Note to Readers:
Time will pass quickly in this storyline. Most of the places and experiences are from my imagination and may not be possible in real life. For example, it takes much longer to receive a veterinary degree. For the purposes of my story, it won’t take as long for Shawn. I hope you enjoy reading it! 🙂
Thanks to the work experience he had gained in high school working part-time at a vet’s office in Santa Fe, Shawn had been accepted into the special training program at the Makalali game reserve in Africa. Shawn’s first two years of training took place in the classroom and participating in mock clinics.
After that, he and a few other top students in the program were invited to do an internship at the Dzanga-Sangha Special Reserve in the Central African Republic. Now they were going out in the field daily to examine and treat wildlife.
One of the first things Shawn was taught in training for the internship is how to handle firearms. Poachers in the game reserve were a serious problem. Although Shawn was not a game warden, he would be working closely with the wardens. He had become good friends with several of them and with most of the other interns.
However, there was one intern who seemed to really dislike Shawn. Kasim felt that the internships should have been extended to other Africans and not foreigners. Kasim took great pride in his country and countrymen. He’d informed Shawn and the other foreigner of his feelings not long after they met. The interns were participants from various African veterinarian programs and most of them were citizens from African cities and towns.
Shawn was American, and Dieudonne was French. Kasim had tried and failed to get the other African interns to ostracize Shawn and Dieudonne. It didn’t matter that Dieudonne was not caucasian. Dieudonne was not born in Africa and neither was Shawn. In addition, the fact that Shawn and Dieudonne seemed to be excelling in their duties, rankled Kasim.
Today they were out in the field with a downed leopard. The game wardens had been able to isolate it from the other leopards but were afraid that sedation would cause it more harm. The vet interns were working without supervision from instructors now and conferring to determine the best way to approach the leopard without endangering themselves.
Shawn noticed that Kasim wasn’t with them. He was shocked to see Kasim moving toward the leopard. He was speaking with the leopard softly, but Shawn didn’t understand the words. Shawn was amazed when Kasim knelt down beside the leopard, and the leopard allowed Kasim to examine him without sedation!
All of his life Shawn had been told that he had a special way with animals, but Kasim had taken “special” to a new level. Shawn wanted to learn Kasim’s secret and wished that they had a better relationship. Kasim had earned Shawn’s professional respect.
When they returned to the interns quarters, their evening meal was waiting for them. As usual, Kasim selected a table away from the westerners. After getting his food, Shawn purposely walked over to Kasim’s table and took a seat. The other interns glanced over at them curiously.
“The program selection committee clearly believes that all of us will benefit from this program and take what we’ve learned home to use in our respective countries and towns. You see, they know that we all have something in common. We all love animals, and we want to give the animals in our care the best treatments possible. We don’t have to like each other to respect one another or to work well together.”
Shawn paused to let his words sink in. Then he continued speaking.
“You’re right. I do want something from you. I want you to teach me how to help an animal relax without sedation. We’re not in a a competition. We’re here to learn and to help in any way that we can.”
Kasim didn’t respond. He started eating his meal again. Shawn didn’t push it. He felt that he had made his point and given Kasim something to think over. After dinner, Kasim invited one of the other interns out for a walk. Shawn had noticed Kasim’s interest in Chioma. Chioma declined Kasim’s invitation once again.
The interns arrived at the treatment center early each morning. Shawn was pleased the following morning when Kasim asked Shawn to partner with him to treat a zebra that the game wardens had transported to the clinic. The other interns watched silently.
Kasim slowly approached the zebra. Miraculously, the zebra calmly allowed Kasim to examine it just as the leopard had done on the previous day. Kasim quietly motioned for Shawn to approach. Shawn slowly came close, and the zebra allowed Shawn to treat it as well. As other interns moved towards it, the zebra became agitated and had to be sedated.
“You passed the test.”
“Yes. The gift is not something that can be taught. Either you have it, or you do not. However, you can be taught how to use it. My grandfather taught me how to use it. The secret is that you must be fearless and calm. That enables the animal to in turn trust you and remain calm. However, not every animal will be approachable. Over the years, I have learned to read an animal’s aura.
“My grandfather says that the “geskenk” is rare and special, granted to very few. I have never heard of a westerner possessing the geskenk. However, you appear to have a small measure of it as well. I must call my grandfather and tell him! I know that he shall want to meet you. Although my home is now in Bayanga, I regularly travel to visit my family. Perhaps you can accompany me to my grandfather’s village this weekend.”
The upcoming weekend was the first that the interns would be free of their duties. They would return to work the following Monday morning. Dieudonne and Shawn had planned to remain on-site. Without hesitation, Shawn accepted Kasim’s offer. He instinctively realized that this would be a once in a lifetime experience for him, and he saw the genuine change in Kasim’s perspective of none natives. Later the interns were sitting around talking about their day and upcoming free weekend when Chioma invited Kasim out for a walk. Kasim eagerly accepted and they went off together.
The three hour drive was through breathtaking scenery. When they arrived at Kasim’s parent’s village, they drove up to a hut. Kasim’s family rushed outside to greet them. They knew Chioma and were pleased to see her as well. Then Kasim introduced Shawn. They all welcomed him too.
“So you are Shawn.”
Jabir was Kasim’s grandfather, and he stared penetratingly into Shawn’s eyes. Shawn had never really believed in mysticism, but after Cara sensing when Shawn had been stabbed, his mind was more open. After staring steadily for a few moments, Jabir seemed to come to a decision. He smiled at Shawn.
“Kasim is correct. You do have the “geskenk. It is not as strong as it is in I and in Kasim. However, I can aide you in learning to use it.”
Shawn spent most of his time that weekend with Jabir. He felt very humble realizing that secular education was beneficial, but it did not outweigh the wisdom passed down from generation to generation. He made plans with Jabir and Kasim to return during their remaining free weekends until the end of the intern program when he would be returning home to America.
Kasim and Chioma seemed to become closer during the following weeks, and it made Shawn think about his own romantic situation. During his last conversation with his mother, Alissa had asked him if he’d met anyone special yet. He’d told her that he hadn’t. That was true. He just didn’t seem to bond with anyone. Many of the girls he’d met over the last few years were intelligent and attractive. He’d gone out on a few dates, but nothing lasted.
Besides, his main focus had been on gaining the skills that he needed in order to be a success in his career. Now he was technically a vet, and soon he would be returning home. He’d have his veterinary science degree and that made him very proud.
From the time that they were children, he and Fae Mayburn had planned to open a veterinary clinic together. They still kept in touch and Skyped from time to time. Two years before, Fae had told him about a great guy that she had met, and now Fae and Martin were engaged. Fae had sent Shawn a wedding invitation and asked him to be one of Martin’s groomsmen. Shawn had agreed and was looking forward to seeing Fae again. His family was also going to be at the wedding, and Cara was supposed to be one of Fae’s bridesmaids.
For some reason it had become difficult to remain in regular contact with Cara. She seldom returned his calls or answered messages. She didn’t go home to Santa Fe during any more school breaks. He’d have to make a special trip to see her after he left Africa.
He remembered the day the year before when he’d experienced a strong feeling that something was seriously wrong with Cara. He’d called her over and over again without any response. When he still couldn’t reach her, he’d called her former roommate to go check on her and had been on the verge of booking a flight to go there when Cara returned his call. She’d told him that she’d been busy, but there was nothing wrong. She assured him that she was fine and told him that there was no need for him to miss his classes and fly there to see her for nothing. So he had stayed in Africa, but he was still concerned about her.
“Well, I can’t wait to see you! Okay. I’ll see you at Faye’s wedding.” He spoke with her for a while longer. Then he sat there stunned after the call was over.
I’ve already finished most of the pictures for the next chapter too! I’m finally ahead of schedule again. I’m going out of town this weekend, but I’ll be finishing the next chapter on Monday. So there will be another chapter posted next week! Thank you so much for continuing to read the story and for all of the encouragement that you’ve given me over the years that I’ve been writing Alissa. ❤