The Pickering Chronicles #5 – Trip Delayed
(Note: This post contains language that some may find offensive.)
“In life you’ll face difficulties that postpone some of your dreams. Regardless, life goes fast by reminding us youth is finite and old age is stable. So you mustn’t stop dreaming and running while your strength is yet tough.”
― Darmie O-Lujon
By 2013 I was ready to go to Africa — at least I thought I was. Due to a screwed up valve in my throat I aspirated something into my lungs and got pneumonia. I took a massive amount of antibiotics and got over it. Then, within a week or so after recovery, I did it again. The second time the antibiotics killed all the bacteria I had housed in my body, and left room for yeast to grow. I got a yeast infection in my mouth and throat. Painful isn’t the word. I couldn’t eat.
By the time I recovered from all that I was down to 112 lbs. I looked a lot like a prisoner of war camp survivor. I was so skinny I had my wife take a picture of me wearing a singlet and a pair of shorts I had to hold up so they didn’t fall off, just for the record and to show my grandchildren.
I called Chen Wei in Harare to tell him I probably would have to delay my trip for a while. I was nervous about telling him I had been sick because his PH had already expressed reservations about babysitting someone my age. Before I could confess my weak condition, he told me that for the time being I should forget going to Zimbabwe.
He told me, “We’re all in the shits right now so you’d better not come here. Don’t book any tickets until I tell you.”
“What’s up?” I asked.
“Oh, Oh, Oh — big problems. We got big problems. No point for you to come now. Maybe next spring we can get a big one. When I say “big,” I mean “BIG, big!”
It sounded like he wanted to drop me but was delaying because he wasn’t sure how to let me down easy. “Can you tell me what the problem is?” I inquired.
“Last week I took my client from China to hunt elephant. We got a big one, but he panicked.”
“Panicked? The elephant panicked?”
“No, no, no. My client. He panicked. He was set to make a good shot, but the elephant charged. He threw his rifle and ran away. The wrong way! Elephants are fast, but they can’t turn fast. You’re not supposed to run straight away from them. They are really fast. You should run towards them at an angle. They can’t turn so you can run past them if you are good. My client ran the wrong way.”
“So, what happened? Is he o.k.?”
“Yes, he didn’t get hurt. He was lucky. But his feelings are hurt and he is mad at me. He spent a lot of money for a trophy and now the only trophy he has is our video of him running from the elephant. He’s not happy.”
“Well, if all he got was hurt feelings, then it’s not too bad, is it?”
Chen Wei sighed, “I wish. The PH and I both shot the elephant, but we didn’t kill it. It was wounded. We tracked it but it went into another concession, so we had to bargain with the villages that own the other concession, and that cost us almost $10,000. We spent three days and we never found the elephant but we still had to pay the trophy fee.
“And now we’ve got big problems with the Parks and Wildlife Management Authority. ‘Why you didn’t kill the elephant?’ they want to know. Now I have a big pile of paperwork and my PH is in danger of losing his license. If he does, I probably won’t be able to find another PH. Big worries. You better not come here now.”
Well, that put everything on hold. At least I didn’t have to confess to my own frailties. Unfortunately for me, that and some other business setbacks put Chen Wei’s invitation on hold for quite a while. I continued to practice marksmanship even as my dream waned.
Chen Wei’s business recovered and we revived our plans again.
2016 arrived along with invitations from my wife’s former classmates in China, and a formal invite from the Provincial Ministry of Education, Anhui Province. Coming up was the 50th anniversary of the start of the Cultural Revolution in China. The Revolution began just before their graduation ceremony was to take place, so it never did. Instead, the students were sent to the countryside to shovel pig shit and shout slogans. The long-delayed graduation ceremony was being put together with local officials and almost all of my wife’s classmates were to attend. We had to go. She hadn’t seen many of her classmates for the whole of the past five decades. That killed a trip to Africa.
2017 came quickly but it, too, brought more delays as we had to deal with my wife’s illness, sell our house and downsize into a tiny condo. That took much of 2017. By Christmas last year I was resigned to the notion that my trip to Africa was not to be.
In the new year, though, things began to fall into place. We were able to set dates. We’ve got the air tickets, I’ve purchased a small arsenal (three rifles and a shotgun) to bring to Chen Wei. The political situation in Zimbabwe is calm for the moment and elections are scheduled for July — after I depart the country. Import permits for the firearms and an invitation from the outfitter are in hand now.
Let’s hope I don’t get stuck in transit in Hong Kong where you’re not allowed possession of firearms. Chen Wei has walked me through all the potential problems of moving firearms across borders, but anything can happen. He told me to expect to be invited to an interview with the HK Police. They’ll want me to open my gun cases to check — but, he said, it should be no problem. All they’ll want to do is to have a chance to fondle the rifles and dream of owning one.
More later. . .
Find the entire series here: The Pickering Chronicles
If Uncle Jim were a few years younger, he’d be old enough to be Thomas’s son! Nevertheless, Thomas enjoys hunting, freehand shooting, and reloading. He’s looked for challenges all his life and continues to seek them out. He agrees that everything goes better with Loads of Bacon!