Chapter no 95


I WAS TURNING TWENTYFIVE in a few days, and it felt like more than just another birthday. Mates told me twenty-five was the Watershed Age, the moment when many young men and women come to a fork in their personal road. At twenty-five you take a concrete step forward…or else begin to slide backwards. I was ready to move forward. I felt, in many ways, that I’d

been bag-flying for years.

I reminded myself that it ran in the family, that twenty-five had been a big year for many of us. Granny, to name one. At twenty-five she’d become the sixty-first monarch in the history of England.

So I decided to mark this milestone birthday with a trip. Botswana again.

The whole gang was there, and in between cake and cocktails they said how different I seemed—again. I had seemed older, harder, after my first combat tour. But now, they said, I seemed more…grounded.

Odd, I thought. Through flight training…I’ve become more grounded?

No one gave me more praise or love than Teej and Mike. Late one night, however, Mike sat me down for a somber heart-to-heart. At their kitchen table he spoke at length about my relationship with Africa. The time’s come, he said, for that relationship to change. Until then the relationship had been all take, take, take—a fairly typical dynamic for Brits in Africa. But now I needed to give back. For years I’d heard him and Teej and others lamenting the crises facing this place. Climate change. Poaching. Drought. Fires. I was the only person they knew who had any kind of influence, any

kind of global megaphone—the only person who might actually be able to do something.

What can I do, Mike? Shine a light.

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