We departed from Vish and Sunita’s house while the morning sunrays were still soft and long. Nairobi quickly faded behind us. Dwayne navigated the roads with a slightly terrifying confidence: the safari van’s top-heavy nature wobbled around the turns as we rose along a winding road, northwest to the edge of the Great Rift Valley. Below us, the valley stretched solid green, sprawling out for miles, further than the eye could see, vanishing in the distance. The forested slopes gave way to grasslands specked by acacias and cut by thin brown roads that connected modest dwellings. Two baboons straddled each other, unabashed, fornicating on the roadside, obstructing a perfect view. Their accusatory eyes glared sideways at passing tourists and their unapologetic clicking cameras.
A country known in the western world for having one of the most horrible genocides in recent history blew my expectations out of the water with its beauty, cleanliness and infrastructure. Plastic bags, the long-lasting litter of the ‘third world’—and much of the ‘first world’ as well—have been outlawed in Rwanda. Plain and simple: plastic bags are illegal. In the city and along the country roadways the ground is free of the heaps of trash so commonly seen littering the landscape.
In the heart of the Kalahari Desert live a small, strong people with slanted eyes, wide noses and caramel skin. Their slender bodies are adapted to moving through this arid yellow land. Women gather nuts, fruits and roots, knowing what each plant has to offer: food, medicine, dye, building material. The men hunt, mostly antelope, with poison arrows in multiple day pursuits: stocking the animal until they are close enough to shoot, then running after it as it flees, arrow lodged in its body, for days until finally the poison sets in, slows the animal and it can be sacrificed.
Shark! Coming in from the front. Divers get ready— Divers down.
Five eager tourists stuffed into neoprene suits pushed on the bar of the metal cage and submerged their faces in the icy water, ready to see the magnificent animal approaching from afar.
I am in love with Africa, although it’s probably too soon to say that. I am in love with Africa the way teenagers fall in love with an enticing prospect—beautiful, intriguing and lustful. Cape Town has left me enamored and wanting more, eager to discover all of Africa, infatuated by what she has shown me so far.
Imagine a flat, green island ringed by white sand beaches with views of blue mountains across the water. A warm, clear sea laps quietly at the sand, its color ever changing from aquamarine to deep turquoise with the light. Beneath the waters lay outcrops of sea grass waving gently in the shallows, and mounding stoney corals swarming with vividly colored fish. Narrow walking paths criss-cross the island and intersect with a circular one that outlines the circumference and takes a mere 90 minutes to walk at a leisurely pace. Most everyone walks. The only ‘vehicles’ are carts painted bright blue and pulled by small horses.
Dynamite fishing has been a problem in the Gili Islands and the evidence underwater is overwhelming. Huge sections of the reef turned to vast graveyards of shattered corals, virtually absent of life. Pocketed amongst these battle zones are rare oasis of corals that were missed by the bombing.
Balinese Hindus place beautiful offerings, known as canangsari, in front of their houses. Mixtures of flowers, leaves, fruit, rice and crackers are laid out in handmade boats or trays of betel leaves, called a porosan. Each offering must be in a porosan and contain an areca nut and a lime. These key items represent the three manifestations of the Hindu supreme spirit, Sanghyang Widhi: Brahma the creator, Vishnu the preserver and Shiva the destroyer. Offerings are set out on shrines, to appease the good sprits, and on the ground, to appease the evil sprits. Often lighted incense is placed in the canangsari, sending beautiful fragrances out into the morning air.