Naked and Afraid: A Prelude

June 3, 2016


I gasp for breath and jolt awake. It’s midnight in the bushveld, a thorny desert woodland typical of Southern Africa. !Tuka the old grey Bushman hunter was squatting by the fire.  He paid me no mind sitting up in the soft sand. The air was sharp cold but still my skin carried a sheen of sweat. The old man stared into the fire, stoking it brighter, his eyes like coals. He whispered softly in his own tonal language with clicks but his fellow hunters were asleep. In his wiry form was the last of the old ways, of a world I would never know.


My name is Don. I am a tourist and adventurer. Let’s flash back to 8 weeks prior. I am about to get in way over my head on Naked and Afraid.





Naked and Afraid production gave few details about Namibia. All I knew about Namibia was it was a desert country in the movie “The Gods Must Be Crazy”. I hoped I would find a Coke bottle out there.


Contracts arrived by email. I breezed over them. “Death, disease, dismemberment, disfigurement.” I signed on the line. 

I Amazoned about 500$ of books, most of the cost being expedited shipping from London and South Africa and I began my research. I crammed all day and night because this was infact was the ultimate test, to be the the hardest of my life. I learned about hippo and cape buffalo behavior and their dangers. I engrossed myself in the plants that the many tribes of the many regions of Namibia utilized for medicine and for food.

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Was I really going to go to a foreign land and try to live off bugs and plants based on some dusty writings of  long dead professors? Does that even seem at all reasonable?

Between reading I ran outside on the wet snowy sidewalk barefoot desperately trying to gain a few more callouses and quick footing.

I was dropped off in rainy Seattle with a kiss from my beloved Emily and awoke in sunny London. I read in pubs. Napping propped up against my rucksack as travelers from around the world blurred by.

The big 747 took off that night and I watched the lights of London and Paris, and Algiers blot out the night. As the last of the cities disappeared my plane crossed over the lightless Sahara. I dozed off and awoke, the map said we were over the mighty Congo River, but there was still darkness beneath the plane out the window. I made a point to check again as the plane crossed over the Caprivi the place I was to survive in, but again from port and starboard windows was black below our little plane.

africa at night

This was the dark continent that put fear into the bravest European explorers centuries past. In homage of those old imperialist, I dressed in khakis, with tall leather boots, and a well worn felt hat. Like Livingstone and other Western explorers I was going to trespass upon this continent maybe not as intentionally. Through Naked and Afraid I knew I would likely impose my own biases about how Namibia would  be perceived by those back at home just like those early missionaries and colonist did in their time.

Don Nguyen

Africa was dark in another way, not that it was undiscovered or lacking Christianity, What I saw below me was a vast continent lacking in neon cities instead possessing wide open spaces. It made up for the lack of infrastructure with abundant biology, the megafauna survivors of the last ice age.

Africa was never a blank place on a map. Humans came from here, It had always been known and charted in one way or another as long as there were men to do such exploring. It is instead an uncharted space in the imagination of outsiders, such an ancient place where so much had been discovered to be forgotten again into the night which lies beyond the light of the fire.

I was a healthy, middle class, American adventurer, about to go seeking this heart of darkness. To starve and hurt in a land where countless were poor, already starving and hurting. I snapped a selfie for Facebook.


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