Sunday, August 19, 2007


Some people who are, for the most part, not in my family like to participate in adrenaline sports. The closest we've ever come to such a thing is the zip-lining adventure that we did over an extremely deep chasm in the rain forest of Costa Rica. Looking back on that event with a clinical eye, the only explanation I can offer for how it came about is group psychosis. There exists photographic evidence of certain family members, helmeted and hooked up to the cable, the expression on their faces not unlike the famous painting of "The Scream", only much much worse. For reasons that I cannot begin to understand or explain, I (Wendy the Whimpering Wuss) absolutely loved the entire thing, swinging and swaying, gazing down through the drizzle, feeling at one with the exquisite enormity of nature and wanting to zip on forever. The majority of us Greenwalds enjoy somewhat less taxing and frightening vacations. One senior member of the clan actually believes that being without one's Blackberry or cellphone service is an adrenaline sport in and of itself.
So it's a bit counter-intuitive that the lot of us, with a number of demonstrable fears lurking within the group, wound up in Africa, up close and personal with wild animals, to say nothing of a vertiginous view of Victoria Falls, and a lot of traveling about in tiny aircraft. It's with the aircraft that I will begin.
Most people I know who have fear of flying tend to avoid airplanes like the plague. At least two of our group are somewhat terrified of air travel, and a few more seem to dislike it as a preferred mode of getting from point A to point B. There was also some aeronausiphobia going around and illyngophobia reared its ugly head now and then.
Nevertheless, the "camps" we were booked into could only be reached by small airplanes which skidded onto rather primitive airstrips distinguishable from the surrounding bush only by a lone waving windsock. Since there were 13 of us in the group, three would volunteer to accompany the pilot into the small 3-seater (with one of us seated co-pilotlike up front). It's not as if the other plane was all that huge (usually a 12-seater) but for the aviophobes it was the lesser of two evils. It was a real testament to their fortitude that they dealt with this aspect of the journey without benefit of alcohol or tranquilizers and with a great deal of aplomb.
Even though most of us weren't too frightened during the open jeep rides to watch the beasts where they lived and cavorted, the presence of said animals wandering in and around camp resulted in occasional agrizoophobia, as evidenced by some sleepless nights and general jumpiness. Although we never actually saw any snakes, certain of my relatives expressed some transient ophidiophobia. During our crouched but exciting stay in the elephant blind (called "hide") a few wasps flew into the enclosure, which brought up some latent spheksophobia within the group. These fears were eclipsed by the almost magical sight of a baby elephant, just one week old, who didn't yet know how to use its trunk. It dunked its whole head under water to get a drink and then leaned up to nurse on its mother's gigantic teat.
Lest it seem like I was the only member of the clan without a phobia to call my own, I confess to a slight frigophobia. Every morning for the chilly game drives I dressed myself in long winter underwear,long-sleeved shirt,sweat pants, old wool sweater, sweatshirt,watchcap,scarf, and gloves and then I polished off this gorgeous look with my brown overjacket and a flannel-lined poncho.As the sun came up I peeled off the layers until it was time to go to bed, where I so feared the cold that I added extra blankets and David donated his hot water bottle to mine, to stave off my shivers.
I'm delighted to report that not one of us has even the slightest case of syngenesophobia; we were able to spend two long weeks in each others' presence almost 24/7 and still enjoy the company of relatives. A big shout-out to Robert and Heidi for making it all possible and giving the younger generation a jeepload of memories to discuss long after their elders are gone.

Fear of flying: aviophobia,aviatophobia,pteromerhanophobia
Fear of vertigo or dizziness: illyngophobia
Fear of airsickness: aeronausiphobia
Fear of wild animals: agrizoophobia
Fear of wasps: spheksophobia
Fear of snakes: ophidiophobia
Fear of relatives: syngenesophobia

Tuesday, August 7, 2007


You get to know a lot about your extended family when you're on safari for 2 weeks, much of the time in Botswana in a protected wild game preserve where you can go mano a paw with some really big cats, to say nothing of a dazzle of zebra, a pod of hippos, and... but I'm getting ahead of myself. When you travel with a group of 13 people (or pee-ple, as the case may be) you find out that some of us need to void our bladders more than others. Which in itself is not a noteworthy thing, unless the voiding needs to be done squatting behind a jackleberry bush or even, oh yayss as the South Africans say, on the edge of a one-lane airstrip. Ahh, the memory of a small plane of incoming strangers suddenly zooming in for their landing, surprised,that their first view on safari is not of a wild beast but of my naked behind, as I struggle to wipe myself, stuff the used T.P. into a small brown waxed bag, and jump up from a squat,accompanied by the hysterical laughter of my pride of nieces, daughter, and daughter-in-law, since they are more spry and were already zipping up their flies at the moment of my ignominy.
You'd think that an easy solution would have been to severely limit one's intake of liquid; however, that quickly led to dehydration which was even worse than having to pee in full view of baboons, who are real jokesters to begin with.
Now I'm not naming any names here, but there were a few human camels in our group (none with any Greenwald DNA) and they were remarkably sanguine about the constant requests for the guide to find a "safe" place in the bush, and let the pissers out for yet another elimination round. In fact, camels were one of the few species of wild animals NOT represented in the three fly-in safari camps we frequented. Giraffes,though, have a bit of a hump; they are listed in the Antelope family on the provided checklist. Who knew? Prior to this trip, I couldn't tell a Roan antelope from a Tsetsebbe, or something like that. Now I'm a mini-expert, shooting the shit with the best of them. I also know that an impala's poop is called midden which appears in neat piles all over to mark their territory.
Speaking of marking one's territory, maybe at this moment there is a pride of lions somewhere in the Okavango Delta sniffing all the places where my "cubs" and I
relieved ourselves so often last week. Meanwhile, the Greenwalds are all back in our real lives,using toilets instead of trees,reluctantly and alone.

[Tune in soon for the next episode: " A PHOBIA OF GREENWALDS"]