The man, who spoke no English, looked toward the trees. He raised his hand-carved bow, pulling back the string made of an antelope’s tendon.
I held my breath. The nine other students with me did the same.
The man kept his arms steady, then in a flash, released the arrow. A puff of multi-colored feathers exploded from the tree and he raced to catch the falling caucus.
While the students surrounding me chattered with excitement and pushed forward to get a picture, I stood in my place. I didn’t know what to think: I’d just seen an animal die.
I’ve been a vegetarian for 12 years. I grew up tucked in a dense community of suburbs next to the city of Detroit, miles and miles away from the closet farm or ranch. Once I moved to Montana, I heard discussions of hunting, but I’d never been closer. And there I was, thousands of miles away in Tanzania, as close as you could get.
The man, and the rest of my group, moved forward. I walked along, secretly hoping he wouldn’t find a bigger animal to kill. But, at the same time, I leaned forward and kept an eye on his every movement.
This man was hunting to feed his tribe. Without the animals he caught, he would starve along with his brothers and sisters, wives and children. This was how he lived, and he generously let us see a peak.
I wasn’t entirely comfortable while we walked around the African bush, the man shooting a handful of more birds, but I wasn’t uncomfortable either. These people were different from me, yet they recognized from birth what I was only starting to uncover: humans are a part of nature, we’re animals like giraffes, elephants and lions, even birds.
I couldn’t watch as they plucked the bird and pulled off it’s skin, grilling the meat over their fire. I was happy when we left their village – littered with skulls, skins and drops of blood. But I look back to that experience more than any other, seeing it as an example of what our whole trip represented.
We are all different. But when it comes down to it, we’re very much the same.