Wild Life

No, this blog will not feature tales of acts of debauchery from my youth, or others for that matter. I’ll wait for all my dirty little secrets – what few of them there are – to get exposed when I run for political office someday. And I’m not about to write some sort of sensational, TMZ-type blog about any of my friends.

There is plenty to write about, though, when it comes to my mom. She has lived a truly interesting life, and continues to do so.

From spending several days in an Outward Bound program that found her at one point camping solo in minus-30-degree temperatures along the Minnesota-Canada border, to traveling to Sarajevo in the midst of political unrest to help assist in elections, to hiking virtually all of the notable Adirondack Mountains … my mom, Jude Nordhoff, hasn’t shied away from a bit of adventure.

Her biggest adventure came back in the mid-’90s. At a professional crossroads – she had received her master’s months earlier from the University of Wyoming (she moved from New York to Laramie temporarily; she’d always wanted to spend time in that part of the country) but was unable to secure a suitable job – she opted to join the Peace Corps. She was accepted, and was ultimately designated to spend a two-year stint in Botswana.

My mom celebrated her 50th birthday while living in that African nation, where she worked for the country’s Department of National Parks and Wildlife. It was a dream job for a person who grew up not being able to get enough of the zoo in her hometown of Buffalo, N.Y. She spent much of her time in Botswana literally on safari, something many of us can only dream about. There’s no doubt it was a life-changing experience for her, and one of my few regrets in life is not finding a way to go visit her and share in that experience.

My mom can tell many stories about her time in Botswana, and at some point I’d love for her to try and write a travel book about her adventures – something in the humorous style of Bill Bryson, Ian Frazier or Peter Hessler (portions of his new book, "Country Driving: A Journey Through China from Farm to Factory," contain some of the most hilarious passages I’ve read in the last year). But in the event that she doesn’t, there’s at least one place where anyone – though the magic of the Internet – can get a small sense of her African experience.

A couple of weeks ago, Mom appeared on a College of St. Rose radio program called "World Traveler," where she was interviewed for a little less than 30 minutes about her time in Botswana. It was finally posted online a couple of days ago, and I was able to listen to it for the first time last night. The audio was a bit choppy in spots, but listeners should be able to ascertain most of the program while getting an idea of a country they probably know little or nothing about. Still, it’s not the same as being there … and that’s something my mom – who is planning her latest adventure, some solo hiking around the Durango, Colo., area next month – can take plenty of pride in.