock on my door! It was my 14-year-old host brother Charles, one of my closest village friends and the neighborhood trickster. “Gbati, come with me! There’s an elephant by the river!”

Look at that devious face
Can you tell us apart?
Charles is known to sometimes exaggerate the truth. (eg “You are so fat!”) I thanked him for the invitation and told him to have a good time.

After a couple minutes, another knock on the door! This time from my other host brother, Jacques. 
He makes me funnel cake sometimes.
Jacques is one of the sweetest and most caring kids I’ve ever met. He’s as goofy as his big brother, and he has a heart of gold, too. “Gbati, come with me! There’s an elephant by the river!”
I adore these rascals.
As we started walking, we passed two women from the village. “Gbati, a ca laa?” Where are you going?

“M ca kukunte,” I told them. I am going to see the elephant. For those of you learning Bassar at home, be careful! M ca kukunti means I am going to the sauce. Big difference!

“Can you walk all the way there?” the women asked me. 

Either this elephant was really far away or people think I’m incapable of walking more than a minute without stopping.

We walked for a half hour, sometimes running, sometimes getting out of the way of motorcycles carrying three or four kids at a time. 

Soon, we were at the riverbank. And there it stood.

He was majestic in every way. 

With about thirty other villagers, we stood and watched him eat and swing his trunk. He was beautiful.

No one knows where the elephant came from. The prevailing rumor is that he walked over from Côte d’Ivoire, which is quite a hike. Others think he came from Ghana or a village a few kilometers away. 

His tusks were stolen by poachers, or his tusks fell off due to old age. He was the friendliest elephant ever, or he was capable of killing you if you got too close.

The elephant’s arrival was almost like the last day of school before summer vacation. School kids, adults, toddlers, old women, everyone in Nangbani ran together to the riverbank to get a glimpse of the behemoth. While they were there, the kids swam and made sand angels. The adults took pictures. It was amazing. 

This dive got a Saalaa from the judges! That’s Bassar for 10. I am lame.
The most smiles I’ve seen in this country
When they got bored of looking at the elephant, villagers started taking pictures with me. It got weird.
We went back to visit the elephant the next day. I offered him a banana, but he wasn’t in a good mood. While we scurried away, I scraped my heel and started bleeding. After four days, people still ask me if my wound has healed. It healed almost instantaneously. But my village takes good care of me. 
And I got to spend a day with my brother ❤️

As I stood at the riverbank and watched the kids play, my mind went back to special moments in my life I had forgotten. 

Going to Living Treasures with my mom. Taking our camp kids on long nature walks. Buying my grandma an elephant figurine after my dad passed. Standing on the pool deck and watching the kids swim. “Mr. Dan! Mr. Dan! Look! I can do a flip underwater!”

Everything in my life has led me to this point. It just took an elephant for me to realize it. 🇹🇬❤️


9 thoughts on “My Newest Village Friend

  1. Oh Daniel
    As I read this I can’t help thinking about Gail and her love for Elephants and her collection of them. I wonder if she sent you this one to look after you. This story brought me to tears.
    Take care.

    Liked by 1 person

  2. Daniel,
    I’ve been loving your posts about your time in Togo and I know that the last couple of months were rough (which you wrote about so beautifully and honestly might I add) but this post has to be my favorite. and also LIKE WHAT SO COOL RANDOM WILD ELEPHANT. Glad you’re enjoying it. 🙂


  3. When I was little Aunt Gail/Bubbie told me elephants were a symbol of good luck. I’ll never forget that conversation- love me some elephants! She’s thinking of you for sure and sending some good vibes.

    Keep writing, we are reading!


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