the smell of my desperation has become a stench

A baby African antelope

In between visits to clinics and schools our group in Tanzania got to spend some time in the bush with a team of people well-versed in showcasing the land and wildlife. Last year one of the safari guides named Alan saved an orphaned impala from two jackals, and when he was recounting how it all happened I kept shaking my head insistent that he was joking about the whole thing. Because I got the word jackal mixed up with hyena in my head, and from what I have learned through years of watching National Geographic Specials, one does not to want to fuck with a hyena. Cheetahs run away from hyenas. Those hyenas would have seen Alan coming, dropped the orphaned impala, and run straight for him thinking, “We are going to eat like kings for weeks.”

Turns out he was telling the truth. Jackals are a bit smaller and less lethal.

This is that orphaned impala:


Alan had not given him a name, so we immediately started calling him Obama. Barack is a household name in Tanzania. In fact, we met several children under the age of five named Obama. A girl we met at a school asked if we knew Obama since we were from America. This also happened:

Obama sleeps at Alan’s feet, so I asked him what he was going to do when Obama got too big or boisterous for that. He and some of the other guides who were overhearing this conversation all stared at me blankly as if the most stupid question had just come out of my face.

“I doubt he will ever get too big,” Alan responded.

“Wait.. what?” I asked because I did take AP Biology in high school.

The head safari guide George (HI GEORGE I KNOW I SAID I WOULDN’T BLOG ABUOT YOU OOPS) clarified things, “Nature will most likely take over, Heather.”

“No, no, no, no, no—”

“Yes, that is what happens in the wild,” he interrupted.

“But isn’t there, like, some animal sanctuary where you could send him? There has to be an animal sanctuary. TELL ME THERE IS AN ANIMAL SANCTUARY.” You could say that Marlo comes by her love of animals naturally.

Alan turned to George and piped up. “Did she really just say that?”

I’m certain these guides see things on a regular basis—wild things, natural things—that demonstrate in vivid detail the circle of life and must accept it for what it is. And I realized that my sentimentality was a little misplaced.

But dammit, look at that baby impala who let us pet its head and begged for scraps of our meals like Chuck and Coco always do. May Obama live to an age where Alan really does have to consider what he’s going to do because his horns keep poking holes in his mattress.

  • Sara Haugen

    2015/03/25 at 10:57 am


  • TinaBelchersawkwardmoan

    2015/03/25 at 10:59 am

    No, adorable little Obama will live to be very old and have tons and tons of babies, Alan.

  • Kristan

    2015/03/25 at 11:37 am

    Sorry, I know I’m a bit dense, but why did he bother to save Obama from the jackals if he’s just going to let nature take its course later…?

    (Note: I’m asking completely judgment-free. I did a safari in Botswana, I watched a kill, I totally get and respect the circle of life.)

  • Heather Armstrong

    2015/03/25 at 11:58 am

    I think because it was happening right outside his window and his heart took over his brain.

  • Kristan

    2015/03/25 at 2:14 pm

    Ah OK, fair enough! Goodness knows that’s happened to me countless times. 😛

    (Though not with jackals and baby antelope specifically!)

  • Guest

    2015/03/25 at 5:46 pm

    I had the same question. And the answer does make perfect sense.

  • Kara Perkins

    2015/03/25 at 5:46 pm

    I had this same question – makes sense.

  • Ali

    2015/03/25 at 6:27 pm

    Fortunately, you have surely ran off all your republicans readers by now. If not, I surely expect tomorrows Fox News headline to be “Obama is trying to rename America to obamaland. Ted Cruz vows to fight this from Canada.”

  • Katybeth

    2015/03/25 at 6:38 pm

    Absolutely! And Obama will live to be the oldest living Antelope in the whole, entire world and National Geographic will come out and take pictures of him along side his life saving humans. Clap your hands and believe.

  • Michelle Wagner Moore

    2015/03/25 at 7:14 pm

    I was watching some wildlife program and was so relieved when the antelope got away from the cheetah…until the narrator explained that the cheetah cubs would now probably starve to death because mama didn’t provide the meal. Sigh. I get how the circle of life works, but as an animal lover it’s hard to deal with the reality of it.

  • Rachel @ Slim Life

    2015/03/25 at 11:26 pm

    Adorable Obama! 🙂 I wish I could have him or something like him here at home. Keep us updated with him any time and we’ll be happy 🙂

  • Karen

    2015/03/26 at 12:01 pm

    Just to clarify…in the first paragraph…one does NOT want to f with a hyena (based on your viewing of National Geographic Specials)? Love your blog, Heather.

Heather B. Armstrong

Hi. I’m Heather B. Armstrong, and this used to be called mommy blogging. But then they started calling it Influencer Marketing: hashtag ad, hashtag sponsored, hashtag you know you want me to slap your product on my kid and exploit her for millions and millions of dollars. That’s how this shit works. Now? Well… sit back, buckle up, and enjoy the ride.

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