Monday, April 19, 2010

Thin Lines

Do places that enclose wild animals in the name of education, service, research and conservation - such as wildlife rehabilitation centers and zoos, who also generate funds by charging people to view the animals in 'marketable ways' help or harm wildlife?

Is the water infused with the bark of a Baobab tree to make 'skinny' babies grow and thrive when bathed and fed with it Shangani myth and legend, or powerful medicine?

Is the Spider Hunting Wasp who captures its prey, paralyzes it with its sting, lays its eggs on the still live body so that its newborn babies will have fresh meat to eat upon arriving in this world a vicious killer or a good provider for its family?

Is a man who tracks and shoots animals to be able to feed his family a hunter, or a poacher?

Is being absolutely sure of your beliefs about your god(ess)(es) the bedrock of a good and satisfying life or damnation embodied as the suredness of others is denied?

It depends, one might say. It is so clearly this or that, says another.

Its both - all of these things, says another.

Intent? Perception? Harm done? To whom? In it's nature? The way of nature? The way of the world? Is the world not all natural? It's shades of gray, says another. Is what man makes from the resources around him less natural than the cunning construct of twigs and grass the caterpillar carries on his back to shield him from predators? A cheetah in a zoo who no longer has to hunt for her food less of a cheetah? A man who no longer has to farm for his food, less of a man? Thin lines. Gray lines. Hard lines. Blurred lines. I've always preferred circles myself.

In South Africa there have been these conversations and more. The time, space and companionship to dance with these notions, and fall in love with the mess and the beauty of not being sure of any of it again and again.

Sunday, April 18, 2010

Siyafunda Sunrise

5:45am. Sunrise. Outside my room at Siyafunda the sky is growing lighter and I step outside in time to watch the sun come up, backlighting the tree branch sculptures. When I turn around there are four giraffe munching their breakfast in the next door field. Gorgeous. Surprising, and not. Most people at camp have been here at least a week and giraffe and zebra, kudu and impala are common sightings for them so soon. I'm still jumping out of my seat with a huge grin on my face pointing - there! There!

Of course everyone was excited when we encountered the Rhino 'family' of four on the road yesterday. The baby was 'whining' at it's momma in this high pitched voice...whhhhnnnn wwwhhhhnnn. Pay attention to me. Let me suckle. I want ice cream. Oh, that last was a remnant of my own memories! There is nothing like the time and distance difference in the African bush to both want to make you stay forever, and at exactly the same time, give anything to hear your child at home ask you if they can have some ice cream. Of course, honey. Moose Tracks or Mint Chocolate Chip? Chocolate on that?

Tuesday, April 13, 2010

My Room in Africa

This is my room in Africa. Inside it feels much like a lovely guest room in the home of a friend with really nice taste, and who has the kind of organization and sensibility to provide visitors with a selection of pillows, a cozy down comforter and the kind of sheets that are worn to just soft ripeness but perfectly clean without being all bleachy. Whistling Trees lodge has been my home in Africa, and I can't recommend it highly enough.

SAFE is the word you hear most here in South Africa, as in 'be safe', 'travel safe', 'are you safe'? Safety it seems has become a new thing to yearn for - the next nirvana after the fall of apartheid. John, our trusty gentle and funny grandfather of six who drives us everywhere tells of how things were so much safer during the apartheid years. No violence in schools. No killings on the streets. Why I asked? Having immersed myself in books and videos before traveling I thought on this I was clear. That apartheid was the time of violence and killings. John tells me that with separation of the people came a sort of safety within the areas that were for your people. That teachers could discipline in schools. That now he doesn't care to venture out to the beloved soccer games of this country because there is fighting in the game, and out.

I don't say these things to have you avoid South Africa. Exactly the opposite. It is a place now of great opening. Of turmoil awaiting a new form of what is possible when people demand equality where so much history has denied it. Where such diverse people are piled atop one another so closely around the cities that you bump up against difference each minute. And it is wonderful and alive. And in my room in Africa, and exploring South Africa, with the friendship and care of Daniel and his staff I am also SAFE.