What am I doing in South Africa?
I keep getting this question, from many people. And sometimes from myself. The truth is, I don’t exactly know. The truth is, that it is somehow, inexplicably, home. And the truth is that, at least for right now, it’s where I belong.
When I returned from South Africa:the dream trip, late in November, I already knew that I wanted to return, soon and for longer. What I didn’t know is that within a couple days, I’d be so homesick that my heart hurt and I kept bursting into tears. As someone who’d never really felt at home anywhere, this was a new and confusing thing – so I did the only thing I knew to do, and started googling.
There’s a reason I call Google “the modern mystic’s crystal ball” and it certainly came through this time. Somehow I found an incredible organization, whose mission lines up with my own, called African Impact. Before I knew it, I was signed up for a couple weeks here and two more there, my flight was booked and I landed in Joburg, first thing in the morning on the first day of the new year. Two days later, I arrived in Hoedspruit.
And here I sit, this Sunday afternoon, in the lounge of African Impact’s Dumela Lodge, in Limpopo Province near Kruger National Park – the northeast corner of this country I’ve come to love. I’ve been doing conservation research for two weeks, which necessitates many early mornings and game drives galore, and I couldn’t have enjoyed it more. The staff here is a dream team and I’ve lucked out with my fellow research volunteers in a huge way. I like it so much that I rearranged my calendar in order to stay longer and be part of the very first week of community volunteering here, working in the local schools and on programming with the lovely pair of people heading up this project. I am so looking forward to it – and to another two week gig in St. Lucia next month doing HIV/AIDS education/support with what I’m sure will be another wonderful group of folks.
There’s more lining up – check out my Instagram feed to see what’s happening day to day, or find me on Facebook – more time in the bush, which I love, a training in Cape Town with the Institute for Healing Memories I hope to attend, R&R with lovely friends in KwaZulu-Natal. It’s all weaving together beautifully. Sounds like a dream, doesn’t it?
And it is, of course, a dream come true. Something I’ve wanted to do for my entire life, a gift that I’ve somehow called to me over time. And something that requires, in the midst of all the wonderful, great sacrifice. Not just the conveniences – Amazon doesn’t deliver here, people. In fact, getting anything delivered in South Africa is a challenge. There are unidentifiable (for me, so far, I’m learning) creepy crawly things on the floor of my rondavel fairly regularly and the heat has risen to well over one hundred degrees more than once. I’m sweaty and dirty more often than not. There’s no such thing as green juice or gourmet chocolate in this little corner, either, it seems. And the internet in these parts has never heard of FIOS.
So much that I normally take for granted just is not here – and I couldn’t be happier. What is here is immense beauty. An unbelievable variety of creatures. People who share my mission to both expand their minds and hearts as much as humanly possible and do some good for the world as they go. A lack of privilege, perhaps, yes, and an incredible depth of culture, community and conservation potential to explore.
So much to dive into, such big skies to soar in. A place, for the first time, to really spread my wings and fly.
I don’t think, to answer the question, that it matters much what I’m doing here. What matters is that I’m being. I’m living what I talk about so much, write about, teach in so many ways. And for that, I’m so grateful. What it requires of me is to let go of the reins, to stop planning, to give up the safety of what many would consider a dream life in the States – a very, very comfortable way of living, and to let it all weave in front of me. To jump, to leap, to fly.
How long will I stay? That’s another post, on another day, somewhere down the line. For now, I’m content just to be here.
A juvenile tawny eagle – near Hoedspruit, South Africa.