Thursday, February 12, 2009

"Going to Africa"

For the most part Americans know very little geography; many don't even know the locations of many states, let alone their capitals. As we learned last summmer Sarah Pallin thought Africa was a country, not a continent with over 50 countries in it. When an American thinks, "going to Africa" he thinks safari. This is thanks to movies, TV nature programs and our very chauvinistic, parochial school system. If pushed a fair percentage of Americans will realize that Egypt is actually in Africa and it's not where safari's happen Likewise most can call up from the recesses of their education the fact that the Sahara is in Africa too.

For many travelers a safari vacation is a "trip of a lifetime." The romance of the big animals has been at the edge of their minds for a long time. Roger, a Minnesotan in our group said just that. Others felt it. My roommate, Juanita had been to Kenya and Tanzania ten years earlier; she knew where the various countries were. Feriadoon had been in 26 different countries, on business, "but only in the cities," he said and his wife wanted to see the animals.

I read Hemingway and without liking his writing I was fascinated by his descriptions, although not his hunting. Yes, the animals were always a draw, but I've been interested in how people live, in the mystery and magic and wonder of the Himalayan regions of Asia, and had, earlier in life, satisfied most of my curiosity about Europe. I had been to Africa, that is, Egypt and Morocco but not safari-Africa. Once there I realized how deeply my reading and the films and tv had sunk into my memory. I found it both familiar and wonderfully exciting to see elephants in the wild, impala by the hundreds, zebra and giraffe and Cape buffalo grazing or standing at a water hole, to see wart hogs scamper and watch baboons have a territorial squabble. Mine is definitely not some romantic primodial memory; it is literary and visual.

Should I ever go back to Africa I would look for something different, probably the exoti civilization of Ethiopia. I've traveled a lot, now I want to experience what I have not experienced before. There certainly are plenty of places to go to do that, I will run out of time and money long before the world has nothing new to offer.

[photos; Cape buffalo and baboons]

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