Sunday, September 09, 2012

Forever Changed (Revisiting the South Africa Trip 7 Months Later)

Travel changes you forever.

That is why I don't mind spending money on travel, quite the contrary, it's the one thing I most enjoy spending with and the one I think it's most worth it.

I have traveled a whole lot. Unfortunately most of the travels in my life took place were before I turned 2 years old! :( And I blogged a bit about it here. I have been trying to change that since 1993 when I boarded an airplane for the first time in my life at 22 years old to fly to the U.S. with my future husband's family. Then in 1996 K & I moved here and began to travel more.
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The first five lines of this post were all I had managed to write back in March, when I wanted to share some of my feelings about our 10 day trip to South Africa. I am trying to make a photo book of the trip and I have just gone through a selection of 600+ photos of the trip, so I think it's a good moment to finish this post.

I really have no words to describe how this trip to South Africa changed me. I saw so little, especially in terms of the "real Africa" since everyone says that (for horrendous reasons, in fact) South Africa is the "first world" or the "United States" of Africa. Sigh...

A few general impressions. Africa reminded me of Brazil a whole lot. Same hemisphere, nearly identical climate and vegetation (except at the Cape Peninsula). I kept wondering what the unfortunate people displaced because of slavery thought when then arrived in Brazil. I kept thinking that Africa and Brazil are "sibling countries" in a sense. Did you know that because of the particularities of the Brazilian African diaspora (the sheer number of people forcibly transported there to be slaves) Brazil is the country with the most descendants of Africans in the world?

Africa is such a culturally rich and diverse continent! So many languages (nine official ones in South Africa alone), so many ethnic groups, and yet, European colonization sought to obliterate as much as they could. I am glad that they weren't as successful as they were in the Americas with the widespread destruction of the Native American (or "First Nation") people and cultures. Thinking of what happened in the past made me tearful just listening to the languages or the music during the trip.

And then there was the Kruger Park experience. Seeing wild African animals in their natural habitat is an incredible and life-changing experience. I cannot fathom how people (mostly from Asian) can still poach and kill the rhinoceros for their horn! Or how unbelievably sad is to think of elephants being hunted for the ivory. I never liked zoos, even though I suppose one can argue about their importance to make people aware that these animals need to be preserved, but going to Africa made them loathe them, really. It is beyond cruel to jail these animals so people can see what they look like. I know... how will people ever see them if they cannot afford to go to Africa, yadda, yadda, yadda. No matter what one says, it's still cruel.

After visiting a nature reserve such as Kruger park one experiences a sense of urgency for the need to prevent that these animals one day disappear. Oh... and I was just SO GLAD that my kids had never watched the Lion King* (and I too only saw it once, many, many years ago) so they could enjoy all the animals without immediately calling them "Simba" or "Pumba" or whatever other names they have there. Ironically, the names of our vehicles for the game drives were all taken from this film! ;)

Looking at the photos seven months later brings back many of the emotions that I felt during the trip and soon after. There is nothing like travel in a person's life and my greatest dream in life is to keep on traveling everywhere I can. I can't wait to take my sons to Europe! Time to go back to those photos now...

* My sons have never watched one "Disney" Disney movie, only a handful of Pixar ones -- Cars, A Bug's Life, Toy Story. They don't watch TV or movies, basically. It's a choice we made, this is not meant as a criticism of anyone else.

1 comment:

Anjali said...

I'm so glad you've posted some more about this trip, Lilian. I've wanted to go to South Africa for as long as I can remember. I think in the next few years I'm going to make it happen.

You're right, "Travel changes you forever." After a traveling drought of nearly 20 years, I'm so glad we finally started prioritizing it.