All my life, like anyone who has ever been to a zoo or seen a movie about Africa, I’ve had a fascination with the magnificent animals. Seeing them in their native habitat was a dream that became a reality in 2005 when Judy and I booked an African Safari to Kenya and Tanzania.
Except for the leopard, the rest of the “Big 5” -- lion, water buffalo, elephant, and rhino -- all showed up.
Graceful zebras, impalas, and giraffes appeared on a regular basis.
Our animal-spotting luck held as our knowledgeable guides put us in the exact spot to see the migration of the wildebeest.
And, one day, we were up close and personal with a pride of lions. The animal life and scenes were every bit as wonderful as I’d anticipated, even more.
But, the most profound experience for me was being on African soil. I’d had no idea the effect it would have on me.
Stepping off the plane in Nairobi, eager to negotiate through the airport to the baggage claim area, I noticed that the signs were in several languages, including English. That was a relief. Within a short distance, it struck me that everyone who worked in the airport was Black. The bag handlers, airline representatives, customs officers, everyone. I was surrounded by people who resembled me. This had never happened before. I took it all in. Then I noticed feeling an unexpected sense of overwhelming pride and belonging that brought me to tears.
As our days on safari continued, it became evident that many of the Africans with whom I had contact received me a little differently than they did the rest of the folks in our tour group. Workers seemed eager to chat with me. “How are you liking everything?” several asked. Or, “Is this your first time in Africa?” One morning, a chef at the breakfast buffet set my made-to-order omelet on my plate, smiled and said, “It looks like you have been here before.”
And, indeed, I felt like I’d been there before. The surroundings, language, culture, and customs were different, but it sure felt like home.
~ xoA ~