4) Camel Tales © etva
Life Lessons from etva: Riding a camel is NOT the same as riding a horse!
While driving on a lonely desert highway in Kazakhstan, my colleagues and I came across a nomadic tribe of camel herders. We stopped to let the beasts cross the road, and struck up a conversation of hand gestures with some of the elders during the wait. One thing led to another, and before we knew it, we found ourselves at their camp.
As honored guests (who spoke maybe 5 words of Kazakh) we were served a variety of delicacies, and those alone would make a good story, but at the time, we didn't have a clue what we were eating or drinking, and it would have been rude to decline.
Which is how I came to be drinking camel's milk…
Now for those of you not schooled in the intricacies of foreign languages, allow me to point out an important detail – one that I failed to notice on that day. There is "milk from camel" and there is "camel's milk." They aren't the same thing! "Milk from camel" is good for Kazakh children; Camel's milk is good for tribal leaders after long days in the desert. Suffice it to say, that I was soon in rare form.
I'd like to blame my colleagues for what happened next, but the truth is, they were passed out in the Yurt, which should have been a big hint that I was in no condition to be making decisions, but I was oblivious (literally!)
Somehow, I came to the completely erroneous conclusion, that riding a camel would be similar to riding a horse. In fact, I was so sure I could do it, that I agreed to a race.
Within minutes, I was standing beside a camel, but I couldn't figure out how to mount it. It had a saddle of sorts, which was positioned on top of the humps – much to my surprise, and way out of my reach. It had stirrups, but they were way too high up for me to put my foot in.
The Kazakhs were all laughing hysterically, but eventually several men came over to help me. So now I'm mounted on a camel, looking down at its head. They handed me a rope (reins) a whip, and a knife.
I looked over at my opponent, who was already mounted with reins, whip, and a big freaking curved sword.
Holy Camel Crap!
Sanity started to return, but just then, somebody yelled something, and my camel took off.
I lost the reins; I lost the whip; I lost the camel, and oh yeah, I lost the race – all 14 seconds of it!
But I held on to that knife, which seemed to be a noteworthy achievement, because the Kazakhs all rushed over, plucked me up off the ground, and congratulated me.
I don't remember much after that, but apparently, when we didn't show up at work, our boss sent people looking for us, including an official translator, who gleefully filled me in on the little details I hadn't comprehended, like what we ate and drank, and how I had accepted a tribal challenge (not a race) and was now officially a member of the tribe, because I hadn't dropped my weapon!
As a final footnote, the tribe dubbed me the American Earth Pig (see my avatar) – a compliment, as Earth Pigs are traditionally considered a spiritual guide between realms (or in this case, cultures.)