We’ve been kept very busy, so my blog updates have taken a back seat, and now that I’m halfway home with a layover in London for a half day, I have a bit of time to post an update and the most recent photos. Enjoy!
Within short order after arriving in Africa, I knew I was smitten. It gets under your skin and in the corners of your mind, swirling around in a deliriously wonderful way, with equal parts grit and glory. Years ago I used to binge-watch this program on Animal Planet called “Big Cat Diary” that followed three researchers around as they monitored the large cats, specifically lion, leopard, and cheetah. I would daydream at length of having such a life, and repeatedly put it in the Impossible Bucket, as my own life had taken a different path. And then a few years ago, something changed; in part due to various events, such as the passing of one of my good friends, and in part just my own inner calling. I always felt that I was very awake — very atune to both my outter and inner worlds, yet the deepest internal voice was overshadowed by the more immediate practical voice of the “have to’s” in life. This is how I was raised. A daily mantra of life being difficult and hard work. Joy was found in the glowing edges of the setting sun of twilight on a day well-spent.
This is a repeat story for those who have been following my blog from the begining, but it bears repeating in the context of how I spent some of my mental energy the last little while. I began to see possibility of looking at this as more than a mere two months of volunteer time, but as the track of a new path — the paw prints in the sand of my journey. That is how my inquiry of an internship started, and then came to be, and now I’m making a quick trip home to take care of a bunch of stuff in order to return to Africa for six months to learn, absorb, and contribute as much as I can for yet another potential new path down the road. I don’t know where it will lead, but I’ve gotten little signs of tracks, and I remain open to exploring them.
I keep repeating the “it’s never too late to give up on your dreams” mantra because my path here is as unlikely in many ways as flying to the moon. I was just one of countless poor kids with a dream that I told myself was impossible; until I started really listening to my inner voice. It took many years, and many sacrifices, and perhaps to some people this is all financially irresponsibility at its finest, but honestly, I could die tomorrow happy. Because I didn’t give up. I didn’t accept that I was just destined for the least of what was possible. And if a poor kid from Spokane can wind up in Africa, in her own Big Cat Diary, anyone can live their dream.
It’s not all sunshine and roses, to be clear. The not-so-nice: Some of the work is tough, filthy, smelly, and downright disgusting, but that’s all part of wildlife conservation; Zimbabwe is very poor, beyond what most of us can imagine, and it can be difficult and heart-wrenching to witness such poverty; I was greeted with a bit of anti-American bullshit from the moment I arrived, ironically not from the native Zimbabwe people, but by other foreigners to this land; and it’s a regular occurance to feel like an ATM, both directly and indirectly — sort of the “Oh, you’re American and some people think you therefore suck, but can we have your money?” Yet perhaps the hardest aspect for me in some ways is that this whole part of the world is very patriarchal, where man is king and women are second-class citizens, at best. This rattles me to the very core — no only do I not agree with this mindset, anyone who knows me well knows that I’m not about to be subservient to anyone. Oppression of women around the world is not only ethically wrong, it’s economically, socially, and ecologically foolish. Do the research.
We’ll see how I do with these things over the next six months. My plan is to focus on why I’m here, shut out the other noise, and do my best.