Etwart has a good life as the only pygmy Cypriot hippopotamus
in the world-famous San Diego Zoo. But every day he wakes up with a
hole in his heart. He wants to know the story of his family and the
deeds of his forehippos-- maybe even find some of his relatives. So
with his friend junior zookeeper Katterly Meadows he sets out on a
journey of discovery.
Read the whole story from I-VI in order.
After an excellent rest, Katterly found Etwart in the hotel pool, happily swimming with children.
"Good morning, Kat!" He bellowed over the laughter of the kids. "I think I could live on these Cyprus oranges."
Ioli sat on a deck chair next to the pool. "Come now, Louisa," she said. "We have to be going soon."
Louisa turned out to be Ioli's daughter, a curly-headed seven-year old.
Ioli said, "Today we are going to the salt lake of Akrotiri and the Khouris River. In ancient times this was a major wetland. Now it is the home of thousands of migratory birds."
They all piled into a minibus that was being driven by a man named Marios. He greeted them all with a hearty "Kalimera!" which means good morning in Greek.
On the way to the salt lake, Louisa taught Kat and Etwart how to count to twenty in Greek. Etwart was just beginning to remember, ena, thio, tria, one, two, three, when he caught sight of orange groves on the side of the highway.
"Look at them all," Etwart said. Marios pointed at a particularly beautiful grove, and Etwart leaned over his shoulder to see.
"Reminds me of San Diego," said Kat. Cyprus and San Diego had very similar climates.
They stopped at a roadside stand, where Kat bought Etwart a bag of oranges, and they descended to an almost-dry river bed. In the distance, over acres of low bushes, the salt lake stretched, white-blue.
"What is this plant?" Etwart asked, motioning with his big head towards a tall, dry stick-like plant.
"It's called fennel," Ioli said. "It grows all over the island, and the bulb is good to eat."
"My ancestors probably ate a lot of fennel," said Etwart proudly. He snapped off a length of fennel in his mouth. "Look-- it has sections."
Kat took the fennel in her hand. Each section was a cylinder about a foot long, with fibrous walls on each side. She poked a hole in one wall and peeped inside the hollow stalk.
"Yes! Do you know the story of Prometheus, Etwart?" Ioli asked.
"Long ago, the great god Zeus decided to punish men because their benefactor, Prometheus, had fooled Zeus. Zeus took away fire from men. But Prometheus stole it back, and hide it inside a fennel stalk."
"How did he do that?"
"Just look at the sections," Ioli said. "Prometheus took the spark of fire and hid it in one of those. It was a perfect hiding place."
"But didn't the spark burn the dry fennel?"
"With the stalk closed, there was little air for the spark, so it couldn't flame up," Ioli explained. "And there is a pith inside like a wick. The spark fed on the pith with the air that it had, and didn't die. A long time ago, that is how men carried fire from place to place."
They walked along the river bed, and Kat took notes about what she saw. She made a sketch of dry and living fennel in her notebook.
"There must have been many pygmy hippopotami in the old days," said Ioli. "In a place called Aetokremnos, a cliff dwelling of the Neolithic age, they found many bones of pygmy hippotami in addition to evidence of human occupation."
"How long ago was that?" Etwart asked.
"We think this was the first human habitation of the island, about 12,000 years ago."
"12,000?" Etwart snorted. "How many is that?"
Kat sighed. "A very long time."
"And we are fairly sure that pygmy hippopotami on Cyprus went extinct not long after humans came to the island."
"Then where did I come from?" Etwart asked.
"My boss, Vikhram Singh, said they found you as a baby hippo near here," Kat said. "You were in a basket and there was a note in it that said, please take care of my child."
"So my parents did live here!"
"We don't know," said Kat. "They found you on the beach. You may have washed up on the shore somehow."
"Can we find out more about me?"
"We'll try," said Kat.
Map of salt lake area here.