My trip to Africa

I have been home from my African adventure for a while now. And one of the questions that has come up repeatedly is whether or not the trip changed me. That question is a tough one and I am not sure I have an answer. I went on the trip intentionally doing little preparation. I wanted to take in everything with few preconceived notions. And while others around me knew more about the history and areas we visited, I think I was more aware of my surroundings throughout the trip. I made a very conscious effort to be present in every moment and I think that made all the difference to me. My favorite parts of the trip were the small interactions I had with native Kenyans rather than the larger presentations either at the womens’ villages or given by the organizations we supported.  The interactions were small and intimate, with no hidden agenda other than learning.

For example, there was the afternoon near the start of the trip where several of us had skipped the afternoon game drive and were sitting around the pool talking to one of the men that worked at the lodge. He asked a question, directly to me, that stunned me: “What is your cash crop?”  I guess in my arrogance, I thought this young man had at least a notion of how we lived. Turns out, he really had no clue and it was charming and sweet and totally unexpected.

Then there was the afternoon I was able to sit and watch Brown’s eight month old daughter. While she was smaller that most eight month olds that I have been around, she was adorable and easy to please. Not one thing that she played with went into her mouth and she did not utter a peep during the two hour presentation. And while I would have wished for a few spontaneous hugs and some giggles brought about by my silly faces, at the very least, I did get to hold a rolly-polly baby. During that presentation, our group gave the business advisors of BOMA BOGO lights. They in turn gave each of us necklaces. I was able to give a light personally to Brown and she gave me my necklace and thanked me for watching her daughter. After the presentation, I went over to Brown and let her know how much I enjoyed being with her daughter. I told her that my son was thirteen, as tall as me and that it had been ages since I had really gotten to hold him. She clarified that I only had one son and then pulled out another necklace for Alex. It was such a simple act of kindness but it nearly brought me to tears.

One of my most amusing exchanges happened during my walk with three Masai warriors. One of the Masai was an employee of the lodge where we were staying. He was quite funny and when he was working he worked the bar, which of course was how I came to know him. During our walk, he and I exchanged many, many questions about our respective cultures and family lives. For the Masai, it is not uncommon for a man to have more than one wife. I wanted to ask him if he planned on having more than one wife and was not quite sure how to do it. At the moment we were discussing this topic, we came upon a herd of gazelles. He informed me that the male gazelle is responsible for fathering all of the offspring in a particular herd. Earlier on one of the game drives, we had been introduced to the animal called dik-dik, which mate for life. Then an idea occurred to me and I asked him if he saw himself as a gazelle or a dik-dik. He got a huge grin on his face and we both broke out laughing. He then told me with a somewhat shy smile that he was a dik-dik. For the rest of my stay at the lodge, this was our running joke and the other employees at the lodge were all to glad to let me know if they were gazelles or dik-diks. It was very amusing. 

The most touching exchange for me occurred just after that walk though.  I had gone back to the desk at the lodge to check on something. Festus went away and left me and I just stood there at the desk, not clear about what the plan was. The manager of the lodge was Kapur. He was there and I asked him about some rocks that I had picked up while on my trek. Turns out, Kapur was a rock hound and he delighted in telling me about the samples I had picked up. I told him that my son had been a rock hound for years and he indicated that he had some minerals he would be happy to give me for Alex. He even made jewelry and wanted to show me what he had done. The next morning, Kapur, true to his word, handed me a palm full of quartz for my son and showed me some of the jewelry he had made. In exchange, I gave him my crank flashlight and some of the school supplies I had left over for him to give to the local primary school. 

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