SUNY Retiree Service Corps - Connecting with our retirees through service.
Bob Pompi

Bob Pompi - Personal Retirement Story

retirement story

Quin, Karen, Bob & Clemens Pompi on Safari in Africa


Editor’s Note: During one’s work life, it is often difficult to spend as much time with loved ones as one would like, especially if they live far away. Retirement provides a wonderful opportunity to resolve that problem. Bob Pompi, a member of the SUNY Retirees Service Corps Advisory Council, found a novel means of connecting with his grandsons after he retired from Binghamton University. This is his story, in his own words.

It is often a fact of life that when one’s children depart for college, they are not going to return to the region in which they grew up. Our three sons followed this approach and consequently we did not have as close contact with their children as we would have liked. Retirement,however, afforded my wife Karen and me the chance to change that situation in a rather unique way.

During the summer of 2010, we had the opportunity to bring our two oldest grandsons with us on a safari to Africa. We were able to connect more strongly with them through the safari experience. Quin (15) and Clemens (17 on departure and 18 upon return) were the gentlemen who accompanied us to South Africa, Zimbabwe, Namibia, and Botswana. Karen and I had visited this African Cape region before and felt that this adventure was one of the best that we had ever experienced. It was Karen’s idea that we invite Quin and Clemens to accompany us on a revisit when they became old enough to both appreciate and benefit from the travel experience.

We extended the invitation, had it accepted, and eventually were on our way. We traveled with Overseas Adventure Travel, the travel company we have used for our 22 international trips. The flight from Philadelphia to Johannesburg was long and daunting. Eventually we arrived in South Africa at the same time the World Cup was being contested. After a one-night layover we flew to Zimbabwe and the actual adventure began. 

We stayed in four remote lodges located in Zimbabwe, Namibia, and Botswana. There were 15 people in our group including ourselves. We would fly in multiple five- to six-passenger planes from one small landing strip some distance from the lodge we were staying at to a strip in the vicinity of the next lodge destination. The lead plane would buzz the landing strip to displace any resident animals. Fire control was a red bucket filled with sand. The weather service was a torn windsock and, above all, warthogs had the right of way. 

We would then be picked up in four-wheel drive vehicles and brought to that next lodge. We stayed in each lodge on the average four days. All supplies for the lodges were flown in. The nearest grocery store was 170 mile away. Inside of each lodge compound we stayed in individual two-person tented cabins. The roofs were permanent but the walls were fabric. 

Once we were settled we would have two game drives each day. We would rise at 5:30 to the sound of beating drums for a 7:00 AM departure. Returning at 11:30 we would be greeted by a very substantial brunch. There would be lectures in the early afternoon, afternoon tea, and a 4:00 PM game drive until dark. 

Quin and Clemens were absolutely entranced by the herds of elephants, lion prides, solitary leopards, hippos, and all the other wild life. Two of the pictures we took accompany this story. Yes, we were that close to the male lion.

retirement story 

A salient feature of the game drive was at 6:30 PM, when all game drives would cease, and sundowners would appear. These sundowners were a full bar and snacks the lodge had prepared for us. Clemens turned 18 while in Botswana. Eighteen happens to be the legal drinking age there. Our guide informed us that a rite of passage in that country involved an elder providing a suitable beverage. We had an elder, a young male, and the suitable beverage. Clemens also was told that this rite of passage only applied to Botswana and would have to be delayed another three years in the USA. I think the phrase was spoken that “What happens in Botswana stays in Botswana.” 

Quin and Clemens enjoyed the meals and related extremely well to the other eleven members of the group. They were very low maintenance and the time we were able to spend with them in such close contact made the venture very memorable.

One particularly memorable event was when Clemens showed up at our tented cabin door at 6:40 AM with eyes as big as saucers. He had come face to face with a Cape buffalo while following the elevated walkway between cabins. We think the Cape buffalo was more startled than was Clemens. 

We visited a school in Zimbabwe and helped the students practice English and math. It was rewarding to see our two grandsons relate to students just slightly younger than themselves. 

All too soon our adventure was over and we returned to the larger cities after spending some time in Victoria Falls. The Falls were spectacular and watching Clemens lead a young adolescent male lion by the tail in a rescue preserve was something we did not think that we would ever see.

Male teenagers are not very effusive but we have been pleasantly surprised when we would visit Philadelphia and make contact with parents of our grandsons’ peers who would tell us how the boys shared both the pictures they took and their experiences on the game drives.

We were thrilled to be able to get back to a part of the world we had enjoyed. It was wonderful that we were able to share this experience with two young men we got to know and appreciate to a much greater extent than was possible prior to my retirement. For us this venture became one of life’s unique moments.

Retirees Service Corps