Today started early again, the sun was barely up when we left the hotel, but there was enough light to see the outline of the Matterhorn. I know it sounds cheesy, but as a symbol of a country goes, nothing can beat the Matterhorn as the Swiss representative.
We're so in tune with our waking routines now, we can get ready in record time. Of course, not having inhibitions about your bodies help when one is taking a shower while the other is using the sink. Tara reads all my journal entries (hi Baby!) but I'll be bold and say, I can't wait till it's Time, and my baby knows what I mean. But I also get what she says about the right moment and making sure it's as special as it should be.
The Race kept us in Switzerland all morning, with a puzzle-solving task in Geneva, but by lunchtime we were on our way to Africa. Wow. I mean, AFRICA. We were on the same flight as Xander and Anya. Xander was being annoying and kept saying "I had a farm in Africa" in a Meryl Streep / Out of Africa accent, until Anya slapped him repeatedly.
We lost them at Nairobi airport. After the predictability, cleanliness and simply general perfection of Switzerland, it was a big shock to be in a totally different culture. The people were pushy, but we didn't feel any malice. We felt okay, this was an expected part of coming on the Race, so we were well prepared not to freak out.
When we realized we were first to the cluebox and a Fast Forward was available, we took it immediately. How could we not? We got to feed a baby leopard by hand.
It was the most amazing experience in my entire life, and I think for Tara too.
The cub was 5 weeks old and was being cared for by Peter, a vet at the Nairobi Animal Orphanage. He didn't have a name, Peter said he tended not to name the animals that come through the orphanage otherwise he got too attached to them. Privately Tara and I started calling the leopard Little Leo, which of course meant lion, but it was close enough anyway :).
Peter fed Leo every 2-3 hours, each time about 5 ounces of formula that was made up of milk powder, goat's milk, vitamins and blended baby food, usually turkey or beef flavored. He laid him on his lap while we took turns with the bottle. I said to Tara afterwards that I wished Peter could have let us hold Leo while feeding, but she said it may be too unfamiliar to the cub and he might get nervous. She's right, of course.
Afterwards Peter told us we should burp him. Of course we knew human babies have to be burped after feeding, but didn't make the association. We stroked his back gently until he burped, it took a good 10-15 minutes. His fur was soooo soft, a little coarser than even an adult cat, but he kept purring away like mad all the way through. It really was fantastic.
We kept stroking him after he burped, until he fell asleep like a cute kitten curled up comfortably in Peter's lap. We didn't want to leave him but Peter told us he needed to go back to his quarters to sleep until the next feeding. When he grew older, he will have to be taken for walks to become familiar with the open environment as eventually he will be released back to the wild (after they tag him with a satellite tracking device of course).
I think feeding the cub brought out maternal instincts in us that we didn't realize we have. For Tara she is feeling it in a big way. The thought of children has occurred to me, but I tend to dismiss it, probably because it's pretty impossible for two women to have kids and I want our kids to be "ours", which again, impossible. The other possibilities like adoption, surrogates, donors, all seem too remote.
But my heart broke when I saw Tara interacting with the cub, and how longingly she stared at him even after Peter took him back to his pen. She will make a good mother one day, and I want to be part of her family too. Those other possibilities come to mind again and I find I'm not as adverse to the thought any more.
Anyway, Peter very kindly drove us to the Pitstop. He told us more about what the orphanage does, and how many visitors it attracts every year. Right now they have in their care several baby impalas, bushbucks, zebras, hedgehogs, baboons, warthogs, and a tiny rhino. Most of them are there because they were abandoned by their mothers, or if their mothers died due to poaching or disease. The more he told us, the more in awe we felt.
When Phil told us that we'd won a cash prize, Peter's words were fresh on our minds and we decided, without needing to talk about it, that we'd donate the prize to the orphanage. The prize money would have of course gone a long way, if only for air tickets, but there were others who needed it more than us, and we felt no hesitation at our, perhaps impetuous, joint decision.
Aside from the feeling that we'd done something worthwhile, what astound us is how we came to the conclusion simultaneously, it was like our minds were completely melded that there was no need for words, the connection was so strong.
I'm still feeling the connection now, inside me, and I'm sure she can too. The way we held hands all the way to the hotel, how we spent an hour in our room snuggled up close, it feels like our relationship is going up another step. I look at her silhouette under the covers and my love for her is so enormous I can't accurately find the words to describe how I feel. This race has brought us together in unimaginable ways and I want so much for us to have a future together.
We are almost 2 hours ahead of the other teams, may be they'll catch up with us tomorrow, but we're very happy at how today ended. Anya said that the Roadblock consisted of eating a pound of meat, that although Xander's was lamb, Robin got wildebeest and April, poor April, had a whole plate of giraffe meat, while suffering from food poisoning. I'm glad I didn't have to go through that - I would have done it cos Tara is vegetarian, but a whole pound of meat? Goddess I'm no Merchant of Venice.
My final thoughts on our first day in Africa. The smells are different, and so are the people, the weather, the language, the environment. Food looks and tastes different and even flowers and trees appear more exotic.
Africa changes people. I can see why now.