I could go on and on about all of the wonderful things that we saw and did in South Africa. I took over 1,000 pictures and have posted just a small fraction of them here. However, maybe it is time to move on, at least for now. South Africa is the kind of place that a small taste of it isn’t enough. No sooner than our bags were packed for our red-eye flight from Cape Town to Amsterdam that I was already envisioning a return trip. I don’t think that I could ever get enough of that place.
I said before that I feel like I am a different person when my feet are touching the African continent, and it is true. This isn’t to say that I have some idealized view of Africa where people and nature exist in perfect harmony, nor do I view Africa in the negative lens that so many Westerners do. Africa is so more than the sum total of corrupt leaders and poverty. There is surprising warmth in Africa that radiates not just from the sun, but also from the people. It is why I feel like a more natural, authentic version of myself when I am there. I am not a naturally outgoing person and find conversation with people incredibly difficult. So it is remarkable to me that with so many people from varied African nations, I feel like conversation is easy and unforced. I can admit that this could be purely a conscious distinction that I have made in my own mind, but for whatever reason, the distinction of ease and comfort is made.
There is so much that we do in the U.S. that is for show. We make gestures of goodness or beauty via blogs, parties, or other outward displays. But my limited time in Africa both in South Africa and in East Africa over ten years ago reminds me that human beings are not the sum total of the number of pretty pictures they take. Go to a place where Nelson Mandela or even Martin Luther King walked and you will sense the difference between what is beautiful and good and what is merely pretty.
In Desmond Tutu’s latest book that is co-written by his daughter Mpho, he describes what I am trying to explain this way:
“The human vision of perfection – this quest for more, bigger, faster – is not the perfection in God’s dictionary. Muslim carpet weavers come closer to the ideal of godly perfection. They deliberately incorporate a flaw into each work of art they create. Only God, they say, is flawless. Only God can create flawlessness. So they do not strive for flawlessness; they strive, instead, for beauty.”
I think Africa just makes me want to be good, and that is why I love it so much. It doesn’t make me want to be pretty or brilliant, it is a place where I feel like I just want to be good.
So hopefully, a return trip to the continent won’t have to wait as long as this one did.
And finally, as my closing note, I probably should answer the question that I am sure has been on everyone’s mind since I said that I was going to South Africa and that I was afraid of snakes. Did I see a dreaded Puff Adder?
Well, it was the winter, so Headman told us that it was unlikely we would see a snake. However, he said, “We may get lucky and you never know.”
We saw exactly one snake at Shamwari. It was a mildly venomous Herald Snake that decided to emerge from its bunker one particularly rainy day. Another guest almost stepped on it. No sooner than it emerged, it wanted to go back below deck again.
I was happy to see it.