Five years ago my entire perspective on life was turned on its head. It was in the lowliest place on earth that I discovered the truest of riches and the one real hope for humanity. I always tell people that Africa both saved and ruined my life and that I couldn’t have been more thankful for it. Since my first day in the slums of Nairobi, Kenya I became caught between these two worlds. On one side was my normal American life, but in the back of my mind every day since, the kids and the people I had the privilege of meeting were there to haunt, challenge and inspire me. At first, there was a sense of grave responsibility to get their story out because of what I had seen and experienced. But the same demons that stalk the atrocities in Africa are the same of those in America; they just take on a different form – isolation, self absorption and materialism. Which is the greater of the two evils, it’s really hard to say. Continue reading “the return to Africa” »
With the windows rolled down and the summer pop-punk music blasting, the two friends cruised the Garden State Parkway at 75 miles per hour, heading south onto the Jersey Cape as the sun disappeared to the west, its streaks reflecting off aviators while a salty scent of ocean air swept through the vintage 80’s K-car. Their conversation hadn’t stopped in over an hour…
“… It would be simple and affordable. And cute of course. I’d bring her a flower, but just one. Unless it’s a special occasion because I wouldn’t want to overdo it or freak her out. It wouldn’t be a rose either. They’re nice but for a simple date, I’d prefer something, I don’t know, more playful I guess.. like a white carnation.”
“Definitely! And I would leave something on her doorstep because its all about the surprises and what could be better than waking up to something like that?”
“See boss, we’re thinking on those courtly love levels again, and lets be honest with ourselves, that’s just not at all what they really want, even though they’ll say all day that it is.”
The song faded as the car slowed to a stop at the traffic light on Stone Harbor Boulevard, a place that was a heart ache for the driver. Don’t call me peanut by Bayside was next on the ipod shuffle.
“I saw all those people at the bus stop in London, waiting to go to work. I rather take my chance in Africa again than have to go to work every day by bus.” – Dr. Nicholas Garrigan, The Last King of Scotland by Giles Foden.
‘T.I.A.’ was the first phrase I learned as I exited Jomo Kenyatta International Airport in Nairobi, Kenya. “This is Africa.” It was used to describe the chaotic, unorganized circumstances of the African continent and soon became the continuous excuse when things were not going according to plan. As I stepped out into the balmy night air and watched the perilous, anarchic traffic of the city I could see how the slogan evidently applied. Wasn’t it just a few short hours ago when I stood on a street corner in London watching people head off to work on the double decker buses? I recalled their business suits, brief cases and ringing cell phones. All of it was a common, daily prospect, being as I’m from Philadelphia. All of my life I had grown up in the prestige and advancement of western culture, until the moment I stepped off that British Airways 777 into a planet of its own. What I witnessed during my time on that resilient, dying continent has forever resonated in my being. I couldn’t believe that just a short plane ride away such ghastly realities actually existed. I had heard it said numerous times: “Well that is Africa. There’s no comparing the two worlds.” And I pose the question: “Why not?”