Facing off with the Fauna

After a 38-year career at the United Nations, Jane Weidlund ’46 wrote a memoir of her international travels. In the book, Weidlund details the cultures and customs she encountered, the people she met, and the adventures she had.

By Jane Weidlund ’46

A unique experience was a visit to the world-renowned Treetops Hotel in Kenya, where rustic quarters are accessed by ladder. The outdoor deck, from which one can view animals coming to drink at the watering hole in the middle of the night, makes for an exotic, exciting, and memorable trip. I was particularly amused by the awkward but practical stance of the giraffes as they folded their knees so that they could drink. Elephants simply lowered their trunks, and sometimes took the occasion to shower.

Illustration by Tallulah Fountaine

Outside the game parks, from the comfort of a hotel, I almost never saw any animals or bugs. But, once, I had returned from work one afternoon and tossed my purse on my bed, spilling a number of coins. I came back to my apartment that night and went to pick up the coins that had fallen earlier. I reached for one and I realized in horror…that it was a scorpion. The only weapon I had at my disposal was a fly swatter, but I hit with such force that the tail broke loose. I telephoned a colleague.

“Tom,” I shouted, “There’s a scorpion in my bed!”

“What’s his name?”

“Oh, Tom. Do scorpions travel in pairs?”

“No, usually in fours or fives.”

I thought he was going to be of little assistance, but he did come to my apartment and generally upend all the furniture. Not another scorpion was found, but I slept on an upright chair in the middle of the living room.

On another occasion, I was parking my car in front of my apartment building…. I turned off the ignition and…heard a most peculiar scratching noise coming from the stairs. I was curious, but somewhat apprehensive because it was already dark. I turned on the headlights and witnessed…two very large crabs trying fruitlessly to climb the stairs. I managed to put one foot over the two occupied steps and swing my body up to the next, avoiding them—not serious, just surprising.

Also surprising was a sight that welcomed me to Africa on my second day. I was engrossed in the stories of an American who had been living for some years in Africa. She was telling me all about conditions in Tanganyika (now Tanzania) and how to live in its very humid climate. Suddenly, I saw a small creature scooting out from under the painting above her head. It was a happy little thing, about three inches long, and looked as if it might be cousin to a lizard. I kept still and it returned to its hiding spot behind the painting. Then it came out again, at which point I shrieked, “Stella! There’s something behind you that might drop onto your head! What is it?” “Oh,” she responded nonchalantly. “It’s just a gecko.” •

Latest IssueSpring 2023