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Rupert's Safari: While on a year out, Rupert decides to try a safari experience he has heard about. He gets far more than he bargained for and wrestles with an experience that challenges some personal views.
"Mr Fisher, I understand you wish to make a complaint?" even over the telephone, the Travel Rep couldn't hide the exasperation in her voice. "Yes," Rupert Fisher explained, "I have to say that the whole experience has not lived up to my expectations." The Rep frowned, "but, from what you are telling me -- and forgive me if I've missed something -- you don't actually want to leave the village?" "That is correct," Rupert informed her. "So, you want to complain; the experience is not what you expected; and you want to carry on in the village and keep hunting?" "Yes." The Rep covered the handset and allowed herself a long sigh. She returned the mouthpiece to her face. "Perhaps you could start at the beginning, sir, and explain exactly what is at fault with this experience..." Many days before... Rupert Fisher leaned back and enjoyed the sea breeze as the boat carried him over the waters to the hunting and safari village, in which he would be spending the next leg of his year-out. The Travel Rep shifted uncomfortably on her seat and tried to complete the rest of the paperwork. Rupert had ignored her vocal concerns. Many times he had been warned by others that this safari was a very basic experience. There was much less hand-holding than on other safari tours that had been sold to his friends. That was what had convinced him that this was a unique opportunity; he also knew that those who loved it came back time and again. This was a chance to see some wild country, some rare and exotic creatures and to spend some time living out a hunter-gatherer fantasy. Perfect! As Rupert stepped onto the jetty of the village of Moga he turned to watch the boat with the Travel Rep jet away at some speed. Whatever this experience was going to be, he was definitely on his own for now. His greeting was not as he expected. Without even really knowing what future adventures lay in store he had to provide a name and basic details about how he wished to dress and appear for his time in the village. "Would sir be interested in some facial markings?" came the inquiry from a faceless village administrator, "these arrow shapes across the forehead are very popular." "Humm, I'm not sure," Rupert wavered, his middle-class sensibilities signalling an instant retreat, "those face paints look like they may have some significant cultural meaning to a particular group of... ahh... maybe ethnic cultures. I don't want to offend anybody... umm." "Please yourself," the administrator told him, "they're just face paint." The administrator shuffled away. "It doesn't matter anyway. You'll choose all these outfits and markings and then your first set of armour will completely obscure your face and clothing anyhow. Can't see why we bother..." he grumbled as he walked away. "Armour?" Rupert called after him, "what do we need armour for?" He could hear the sound of chuckling from off down the path. A little perplexed by this, Rupert entered the village proper and soon became acquainted with the many, many local people it seemed necessary to talk to before he was finally allowed to set out on his first safari; there seemed to be a lot of these people there and their jobs clearly suffered from large areas of overlap. As a management consultant, Rupert could tell at a glance that there were huge parts of the village structure that would benefit from a shake-up and rationalisation. He stopped himself: he was here to enjoy the quaint backward charms, not to civilise the locals or try and make the experience more logical or efficient. He set out on his first venture into the nearby woods. The landscape was beautiful, as expected. Grand mountains, winding paths and graceful rivers... and he caught his first sight of a creature. Monsters they called them in the brochure. Not a bit of it! This was a graceful herbivore. I looked like a dinosaur of some kind. There was a big one and two small ones grazing and moving down the valley. "That is incredible," Rupert whispered to himself. He reached about his person and realised what he'd forgotten. "Damn!" he addressed to the air, "umm I appear to have forgotten my camera. I don't suppose you have one I could use?" There was a voice that travelled with him as he ventured on the lonely safari although Rupert never saw his guide. "Attack the creature and kill it for points and resources" came the deadpan reply. "What?" Rupert was surprised, assuming he'd misheard. "No no no you misunderstand. I'm on safari -- I'm here to enjoy the wildlife and scenery." "Use your knife and kill the creature. This will give you points and items to spend on upgrading your armour and weapons and also resources to help redevelop our village." "Now see here," the young traveller told the guide, "I know you people are a bit separated from modern culture and are pretty far out of the way; but, I can tell you that the rest of the modern, thinking world has moved away from the petty savagery of safaris for the purposes of hunting for pleasure. We leave only pictures and take only footprints, I think someone said. No that's wrong, sorry! We leave only footprints and take only pictures. Or memories they said, maybe? I forget who. In any case I have to say I feel very uncomfortable about the idea of attacking this family unit of beautiful creatures!" "The village needs resources. We must rebuild after the earthquake." Rupert nodded, sympathetically. "I am very concerned about your situation, believe me. My tourist dollars will go along way toward the regeneration of this region!" He changed tack, "look, aren't there any other tasks I can undertake for the village while out here?" The advice came back, without irony. "You can forage for mushrooms, bugs, stone, iron ore, honey from nests, cut grass and herbs to make potions and gather resources for the village. You will need to make medicines to look after yourself and materials to make clothes and armour. The village will also require some resources." "Right..." Rupert responded, "I seem to be doing a lot for the village and I seem to be spending a lot of my leisure time grubbing around for random herbs and foliage when I should be on safari for animals and enjoying myself. I assume this is all really necessary?" The only reply was a thick silence. Rupert acquiesced. Eventually he did attack some local creatures, once he realised that it was not a joke and that he was really expected to spend his time running around and killing everything in sight. If my girlfriend saw this she'd be horrified, he thought to himself. One of the rumours Rupert had heard about this experience was the opportunity to hunt with other visitors. He thought it was about time he tried it for himself. "It's totally the way to do it," Tilly -- a girl he had met in Sydney airport -- had told him, "it allows you all to take on challenges far too extreme for you to handle alone. Ya, you get a real sense of achieving something big." Her words rang in his ears as he explored the huge deserted "city" for companions. He hoped it was different. Much of the hunting he had experienced largely involved hitting things indiscriminately until they fell over. The city was meant to be a hub for meeting other hunters but any attempts at communicating with other people had proved dismal. None of the other people spoke his language. Why haven't they booked me on an English-only resort? he thought to himself, I didn't have this problem in Sharm El-Sheikh. He had even attempted to write notes to attract the other visitors but the system provided for writing to other people was laughably basic and really only suitable for four or five letter communications. Not what he needed. A thought occurred to him in a flash. He remembered that a friend of his from home was supposed to be out here at the same time! He gave her a call and, sure enough, she was in the area and up for trying out some of this multi-hunter game she'd heard about. Zara turned up in good time and they were both keen to work out the best way to communicate with each other while out in the field. "Oh, are you two friends?" came the voice of one of the game reserve's administrators. "Yes" Rupert replied. "We've been friends ages." "But," the administrator pressed, " are you friends in here? You can't talk unless you make friends with each other within this city as well!" Rupert sighed, "oh all right, then. If we must... hang on what's this?" The administrator had handed them both a giant fishbowl helmet with a microphone -- for some reason -- right at the top. "This," the administrator explained, "is the Wii Speak. It's what you must use to talk to each other." "Oh! Really?" Zara sounded disappointed. "But it echoes really badly and I can't hear a word he's saying. Can't I use my Bluetooth headset? I have one, you know?" "Sorry, miss," the administrator told him, "Wii Speak only. That's the rules." Rupert and Zara decided to concede the point and headed out into the wilderness for their first joint hunt. Rupert was, understandably, excited about the new strategies this co-op approach would surely offer. They came out into a clearing and stood before a giant T-Rex-like creature. "Steven H Spielberg, that's a big monster!" Rupert exclaimed, turning to Zara. "What do we do?" he looked around but she had already gone, charging in to attack. Rupert followed her into the fray, slashing wildly with his monstrously-oversized sword. The carnage was intense, both assailants regularly hitting each other as well as the beast. "But, surely," Rupert yelled above the noise of carnage, "this is exactly the same as what I was doing on my own?!" Zara didn't reply. He looked but she had totally disappeared. After receiving a sound trashing from the creature he recovered in the main city. He gave Zara a call. "What happened to you, then?" "I don't know," she replied, "one moment I was there with you, the next minute I found myself standing back in the city, totally disconnected from you. Couldn't get back in no matter how hard I tried. I say, that's a poor show!" "That's it!" Rupert exclaimed, "I'm getting on the phone to my Travel Rep right now! This experience has been bad enough without adding service faults to the equation. I shall make a complaint..." The Travel Rep was trying to write this all down. "So Mr Fisher, you are dissatisfied with the experience?" "Well," Rupert said, "I wouldn't say disappointed. Bewildered and confused, perhaps. The hunting just feels like a continuous grind, the communication is shocking and I seem to spend a lot of my free time running around after the demands of the villagers. And don't even get me started on the locals. I swear I saw the farmer's pig wearing a pink dress..." "But, do you want to leave and get a refund, Mr Fisher?" "Well, err," Rupert thought about this carefully. What was he thinking? Was he actually considering persevering with this? "The thing is, you see, it really is a very pretty and large place." "Yes," agreed the rep. "And there are always new challenges opening up..." "Yes." "And I always get this feeling that, no matter how flawed the experience is, it's about to get better just around the next corner..." "So?" Rupert thought carefully about this for a moment. "I think I'll stay."
With so many different perspectives it can be hard to know where to start - a little like walking into a crowded pub. Sorry about that.
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