Jul 1, 2006

LIVINGSTONE, Zambia –  The guide dumps vodka into my Coke. "Try not to think about it," she soothes.

"But I was an idiot," I moan. "I'm a travel writer. I should know better."

She flashes a stern, maternal glance. "You can't let this ruin your trip."

"I know, I know. I just need to brood a bit."

"Vodka always helps," she laughs.


Sulking out the window, I spot a giraffe. A pale white giraffe – my first au natural – gawks and nibbles through the roadside scrub. Whoa. That's why I'm here. Africa and Animals are the point, not earning my Savvy Traveler Merit Badge.

"You know," I turn to Bill, a retired theater professor. "Maybe the thief really needed that money, much more than I did. Maybe her child is sick and my birthday cash will pay for critical medicine."

"Now Amanda, you're a very nice person. But you need to consider all the angles," he replies. "Maybe she's an addict and it'll push her into an overdose."

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