Celebrating my birthday in Africa was a bit surreal. The longer I’m here, the more of it that I want to explore, since I have yet to see much of the continent outside of Zimbabwe, save for a day trip to Chobe National Park in Botswana, and a couple trips over to Livingston, Zambia while I was in Victoria Falls. I’ve been thinking of how to include some visits to Tanzania and Kenya, in particular, to see the Serengeti, Ngorongoro, and Masai Mara while I’m still in Africa, as well as to see more of Zimbabwe, as it’s said to be one of the most beautiful countries in Africa, and from what I’ve seen so far, I can attest to that.
It’s hard to believe that it’s been exactly a month since my last post. The last month has been both rewarding and challenging. I’ve had moments of wondering what the hell I’ve done to spend the amount of money that I have to come here and deal with so many challenging factors, and yet, I’ve had some amazing moments as well, such as spending more time with the lion cubs, and also getting to see some friends that I made when I was in Victoria Falls during a short visit to that side of the country. Overall, this experience is a blessing, even with its challenges, and I try to remain focused on that every day. To do it again, I may have devoted less time to one place and incorporated more travel into my time, but I opted to spend it here to absorb as much as I can about animal management and care, with the goal of continuing on this path in the future. And so in that sense, I’m committed to getting as much value out of my investment as possible, all while doing what I can to support the amazing work of ALERT and African Impact.
I have been blessed with the support of a couple members of the leadership team here at Antelope Park, and that makes a huge difference, and I work alongside some very dedicated and interesting people, which is great. It can be challenging not to get overwhelmed by the sheer magnitude of the issues of human – wildlife conflict, never mind the widespread poverty and community needs; it’s the gratitude of the people in the community, and the health and well-being of the animals that makes it all worthwhile. My alarm used to go off in the morning to get up and go work my ass off to make other people wealthy, and now my alarm goes off to get up and go feed baby lion cubs most days. Such a different world.
I still don’t know what the future holds, and I continue to be surprisingly at peace with that. I’ve been a planner my whole life, always having a roadmap, sprinkled with a bit of spontaneity along the way. I know that the reason that I’m dealing so well with the unknown is that I’m at peace with my life, and I know how lucky I am to be able to say that. It’s been far from a perfect life, and I’ve known much sorrow and heartbreak, but I’ve also known incredible joy and love. Inner peace cannot be bought, bribed, stolen, forced, or faked — you either have it or you do not. If I’ve learned nothing else in my 45 years on the planet, I’ve learned that validation can only come from within. Having that, surrounded by the beauty of this place, receiving so many birthday wishes from the other side of the planet back home, and spending the day with lions, all combined to make an otherwise blah birthday a little more special.