Retired Elephants

Retired Elephants

When a person thinks about animals living in South East Asia they automatically think “elephants”. This is truly the home of Asian elephants, but they are becoming increasingly rare in in the wild. On a recent visit to Cambodia, I learned that in the whole country there are now fewer than 300 wild elephants. There are another 85 elephants in captivity and historically these captive animals have been used to move logs in the forest. The indigenous Bunong people of Mondul Kiri have kept elephants for such work, but most of these elephants are now old and tired. They can no longer work and the Bunong owners don’t have the money to care for them properly. To solve this problem an organization run by expatriates has been formed to provide a retirement home for these elephants. Bunong mahouts can now bring their old elephants to this retirement home. The mahout stays with his elephant and is paid a salary for caring for his animal. This way the Bunong family who owns the elephant continues to get an income and the elephant gets to rest. The elephant retirement home is located in the forest and the retired elephants are free to wander around the jungle and feed themselves. In the afternoon they come into the base for supplementary feeding and to have a bath. Tourist can pay a hefty fee to come see the elephants at the base. They are allowed to help wash the elephants by throwing buckets of water on them. Most of these elephants were loners in their working life. But elephants are naturally social creatures and...
My Doll Becky

My Doll Becky

One of my early recollections is when my parents, George (Hap) and Betty Donner gave me a special baby doll named Becky. Becky was the size of a two-to-four-month-old baby. Becky had blue eyes with long eyelashes that closed when I laid her down. Here body was soft and stuffed with cotton. She had wooden fiber arms, legs and head. When she was in the lying position, she would cry out, “Mama!” Becky was everything a little four-year-old girl could ever want! Becky had several pieces of clothing in her hand-sewn wardrobe – a dress with pantaloons, socks with shoes and a sheer-like bonnet that matched her dress. When the weather turned cold, I dressed Becky in a wool jacket with a bunny-fur collar and a matching red wool bonnet with white bunny-fur trim. To complete her winter attire, she had a fluffy bunny-fur muff and warm leggings. Becky was so cute and I loved her dearly. She was my constant companion and playmate. I carried her everywhere on my back, just like the African children carried their little siblings. I learned later that Becky had been given to my parents as a gift for their first-born daughter from a kind lady from my dad’s church congregation before they sailed for Africa. All her clothes had been hand-sewn by this dear family friend. When the time came for my family to depart for Tanganyika Territory, my beloved dolly Becky was packed in a crate, which would accompany us on the ship. Travel space was tight with women and children on one deck and men and older boys holed up...
Playing Pretend in Tanganyika

Playing Pretend in Tanganyika

When my big brother Cal was home from boarding school, my younger sister Marlowe and I enjoyed playing ‘pretend’ in very creative ways. Being quite young when we’d left the USA for Tanganyika, our memories of America were dim at best. I recall wearing hats and carrying a small American flag, marching around our house and pretending we were part of a big parade. We strutted about in line trying to be Boy Scouts. We had no audience, just our active imaginations. We marched and saluted in our humble ‘uniforms.’ On another occasion we became royalty, wearing old sheer curtains as our flowing robes and using sticks for scepters, graced with paper stars. We wore home-made paper crowns decorated with anything that resembled gems or jewels, just like the monarchs from the British Empire. These wonderful times of simply playing make-believe transported us to realms far beyond the challenging reality of our lives as missionary kids in Tanganyika. We lived a simple life, depending daily on God’s provision, which sometimes came to the door as a bag of eggs or a ‘fresh’ jug of milk. Exchanging such necessities with our African neighbors introduced us to the kindness of the local people we had come to befriend. African children came to play and joined our happy parades. We shared and learned from each other what it meant to be true friends. My sister Marlowe and I always carried our dollies on our backs wrapped with a kanga, a small cloth, just like the African mamas. Pith helmets were a required item of dress in those days (1940s) to protect against...

Shoes from America

I remember vividly anticipating the arrival of a package from America, which was to contain five pairs of shoes for me! In those days in Tanganyika shoes were not readily available and I was growing faster than my parents could keep me in shoes. We were always required to wear shoes because of jiggers, which were prevalent in the dirt. These little bugs would “get under your skin” literally and lay their eggs inside your toes and feet! It was a major chore to dig them out and sometimes infection followed. Shoes were an absolute necessity for our protection and health. Finally the day arrived when my new shoes arrived after taking nearly three to months to come by ship from the Sears and Roebucks store. With great eagerness and enthusiasm I quickly tore the box open. Immediately my eyes were drawn to a pair of shiny black beautiful sandals. Like Cinderella’s sisters, I pushed and pulled and tried my best to squeeze my growing foot into these beautiful shoes but to no avail. I tried another pair. To my despair, they were ALL too small! After unsuccessfully pushing and prodding in vain, I was forced to give all my new beautiful patent leather shoes to my younger sister. This was such a sad day for me as my great anticipation for new shoes ended in deep disappointment. I don’t recall what my parents did to provide me with shoes. Perhaps they found a fundi shoemaker at the Indian shops to make me some shoes. When I think back on that experience with disappointment, I realize how many times...

Castor Oil – Ugh!

One of my most unpleasant experiences as a youngster growing up in Tanganyika Territory was having to swallow terrible tasting medicines for various diseases or illnesses! Having to swallow bitter quinine daily against malaria was bad enough but when worms took up residence in our bodies, we had to swallow a tablespoon of castor oil. This horrible oily stuff made us gag every time! It became so bad that each night my dad would lay us across his lap, holding our nose until we gasped for air. Then mom would shove the wretched medicine down our open mouths. I can still taste the vile stuff today, it was SO bad tasting! Being good kids we really tried to be good and ‘vowed’ each night that tonight, we would be good and take the dawa like good children. BUT invariably, when that time came following our supper, we ended up going through the same awful antics hoping that just maybe one time our parents would relent. But they never did. Poor mom and dad. I think it was as hard on them as it was on us. Bless them for trying to be good and caring parents even when it was tough! We also had to wear pith helmets daily and would get spanked if we went outside without them. In those days they were required on the assumption that they would prevent sunstroke. I think they did help some, though they went out of fashion decades...
Huge Hippos

Huge Hippos

It was in an early morning call of desperation. “Bwana, kiboko iko ndani ya shamba! Saidia!” Here’s a loose translation. Mr missionary, please come down to the lake as the hippos have been eating in our gardens and have destroyed our crops! My dad, Oliver Donner, was not an avid hunte, but when there was a need to assist someone in a plight, he was willing to help. Quickly he gathered up his rifle and walked to the lake with the distraught villagers to view the damage. In the cool of the night hours, the huge hippos from Lake Victoria would come ashore to find grazing to sustain their huge bulk. The vegetable gardens or shambas of the local people were ripe and ready for the eating! With large gaping mouths and heavy footprints, hippos always demanded their right of way. Back in the 1940s, most villagers planted special crops by the lake where the water was easily accessed for their plants. Invariably, just as soon as something became ready for picking, the hippos would arrive and devour everything in sight. Large 3 toed footprints would be deeply imprinted on the muddy ground wherever they chose to meander in their feeding frenzy escapades. Brandishing BIG canine teeth and bulbous bodies, hippos are renowned for their short tempers and are best avoided. I was not present when my dear father followed the desperate villagers to the water’s edge but he entered into a dugout canoe to go hippo hunting! The guilty marauder was still lingering nearby, instilling fear in the neighbors. In Africa, the hippo is known for killing more...