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Wednesday, March 11, 2009

Africa: An End to the Beginning

It is hard to believe that is it has been six months since I left Africa. I had a wonderful adventure and I would encourage absolutely everyone to go. I know I yearn for it every day and would go back in a heartbeat if I could afford it.

Harnas Wildlife Foundation in Namibia is a magical place. I realized it while I was there but you don't fully appreciate it until you come home. Unfortunately I made the decision to come home two weeks early, which while I felt it was right at the time, in retrospect was one I wish I hadn't made. When I arrived it was a shock to my system. I missed Joe and was concerned because I couldn't get in touch with him for the first few days. I felt old as many of the people were 19 and 20 and taking time off from school etc. The first night there was a crazy party and people were drinking and vomiting etc and I just remember thinking "oh no, what have I gotten myself into." I'm not much of a drinker and I prefer small groups to parties, so it wasn't something I was used to. It also took a lot for me to get used to (and truthfully I never really did) cutting up fresh horse and donkey meat. So, I decided that while it was a place I was glad that I was able to visit, 4 weeks would be too long. Of course, as time went on I made closer friendships and fell deeply in love with the animals and was excited to return home to Joe but sad to leave after the 2 week period. I also found out later that the night I left the 4 lion cubs had been born and that the next day they had to take them away from their mother for fear that the father would kill them, so I could have spent my last two weeks playing with baby lions cubs!

When I arrived in the US is was really hard to adjust. I desperately missed Africa and everything was so different. The smells of the city were abrasive and the noise was so loud. It was culture shock I hadn't felt before and it was interesting that I felt it upon returning to surroundings of which I was familiar.

I think what I miss the most about Africa is the sounds. At Harnas I was lulled to sleep each night by several roaring lions and the occasional horse whinny, jackal call, and warthog grunt. On one night I was even lucky enough to sleep next to two beautiful cheetahs who soothed me to sleep with their thunderous purring. In Zambia we heard hippos "laughing" at each other throughout the night and in Kruger we listened for the haunting call of the hyena.

When I got to Africa I thought, alright this is nice, but I don't love it the way I love Australia. I knew it was something I would enjoy and could picture myself going back but I didn't feel the same heart wrenching tug that I do for Australia. However, after spending 6 weeks there I found that Africa had infiltrated not just my heart, but also my soul. A piece of my soul will always belong to Africa and it is a place I hope to return to many times throughout my life. I'd love to visit Kenya, Tanzania, Botswana, travel through Namibia and take the Garden Route drive in S. Africa. I don't picture myself living there like I do Australia, but who am I kidding...I am always thinking up crazy ideas and usually execute them so I won't rule it out!

The bottom line is that while it was an expensive decision and a sometimes stressful experience (I'd probably have a job by now if I hadn't gone) I wouldn't trade it for the world and if I had to do it all over again, I would make that decision every time! As for Harnas, I think I'll go back. I hope that when I do find that perfect job, it is one that lets me take leaves of absence from time to time to volunteer with animals in places like Harnas, and I hope to be able to show it to others one day. For now I will just have to be content with my pictures and my dreams.

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