Friday, January 8, 2016

South African Animal Encounter

Today we went to an interactive cheetah experience outside of Cape Town on the way to Paarl. It is a preservation reserve that trains and supplies dogs to help farmers protect their property from animal attacks and to teach farmers about cheetahs in order to stop them from trapping, poisoning, or killing the cats. As a result this organization protects cheetahs and educates people about these amazing animals.

We got a package deal to meet and interact with adult cheetahs, cheetah cubs, and meerkats. It was R435, which was about $35. It was a chance of a lifetime so I gladly handed over the Rands (South African currency).

There were a couple of sets of 18 month old cheetah cubs. Mandiba and Majik (both males) in one enclosure. And Romeo and Nikita (male and female) were in another. My group visited Romeo and Nikita. They were lying down resting and we carefully approached them from behind with our escort. We did this after a short training discussion and after clipping on a tag saying we understood the dangers of entering the enclosure with these animals. Sobbering. And delightful. Feeling the power and grace under your hand as you patted these magnificent animals was astonishing. Feeling the movement of his body when Romeo purred was exciting. I've never experienced anything like that. I am having trouble even finding words to fully express how it felt.

Then we went to visit Ebony - an adult cheetah. And I was struck by how well the big cat and her handler interacted. They have worked together for a long time. He knows her personality, her moods, and her movements. She knows his voice, his touch, and his smell.  But they also work with other cts so that no one cat imprints too much with one particular handler.

When she got unsettled due to a sick cheetah being cared for nearby, the handler immediately removed us from the enclosure. I felt safe but wary when we were allowed to re-enter her space. I still can't believe this kind of experience is even possible.

Last up but not least by any stretch of the imagination was meeting Sebastian, a feisty and fresh young meerkat. Sebastian was kept illegally by a family when he was little and has developed a fascination/fetish with crotches, cleavages, and shoes. Oh my.

But cuddling is his main thing. He made the sweetest noise when happy and let you know if he wanted to be tickled under the chin by raising his head and touching your chin with his nose. He burrowed down into the crook of my arm and was quite content to stay there most of the time. It was so much fun. I felt pure joy. Just unadulterated joy.

I am not really a pet person. I have significant allergies. So normally I would not get close to cats or animals with any type of hair. But today I just wanted to soak in the experience.

On this trip, I have tried food that I would not normally eat, drank beverages I would not normally order, and let the moments just develop as best I can thus far. I'm loving the adventure.

Being away is not the only time I try things that push me out of my comfort zone. I try them often. But being here in South Africa is opening me up to new and interesting things in a very different way. I want to be this open all the time.

In South Africa they say “I'll do it just now.” It doesn't necessarily mean right this minute. It means sometime in the future.

It reminds me that in Texas we say, “I'm fixin’ to.” I'm about to do it.

In taking on new things and bringing our best selves forward in new situations - at home or away - we should do it “just now.” And now.

How about you?

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