Technology is an amazing thing. I’m writing this column in October, from the privacy of my home, but by time it is published, I will have been in Kenya for approximately six days and will still have about that many more to go. No doubt I will have much to write about when I return, but for now I’ll just share all my pre-trip thoughts and jitters.
Having lived in Italy, vacationed in Greece & London, shopped in Mexico and Hong Kong, done missions work in China, Haiti and Guatemala, I would call myself a fairly seasoned traveller. However, this is my first journey to Africa and nothing about it is similar to my other excursions. My husband, James, has been numerous times, so he knows exactly what he is doing. I only know we are “roughing it”. When travelling to other countries, I love to truly experience the culture i.e., stay where they stay, eat what they eat, shop where they shop, you get the picture. However, James takes experiencing the culture to an entirely different level; he carries a hiking backpack with three changes of clothes, FOR TWO WEEKS; two pairs of shoes, his own travel pillow, a sleeping “sock” and one of those quick drying towels. Are you getting the idea that this trip definitely will not be a vacation? I am not even sure how to describe the housing accommodations, zero stars maybe?? We get to wash with cold water from a cistern and share sleeping quarters with small, possibly furry, four legged creatures. I am excited though about all the exercise we’ll get trekking across the countryside carrying those backpacks. I figure I’ll come home a few pounds lighter than when I left.
The hair…this requires a paragraph unto itself. Now don’t think me vain when I say I’m really concerned about my hair. You have to understand I have longer than shoulder length, massively curly hair, the kind that requires daily treatment with spray conditioner, hair serum, two different types of mousse and two types of hairspray just to look presentable. I promise I’m not kidding when I say the untamed beast resembles Medusa’s locks. Perhaps this doesn’t really sound like a problem, but when you compare airline restrictions on liquids to 3.4 ounces for carry-ons with a standard 6.8 ounce bottle of mousse, they don’t quite equal. Travel size, you say? Not all brands come in travel size and as anyone with curly hair knows, not all products are created equal! No doubt any pictures of me in Africa will include a headband and standard top bun.
As if there were not already going to be significant amounts of culture shock, I also am expected to speak to groups of African women, an event for which, at this writing, I am completely unprepared. It’s not as if I haven’t done such a thing before, I spoke at a women’s conference in Haiti, but I volunteered and knew exactly what I wanted to share. My fear here is relevance. My first world thinking will not bear witness to these women, many of whom do not have running water. How do I find something to share that is meaningful to them?
Don’t be fooled by my trepidation over some aspects of the trip; I am genuinely excited for this experience. I’ll close by sharing a poem, Dark Continent, I wrote before one of my husband’s previous trips; hopefully it provides a peek into my heart:
Listen to sounds rise from the plain;
Voices parched cry out for rain.
Echoes travel across the land
Deep groans soar from burning sand.
Grateful hearts that sin no more
Africa looks heaven toward.
Daughter seeks, weeps, implores
Hunger rumbles forest to shore.
Father hears the frantic plea,
Chooses a son to set Her free.
Ordinary man, extraordinary vision,
One agreed to accept the mission.
Until Next Time,
Becky J Miller