Laughing in the Bush 

by Michele Bigley   <Submit your comments to the author>
(Originally published on
Being a Valley Girl from LA never left me the opportunity to be the outdoorsy type. Don't get me wrong, I spent my share of time outside growing up, but it was usually watching the skaters olly off the half-pipe in my front yard. I was a cheerleader, not a hiker. I liked to dance. Who wanted to camp when I could have a slumber party in my bedroom? My idea of camping was a party on the beach with 20 guys and a case of vodka.

I booked a safari before I arrived in Mombassa. One of those Hilton safaris where we drive around in Land Rovers, taking pictures with our Nikons, eating buffets at "lodges," and sleeping under mosquito nets in five-star hotels, watching all the khaki tourists battle for the best list of "have you seens." But I have a knack for finding alternatives, AKA daring chicks. You know, the short-nailed, thrift-store, granola-ish, "I have camped everywhere in America" kind of chicks. They needed a sixth to make their safari cheaper and me being the type of girl to never turn down an adventure, blew off my "classy" safari and paid Ketty Tours $140.

So here I am in my Abercrombie and Fitch cargo pants, Kikigirl tank top, and John Fluevog boots watching my granola friends pitch a tent. While our hired cook, John, prepares cockroach spaghetti. And Alfred, our tireless driver, abandons us for who knows where. Kind of wondering how I got myself into this, I allow the leader of the granola girls to teach me how to pitch a tent. She laughs when I tell her that I never had to actually do that before. She adds that she likes to camp by herself sometimes. Something I have never wanted to do.

After dinner Alfred returns with a newspaper rolled joint, warm Guinness, and a machine-gun clad guard. Supposedly the guard is there to make sure no pissed-off water buffalo stray near our tent. A group of them would be OK, but one by itself, that would be a problem. But a machine-gun? And that smile. He owns that leering I-am-an-African-man-you-know-you-want -to-sleep-with-me-kind-of-smile. Yuck. I hate that smile almost as much as I hate machine-guns.

When the rain begins, I stop thinking that I am in hell and just know it. Kenyan rain is nothing like American rain. It is not gentle. It screams fuck off with the harshest tone while the zigzag lightening and electric thunder, add to nature's intense orchestra. Within the first few minutes of rain, I learn that I am in a non-water resistant tent. Water soaking through the bottom and seeping through the top, easily drowning my sleeping back and my one pair of clothes.

I keep trying to remind myself that this is an experience that I will never forget. One of those experiences that I will recount to all my friends when I get back to California, when they are feeling decapitated by the rain. One of those moments that I will brag about later, telling everyone how tough I was when I camped in the bush. But the truth is I want this rain to stop--yesterday. I want the scary noises to stop. I want the machine-gun guy to stand next to someone else's tent. And even more, I want a real bathroom, cause I have to pee.

To make matters worse, I am stuck in the tent with the granola leader who has camped by her self. She's sleeping. Probably dreaming of the next bug-infested place she wants to live.

And suddenly, I start laughing.

You know when you are in an uncomfortable situation and you don't know whether to laugh or cry. And you know that crying would probably make you feel worse in that I-feel-better-because-I-just-cried-it-out-kind-of-way. But laughter is really the way to deal. Because somehow being able to laugh at a situation doesn't make it seem so bad anymore. So I do. I start cackling, like a hyena. I start whooping like a baboon. Hiccuping like a monkey. When the granola leader wakes up and says that she has to pee too. That makes me laugh even more. That makes her laugh too. Suddenly I am not scared anymore. Cause for some strange reason, laughing it out, made me realize the most important thing about camping in the bush. No matter what animal you identify with, you are merely just that--an animal. Yes, a stray water buffalo can kill me, but I can kill it back. We are all just a mere part of this big world. It only seems scarier out here, because it's darker, there are no rules, and I can't lock my door.

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