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!”
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.
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!”
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.
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.
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.
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!”