Going rate for the blond one: 20 cows, plus shillings.

This post is part of a series documenting a trip undertaken by a team of volunteers with World Vets who traveled to Arusha, Tanzania in June 2012 to provide veterinary care for the under (or should be say un-) served donkey population. For the full series of posts covering World Vets, please click here.

 I think genuine smiles are much more interesting than canned ones. You can tell. You can always tell. And as much as posed photos work in certain circumstances, I tried to avoid overly directing picture opportunities because I wanted the snapshots you all saw to reflect something real. Over the course of the week, as I learned my teammates and what makes them tick, it became easier to spot scenarios when I’d be able to catch someone smiling or laughing or just looking happy, a universal emotion across culture and language that speaks volumes. These are my favorite pictures to take.

Teri: Just add people

Dr W working her magic: She learned his fascinating life story in about 5 minutes.

It’s impossible to catch Teri not smiling, really. Usually she was either laughing or in the process of making someone else laugh, usually with a story involving putrid milky products in Mongolia, purple bordellos of ill repute in Africa, or asking a wizened old porter how to say “crazy white lady” in Swahili (mzungu kichaa, by the way) while pointing to herself, all while doing a jig.

Janet: Just add animals

Janet is sort of how I view the archetypal veterinarian: calm, understated, sharp, and efficient. Even in a team of animal lovers who as a whole are quick to swoop in on something cute and furry, she was always the first one on her knee to greet a nervous dog or calm a skittish donkey.

Toccoa: Just add camera

Toccoa is such a poser. I had to try and sneak around her because every single time she saw the lens, she posed. And posed again. And I can’t complain, because it was hysterical every time, but my protests that I wanted genuine emotional reactions were quickly rebuffed as she went back to making silly faces with giggling kids. But you know, that is Toccoa being Toccoa, so it works.

Alana: Just add kids

No matter where we went, Alana was surrounded by kids like a Pied Piper of peanuts. They can sense a mum when they see one. If kids are anything like dogs, if they can tell you’ve been around other kids while you were away, Alana’s in trouble because she was cuddled by no less than 4,356 children over the course of the four days. Or was it 4,357.

Kyle: Just add Vetericyn

"If you spray Vetericyn on a pile of lead chunks..."

You don't even want to know what he just said.

I normally consider myself somewhat of an arbiter of funny things, but this team put me to shame. Kyle had an inspired running bit over the course of the trip about the myriad things Vetericyn could do, from solving morning breath to turning water into wine, and EVERY SINGLE TIME I turned the video camera off he popped off another one. And I’d be laughing too hard to get the camera back on in time.

Rachel: Just add Kyle

These two are so stinkin’ cute together, two fast moving peas in a pod, running hither and fro all around the world. And that’s all it took for Rachel: one glimpse at her hubby and she would break into a grin, every time.

Rudy: Just add….well, I’ll get back to this.

This guy was a tough nut to crack. I think it’s a British thing. I know he can laugh, I saw it more than one time, but every time I tried to catch him doing it- boom, he’d bust out this stoic stern mug. He called it his “concentrating face”, but I called it a sourpuss.

I was beginning to think it was never going to happen, that catching Rudy smiling would be like seeing the big 5 on your first safari- an elusive and difficult task. (But hey, I managed to pull that off too, so never give up hope.) But then, then we had this conversation on the last day. You have to imagine him saying this in the right tone too, kind of like Snape when he catches Harry hiding under the Cloak of Invisibility.

Rudy: Why have you been sitting in the pickup for the last 45 minutes?

And he was right, I hadn’t left the truck for close to an hour by that point. I spent the second half of the last day in the pickup bed or climbing up on top of the cab. From my eyrie on the roof, I had a perfect eagle’s eye view of the vast market spreading before us.

In addition, I could shoot away somewhat removed from the distrustful eyes of those who didn’t care for my big camera lens.

Which you can see if you zoom in, didn’t always work. Busted.

But that wasn’t the sole reason I was there. I was also hiding. From this guy.

Earlier in the day, he made a beeline over to us under some pretense of offering friendly advice, and immediately after that asked if could purchase Janet to be his wife. Janet said, politely, hapana, asante. No, thank you. Undeterred, he found his way over to Alana, intuiting that they were close, and tried to barter with her for Janet’s hand.

“I have many cows,” he said, hopefully.

“Hapana,” Alana replied. No. ”She’s married.”

Nice try: Alana refuses to sell Janet to this guy.

He looked around and raised his eyebrow. I don’t see any husband. So Alana dragged Rudy over from his punda station and made him pretend that Janet was his wife and tell the guy to please stop harassing her. Her jilted suitor sighed. “She is very tall,” he said wistfully.

He wandered off, much to everyone’s relief. A local woman came by and snorted in disgust. “He’s always drunk,” she said conspiratorially. “She wouldn’t want him.” She angled her head. “But he is also very wealthy. He has many, many cows.” She peered at me sharply, motioning for me to take off my buff, which had been keeping my hair out of my face all week. Confused, I did. Then she pulled my ponytail out of the elastic, arranging my hair around my shoulders. She nodded, satisfied, and walked off.

I stood there with my elastic band and my buff in hand, confused as to why she would do that. Then I heard a hiss behind me, a sharp intake of air, and turned to find HIM back again, leering at me this time, sticking his fingers out like the witch in the gingerbread house when she was assessing Hansel’s arms for fat content. I guess he got over his heartbreak pretty quickly and decided that, although inferior, the blond would do.

“Come to my hut,” he said.

“Hapana,” I said, hurriedly pulling my hair back into a ponytail.

He pressed his lips together and wandered off to find my keeper. A minute later, I head Toccoa saying, “Hapana.” I found myself grateful I got along with my roommate. He was offering a good number of cows, I was told. At least 20.

“The price is 10,000 cows,” she said, leaning over to whisper into my horrified ear, “Don’t worry, he only has 800.”

“Shillinges?” he asked hopefully, rubbing his thumb against his fingers in the universal sign for cold hard cash.

“She’s married,” Toccoa said. He looked around and shook his head. I don’t see any husband. Well, Kyle’s wife was right there with him and we had already married Rudy off to Janet, so I was stuck.

“In America,” I said. “He’s in America.” My would-be suitor shrugged, a what happens in Arusha stays in Arusha sort of shrug, then went back to haggling with Toccoa. I guess being married only counts if the husband is right there to object. It was at this point that I jumped into the relative safety of the pickup bed, and tried to bury myself in a duffle bag of syringes. Although not enclosed like the pope-mobile or anything, it would be much harder to separate me from the group in that thing, and besides, I knew where the truck key was if I needed to make a speedy exit. Soon enough I discovered it was also a good vantage point for photography, and this is how Rudy found me, an hour later.

So I told him all of this, and apparently the image of me getting dragged off kicking and screaming by some alcoholic 6 foot bowler hat wearing pimped out Maasai to live the Real Housewives of Arusha dream while Toccoa divvied up the shillings was enough to make even Rudy the Stoic crack a smile.

Rudy: Just add schadenfreude. But this time, I was ready. CLICK.

Just like last time in Tarangire. I always get my shot. Even if it’s at my expense.

 

Oh, and in case you’re wondering about me…. just add Africa. Works every time.

Doctor, Doctor: The dynamic duo on our last day.

Filed: Blog, Features, On Safari, Photography, Picks of the Litter Tagged: , , , ,
  • Marilia Bavaresco

    Great post!!!!!

  • Sue W.

    Awesome post. Awesome photos and the writing? Superb. Story drawn out just enough, teasers to begin, headline to draw you in, a perfect conclusion. And I must say, I’m glad you aren’t staying there to be a wife, 800 cows or no. I’d miss you terribly!

  • Tamara

    Great smiles all around :) This series has been eye-opening, fascinating, and inspiring. I’m sorry to see it end. Thanks to the entire team for their hard work. Thank you. Thank you. Thank you.

    • http://www.pawcurious.com Dr. V

      Aw, I still have more to write about. I haven’t even gotten to getting stuck in Nairobi or the climb on Meru! I can drag this out a lot longer!

      • Tamara

        Yippeee!!!! I look forward to it :)

  • Alana Tagliabue

    love love love!!

  • LB

    LOL Dr. V.! I had a similar proposal during my friend’s, sister’s wedding. It was a very traditional Thai wedding with lots of relatives from out of the country. During the reception I was continuously bargained with to marry one guy’s son. He kept telling me his son was going to be a doctor, and I would be well taken care of. Freaked me out! My friends thought it was funny, but I got out of there pretty quickly after that.

    This wasn’t the only time this happened either, seems like us blonds are popular! Thank goodness I am married now. *Note to self- Make husband come with me when I sign up to volunteer for World Vets lol.* (Going to take classes to become a Vet Tech for a side job :))

    • http://www.pawcurious.com Dr. V

      Well his first choice was Janet, who was brunette, so I’m not really sure what this guy was thinking. He was fine- the team had each other’s backs. :D