11 December 2018

African Monkey Business

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Once, when I was working for Pan Am in Liberia, in the west of Africa, 
we lost a monkey in an airplane.

Staff party at the Director's house. Pan Am Robertsfield team. My boss, Mr. Kassimu, bottom left.
Hassan next to me, and King next to Kassimu. Catering chef in white.


We found the cage. 
It was empty. 
We took that plane apart - but - never found the monkey.


Between searches for missing monkeys. 

For years afterwards, if things went wrong at the airfield, we blamed it on that missing monkey:

"Missing supplies? Probably that monkey." 
"No radio contact? Monkey probably ate through the wires."  

The monkey was easy to blame. 
Everyone saved face.


There was a small zoo in Monrovia, the capital and main city of Liberia. 
There were pygmy hippos, snakes, ant bears, parrots - and 3 mischievous chimps. 

Pygmy hippos are awfully cute. Young ones about knee-high!

One day, one of the chimps got out of his cage. 
He began running through the small zoo, opening cages and letting the other animals out. 

He was all excited, having a great ol' time.

You can see the chimp, up on the top of the cage.

As the chimp approached the leopard cage, we all held our breath. 
But chimps aren't stupid. 
He didn't open THAT cage. 

Instead, he jumped up on the top of the enclosure. 
He just - walked around, driving the leopard inside crazy. 




These days, those episodes come to mind. 
Sometimes, things are just not entirely within our control. 

Once we understand that - it makes things easier.

Drawn by Erik Rempen

How to deal with a virus? 
Lockdowns? Schools closed? 
What about visits to old people? 
Mental health issues? 
Travel restrictions? 


Chiles are used in India to ward off djinns - wonder if they work on a virus?


Sometimes there aren't any real good answers.


Analog tools. Good for lockdowns. 

Our job right now? 
Staying in good spirits for those around us. 

And - the third African monkey story: 

We were sailing our small catamaran 
(possibly the ONLY catamaran in the entire country of Liberia at the time) 
in a lagoon near a place called Monkey Island. 

So involved, we didn't realize we were standing amid dozens of sting rays.


We were watching the flocks of birds - and underfoot, flocks of sting rays. 
On one pass, sailing near the island, the boat got stuck on a sand bar. 
Stopped. 

The chimps - big ones this time - began to wade into the water and head for our boat. 

VERY scary. Yikes. 

Dealing with monkeys - is ALWAYS trouble. 
You never know WHAT they'll do.

Kind of like djinns. 
Maybe - a virus, too.


When dealing with monkeys - or viruses -  the best response: A small glass of French wine. Maybe two.

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