October 22, 2013
By Christina Corrales-Toy
Issaquah author recounts her life on the sub continent
Issaquah resident Roberta Scholdan holds a special affinity for the African continent, a place with an endless supply of her interests in wildlife, ancient civilizations and archaeology.
She called Kenya home for seven years, beginning in 1990, and during that time she came face-to-face with elephants, experienced the fear of getting stalked by a pride of aggressive lions and met a culture of people that to this day, holds a special place in her heart.
Scholdan’s book “Echoes of my African Heart” tells the story of her 12-year odyssey on the continent, including her travels to 11 countries. After returning to the United States from her seven-year African residency, she would go on to return to the continent for visits for the next five years.
“I really try to give a general feel of how I see Africa and its people and wildlife,” Scholdan said. “It’s colored by my interests, but I hope it gives a good sense of how special the continent really is.”
Scholdan, 89, first visited Africa during a 1989 vacation. She fell in love with the environment, and a year later decided to relocate to Kenya.
“I was actually 65 when I moved to Kenya by myself,” she said. “It was at a time in my life when I had the capability to do so, since I was just going to retire.”
The book includes memories from about 18 safaris Scholdan went on, but one, her encounter with a pride of lions at Kenya’s Tsavo National Park, stands out from the rest.
The park is home to a distinct variety of lions, known as maneless lions. The male lions do not have the vibrant head of hair that most do. Tsavo males are usually bigger than regular ones, and are generally more aggressive.
During one safari, Scholdan’s land cruiser caught the eye of one of the male lions. She remembers the lion standing up against the grill of the car and rocking back and forth.
Moments later, the car was surrounded by eight lionesses. It was unusual for the pride to stalk a vehicle, but as Scholdan described it, it was nighttime, during what she calls the “dinner hour.”
“They were very interested in what we were, and they knew we weren’t just metal parts,” Scholdan said with a laugh.
Scholdan’s tour group emerged unscathed from the incident after the pride dispersed, but it wasn’t her only animal encounter.
During a separate incident, a baboon decided it wanted a ride, jumping into a passenger seat of a car Scholdan occupied.
“This big olive baboon just sat down, and I’ll tell you, that was a scary moment,” she said. “Our guide started throwing things at him, and he finally got the hint to leave.”
The title of the book originates from the echo of drums she used to hear at night while sitting in her Kenyan cottage. The drums were used in community celebrations, but also as a means of communication, Scholdan said.
“It was eerie in a way. You’d hear these drums beating at night,” she said. “But I like to envision these African drums beating the stories of their cultures through the centuries.”
Scholdan, who has called Issaquah home for two years, said she hopes her book will encourage others to visit the continent and gain a worldwide perspective.
“My main goal was to encourage people to go while you still can see some of this before it maybe does disappear,” she said. “It’s a very fascinating, absolutely gorgeous place to go and see.”
Scholdan will host an evening presentation Oct. 29 at the Issaquah Library, where she will show pictures from her travels and talk about her book.