After the first week working in Africa, which included a veritable baptism by cement (I still can't bring myself to write about cement day, yet), the team headed off on safari and a much needed respite from our labors. Only this break didn't include swanky hotel rooms and room service. It involved tents and driving around the dusty, bumpy savannah, in search of the ever illusive rhino. Okay- so the tent wasn't that bad...
Honestly, I would put my name on the rolls of the hard-core campers if this was the way tent camping normally went. However, this was definitely not like any tent I had ever seen before. And while we never did catch a glimpse of a rhino, we did see all sorts of wild things.
It is quite an experience to see so many animals, so close, and so free. It's what we all imagine when we think of Africa. Scar and Mufasa's eternal and fatal struggle for power over the Pridelands. But it also made me think about whether or not this is really a full and complete picture of Africa. As Brittany and I walked to our 'tent' we commented on how the sky just seemed so much.....more.... than the sky that we see from home. The sunsets are the sort that you normally only see in your dreams. The horizons go on forever. And even the graphic, in your face reminder of exactly how the food chain works is awe inspiring. But if this was our first and only encounter with Africa, we would have gotten just a fraction of what this land holds. Cheated of the most precious and valuable thing that Africa has to offer. Her people.
Even though he may not get sweets often, one little boy unwrapped his candy, took a lick, and passed it along to his friend so that they both could have a treat. Isaac, knew that he could help the children in the slums of Soweto, by giving them a safe place to go to school. Another young man sat on the rooftop of his crudely made home to work on his studies. He had to use the last precious moments of daylight before he had nothing left but the darkness. And then there was the man who happened by a group of overwhelmed wazungu, all of which are nearly enveloped in concrete, and jumped in to help...just because it looked like we needed it.
It's the people that make Africa amazing. They are kind, hard working, thoughtful and self-less. But perhaps my favorite thing about the people is their curiosity and their loving nature. Whether it was the kids sneaking up next to you and softly pinching the skin on your arms, just to check if you feel the same way they do, or the chorus of, "How are you?" as they ran alongside the vans...their smiles and eyes are forever burned into my heart. As cool as the safari and the animals are, they are not what makes Africa great. Not by a long shot.