My little buddy
This cute little guy is William. I first met him on my second day at the village. I would go out in the evenings and try to find birds that I could photograph. When I had been out for about an hour, I noticed William off a short distance away from me watching me and trying to find out what I was taking pictures of. I turned and smiled at him and waved to him. Like most small African children in the village, they would get shy and hide when the "mzungu" (white people) would wave at them. I went back to taking pictures and watched him out of the corner of my eye. He slowly crept back and inched closer to me. I stopped taking pictures and waved him towards me and showed him the screen on my camera. This usually got the kids excited because they really liked my camera and liked to see pictures on it.
William ran over to me and I showed him pictures of the birds on it. I had just got there in Tanzania two days prior and I didn't know any Swahili or Maasai yet, so I tried the next best thing to communicate. I played a little game of charades and flapped my arms like a bird and said "tweet tweet" and pointed up at the tree towards where the birds where that I was taking pictures. He pointed to the bird on my camera and said "ndege", which is the Swahili word for bird. Then he ran off to one of the nearest trees and looked up and said "ndege" and pointed out a bird for me to get some pictures of.
We spent the next hour or so hunting for birds until the sun went down. We made our way back to where the mzungus slept and I said bye to him and he left for the night. The next day around the same time I started taking pictures, William was waiting for me. He got a big smile on his face when he saw me coming with my camera. He ran up to me and asked "ndege?". I nodded to him and he ran off in from of me and began looking for birds for. Every time he found one he would get so excited and then after I got some pictures of them, we would go through the pictures together.
There really wasn't that many species of birds around the village, so we decided to look for other things to take pictures of. We were near the gathering area for celebration for the village when William got a big smile on his face and said "nyuki". I didn't know what that meant so he brought me to a tree and I quickly learned what it was. In Africa, you don't call them African Killer Bees, they are just called bees.
This bee cluster was massive. It was probably the size of two basketballs. I didn't want to get close to this thing at all, so I took this picture with my 600mm lens. There are a lot of things in Africa that can kill you and I didn't want to mess with the bees. You can see in the background of the image, even the twigs on trees are trying to kill you because all of them have thorns like that and they are about 2-3 inches long and they can go through the rubber of some shoes, I learned that the hard way.
- Quick side story about those sticks and thorns. Some of the Maasai tribes that live off the land way out in the bush near the Serengeti use those branches and plant bushes with those thorns as a barrier around their homes and village as a wall to protect themselves against the animals. The walls can be like 6 feet tall.
Willam and I went on many wildlife photography expeditions while I was staying there in the village. He would wait faithfully for me every night and would always get so excited when he saw me coming with my backpack. There was a week that I had to leave the village and go to a clinic to work in in another town, but when I came back for the last few days, William and I went back to our expeditions.
On the last days before we left all of us in the group that went over there were sharing about what our best memories were of the trip and I had shared the story of William and our adventures. One of the owners of the organization that has been coming to Africa for years and knows all of the people in the village very well told me that William was a very special boy and that he gets picked on by all of the other kids in the village and that he was really happy that he and I had been able to spend so much time together.
The day we were leaving the village to come home, we all piled into the small dala dala (minibus taxis, very cramped and uncomfortable) and it started to pull away. William walked around the corner and I opened the window and yelled his name and waved to him. He got a big toothless smile on his face and waved back to me. The whole bumpy ride down the dirt road out of the village I was trying to keep it together, but I wasn't able to. My little bird hunting buddy will always have a special place in my heart.