“If I know a song of Africa, of the giraffe and the African new moon lying on her back, of the plows in the fields and the sweaty faces of the coffee pickers, does Africa know a song of me? Will the air over the plain quiver with a color that I have had on, or the children invent a game in which my name is, or the full moon throw a shadow over the gravel of the drive that was like me, or will the eagles of the Ngong Hills look out for me?”
It’s hard to know how to bring this whole Africa adventure to an end. I feel like there should be some closure – in my mind, in my heart and in the pages of this journal.
Vacationing in Tanzania with my family, I have such a profound sense of disorientation. I am a tourist now as opposed to a citizen of Africa, I am anonymous rather than the focus of everyone’s attention and I have no work to do other than spending time with those I have been away from for so long. Eight hotels in sixteen days is the kind of brutal travel I would have run from in Ghana but here we stay in real luxury with plentiful food, arranged transport and an open tab. I have to stop myself from eating everything on my plate so it’s not wasted and from worrying about the staff who has to work on Christmas day and be away from their families. Jumping from the world of the ‘have-nots’ to the ‘haves’ isn’t as easy as one might think. I keep a light on at night to orient myself when I awake.
Still….seeing Tanzania has been such a glorious experience. From the splendor of Kilimanjaro to the sweeping views of the Ngorogoro Crater, from the palm-lined white sand beaches and jewel-colored waters at Matemwe to the hustle and bustle of historic Stone Town (the heart of Zanzibar) where Oriental, Islamic and Western cultures have somehow blended into a rich tapestry of music, food and architecture. Exotic seems like such a tame word for Tanzania because it’s so much more than that – wild, free, ancient, colorful, sensual, full of wonders.
I don’t think I can write about all we’ve seen and done in Tanzania without sounding like a travelog. So I will just try to capture some of the highlights with photos.
Tanzania has proven to be a perfect counterpoint to Ghana and an excellent opportunity for me to begin my transition to the ‘real word’. In spite of the busyness of touring and visiting, I was able to carve out some quiet time for myself and reflect on some of the lessons learned while I have been here in Africa. Lessons that I have attempted to share with friends and family over the past 28 months. Lessons about the good and bad, the rich and poor and about life and death. Lessons about the way the world works and about spiritual clarity. It does seem that the more I know, the less I understand. But then the only truths that really matter are the ones we can never understand.
“When in the end, the day came on which I was going away, I learned the strange learning that things can happen which we ourselves cannot possibly imagine, either beforehand, or at the time when they are taking place, or afterwards when we look back on them.”
I remember the book I was reading when I left America back in October 2011 – ‘This Our Exile’ by a Jesuit priest who spent two years in Kenya working with refugees from East Africa. I wrote that it was the perfect book about how leaving the world one knows to explore a new and different one can help us catch sight of ourselves in a different light and thereby get to ‘the heart of the matter’. That ‘the heart of the matter’ is really our common humanity no matter who we are or where we call home. And that we sometimes have to leave home to find home; leave our lives to find them with the help of others.
I believe that I now have a better sense of what home is and what matters most to me. Ultimately whatever teaches us to talk to ourselves is of value; whatever teaches us to sing. And finally…….
“Difficult times have helped me to understand better than before how infinitely rich and beautiful life is in every way, and that so many things that one goes worrying about are of no importance whatsoever.”
Quotations courtesy of Isak Dinesen