Friday, July 15, 2005

Africa One Year On...

One year ago today The Traveler was heading out from San Francisco for the wilds of northern Botswana. Following are his impressions of his African experience, one year on...

Africa One Year On

There was something that compelled us there in the first place.

And now, one year along from that jet ride across the globe to the wetlands of the Okavango Delta, I look back to the days before I left my comfortable electrified western life for the wilds of Africa – wondering what I’d find out there in that land that only existed in the misty recess of my imagination.

Of course, in this day and age it is easy to adopt a more cavalier attitude toward such travel; rich, latte-drinking liberals from the west (or east) coast of America tour the “Disneyland” of Africa in northern Botswana, unconcerned with the real plight of the region.

After all, violence, disease, and poverty pervade the continent.

That is a reality of Africa that I am told exists, and I believe that it does. But it is not the experience of Africa that I personally know.

It is the sunset reflecting across the waterways of the Delta; it is of elephant and hippo crying in the night.

It is the regal lion sauntering in the morning sun, the millions of quellia darkening the horizon as they roost in the growing dusk of evening, the Giraffe standing tall on the banks of the Chobe River, silhouetted against the sinking sun.

And so much more.

By making our way to northern Botswana, we may have had a small part in helping Alwyn, Stanley, and the whole excellent crew find what any person is really looking for - simply put, a chance for a decent life; free of disease, violence, or poverty.

But altruism only goes so far – and it wasn’t what compelled us there in the first place.

It was Africa herself. The natural world from whence we all come. It’s the cliché come to life, if you must.

The primordial feeling of sitting close to the fire as night closes in, enveloping the savannah around me. The dim hulk of a massive Acacia tree towering overhead, bright stars twinkling between the branches. Shadows dancing on the faces of my compatriots as we clutch close to the fire, listening to the hippo and baboon grunt and wail nearby. It makes inroads into your brain, to something almost vaguely familiar.

This is the Africa I found one year ago, and that I still find now, one year on, deep inside. It does stay with you.

I am hopeful for Africa, and that means I am hopeful for humanity. I have Alwyn, Stanley and the crew to thank for that.

July 2005

Can You Guess Where This Picture Was Taken?

National Geopgraphic just released their photo of the month, which we present here for your enjoyment. Can you guess where this picture was taken?

Feel free to comment if you think you know...

Tuesday, July 05, 2005

Time Travel and Independence Day

But what about July 5th?

Sure, today we wake up with the fiery sounds of national unity still reverberating through our heads. But what must have rang through the minds of those that awoke on July 5th, 1776, in the midst of another hot, humid Philadelphia summer?

History, traveling back to a different place in time, is a curiosity for The Traveler - reviewing the past, always looking for clues in what - just occasionally - seems like a clueless world.

The following books are selections The Traveler has recently found interesting in his desire to learn more about our American history:

Adams Vs. Jefferson: The Tumultuous Election of 1800 (Pivotal Moments in American History)

His Excellency : George Washington (Vintage)