Thursday, July 3, 2014

Safari 2014 Journal: A Reflection

Epilogue Part I

They say there’s nothing like Safari and once you get that first taste, your appetite grows.  In just six days in the Bush, we experienced sights, sounds, smells and sensations unlike anything previous.  And while we were far from roughing it during our stays at Singita Ebony and Camp Jabulani, once you’re in the Rover on and off the trails, you know intellectually and feel emotionally you are somewhere special.

The fascination of watching your ranger and tracker pursue a leopard or cheetah using skill, guile and intuition.  Masters of their craft that you watch in awe as they pursue, double back, and turnabout and voila: there’s the Leopard.  And then you realize they are as excited as much as you even thought they have done it hundreds of times.  But they’re more than tracker and guide, they are Thimba and Coleman.  One lives in the nearby village with his son, mother, aunt & sister while the other’s home is 2 hours away and his mother looks after his 7 children while his wife works next door at the sister lodge.  You get to know them and you want to see them again.

As for the animals, it is something to be among the in their habitat and their world.  And while the ubiquitous impala and wildebeest are seemingly around every corner, you realize you’re in their domain and you conclude that you’ll never visit a zoo again to see an animal in captivity.  You've changed.  You’ll flick away a fly bothering your picnic or the ants at your barbecue when you’re hoe, but laugh at the industrious monkeys who attack the Continental Breakfast table when the staff is not paying attention.

Yes, we have acquired the taste and not just the loin of the impala, kudu and eland.  The taste that is a craving, an obsession really, and you neither hope nor want it to disappear.

 Thimba Coleman Diggaduh

" obsession really."

Barbecued Warthog 

 Grilled Kudu Loin

 Thimba CindyDisco Coleman

Epilogue Part II

When you think of Africa, many think of Safaris and The Big Five.  But our recent trip to South Africa highlighted a bigger story and a more personal story.  Whether it was the adorable waitress, Pinky, at The One & Only Hotel in Cape Town who became Cindy’s new friend, or Thomas our guide in Cape Town, you realize there is something special and unique about South Africa.  It’s checkered past is well known and the remnants of Apartheid still can be seen and felt, but there is something else in the air: Hope.

The nation of 12+ million still has a number of issues including high unemployment, economic stagnation and a public health crisis regarding HIV and AIDS.  But to think that it was just 20 years ago Nelson Mandela was elected President in the first open election is a remarkable story.  When you visit places like the District Six Museum and the Apartheid Museum you feel sickened, angry, amazed and hopeful.  The magnanimous personality, honor, courage and vision of Mandela is front and center.  A man who suffered personally and politically and yet realized that for South Africa to move forward, it must forgive, but not forget.

The courage he displayed in not giving in to the calls from his party to punish the white minority and dismantle its hundreds of years of history was inspirational.  Likewise, the courage in the 1980’s for President F.W. deKlerk to end Apartheid and establish the one man/one vote system knowing it would end white rule was equally courageous.

When you see the image of Mbuyisa Makbubo carrying the lifeless body of Hector Pieterson, killed in the student riots in Soweto in 1976, you feel the anguish clearly visible on Makhubo’s face.  When you read the stories of Stephen Biko and hundreds of others tortured and murdered in police custody and the causes of death doctored, you feel angry.

When you learn about the Dompas (Dumb Pass), a segregation ID pass used to limit free unhindered travel of Blacks and coloreds in South Africa, you think of the Yellow Stars worn by the Jews in Europe in the 1940’s.  To be caught by police without your pass meant an automatic 90-day jail term, even if you were on your way to get your pass from the government.  You realize we take for granted the freedoms we possess.

When the government relocates entire black neighborhoods to make room for white people, you recall the Warsaw Ghetto.  When the government can arbitrarily flatten shantytowns and the corrugated homes of blacks, you ask how can one man treat another with such malice.

When you see the story from 1985 where 702 colored people became white, 19 whites became colored, one Indian became white, three Chinese became white, 249 blacks became colored and so forth you realize the corruption and tyranny that was prevalent during the Apartheid Era.  Oh and by the way, zero blacks became whites and zero whites became black.

You can understand why the African National Congress (ANC) had to employ violent and nonviolent methods to bring the white government to the negotiation table.  I guess in the case of Mandela and others, one man’s freedom fighter is another man’s terrorist.

So now there is hope that government corruption will be curtailed, hope miners will earn a fair and decent wage, hope public health will improve and hope that Mandela’s vision will be achieved.

In the meantime, seeing a smiling Pinky give Cindy a big hug in the restaurant in front of a crown and knowing 25 years ago that would not be possible is heartwarming and hopeful.  An otherwise small moment with a big heart.

Cindy Thomas Diggaduh 

Pinky and Cindy

A Message of Love and Hope

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