#TBT — Kenya, 1989

Dear Ones –

Here I am with a friend in Africa, in 1989. I was twenty years old. I had saved my money for two years to go on this trip to Kenya for a month, where I worked on a wild game refuge, studying the habits of scavenging birds.

That's where I met this cheetah, who had been discovered as a baby (its mother killed by poachers) and who had adopted the human family who owned the game ranch.

The cheetah's name was Duma, and he was absolutely lovely. Cheetahs tend not to be very aggressive, because they basically have no predators and no serious competitors. (If they don't like a situation, trust me, they can just LEAVE…really fast. And if another animal takes their kill, they can just go catch another one. Must be nice, being the fastest animal in the world. Makes for a relaxed life.)

What I remember about this moment was that I had just gotten the courage to pet Duma, and he had just started purring, and it had scared the shit out of me. (A cheetah's purr sounds alarmingly like a growl.) But all he wanted was more petting. Pretty soon he was rubbing his head against me, like a domesticated tabby. It was one of the great encounters of my life.

Years later, I discovered that the owners of the ranch had written this book about Duma:


My cheetah friend — like me — had gotten into publishing!

It's a small and wonderful world.


via Elizabeth Gilbert’s Facebook Wall