Did you see it? Do you have any clues? Each time we passed another range rover the question was the same. Everyone wanted to see the lion. Isn’t that quite human? We wanted to
be the lucky ones on this given morning. In the meanwhile, the day broke slowly, the sun drifted up like a blood-soaked hot air balloon and the animals began to move–Jackson hart beasts and warthogs, okapi and cape buffalo, a pair of hyenas and families of lanky giraffes. Chris drove us all the way down to the Lake Albert Delta, trying roads and crossroads. With cell phone and conversations through drivers side windows, he checked all possibilities. We were just glad to be on our feet, heads popped up through the roof of the safari wagon. Smelling one thousand fragrances of grasses and dirt and acacia trees, scanning for movement. But as Simon the ranger best put it, today the lions had gone missing. They were not in the open grasslands, not among the pathway of palms planted by elephant poop, they were not in the thick brush near the waters edge.
From the jungle refuge we passed out of the park toward Pakwachi and then traveled east through Latoro and Anaka. A pair of elephants waved goodbye with their oversized ears. The blacktop road skirts the national park, but the contrast with tourist safari-land couldn’t be more stark. A row of women walked the roads edge like a tight rope, on their heads balanced long bundles of firewood and grasses cut for roof thatching. They were out history and out of time. Might they be thirty years old or fifty or seventy? Could this be 1830? Or 1950? Is 2014 possible?
The heat of the day throbbed, air tinged with smoke from burning fields. Mud huts with thatched roofs hunkered down in the dull air. Rudiments of commerce spilled out toward the road in the towns that we passed, a man seated on a wooden crate met my eye and gave me a wave from the hip. A teenage girl stood unabashed on the hard dirt, bare breasted. Did I conjur her image from an old National Geographic? How does this she exist in our world of satellite networks and globalization?