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Monday, July 27, 2020

Stories in Place: Bill & Debbie

(This pandemic has put a cramp in our camp, so I thought I'd start a series of short stories from our travels. You know, those kinds of stories that go around the campfire after a day of exploring, and may get repeated more than once over the years. I hope you enjoy them as much as we enjoy telling them. Pull up a camp chair and grab a beverage. Let's Story in Place together.)

The first time it happened, it was kind of funny.

"Bill! Debbie! So nice to see you again!"

A huge safari guide trotted over and embraced me in a giant bear hug, lifting me off my feet. "What are you two doing back here? I thought you were on your way to Serengeti!"

Mark and I exchanged looks of confusion. "We just got here this afternoon."

"No! Don't be kidders. Why have you come back?"

"We were in Tarangire this morning, and drove up today. We plan to see the crater tomorrow. I think you might be thinking of someone else?"

Now the confusion was on the guide's face. He shrugged his shoulders and laughed. "Well, welcome then. How are you liking Tanzania?"

That was our second day of camping on our own in Africa. 

Our next stop in Serengeti was a picnic area at the entrance of the park. We were gathering our paperwork to check in and pay our fees when another guide pulled up next to us and smiled in that familiar way of distant friends meeting again. "Bill! I can't believe we are seeing each other again so soon!" He shook Mark's hand through the open window and smiled across to me. "And Debbie, you look well!"

Almost every stop we made, we were "recognized" and greeted warmly by the wrong names. We decided it was a lucky thing that Bill and Debbie were so highly regarded. Imagine if they had been jerks? We stopped correcting people after awhile and just went with it. Why not? How could we possibly measure up to this mysterious other couple? Would they think so highly of us if we told them our real names? Or would they shake their heads and mutter in disgust about how this Mark and Kelly would never hold a candle to Bill and Debbie. Might as well take advantage of the goodwill and jovial conversation.

When we returned to Shaw Safari headquarters at Twiga Lodge two weeks later, we told the story of being mistaken for Bill and Debbie at every turn. The owner Paul Sweet laughed and explained "Bill and Debbie went on the same circuit you did and were ahead of you by a week. You must have run into some of the same guides they did along the way." Apparently it's hard to tell white people apart, especially when we travel in pairs in yellow Land Rovers. 

Someday, we'd like to run into the real Bill & Debbie. From what we've heard, they're a real kick in the pants.