My friend Shari and I have traveled in 12 countries, in 3 continents, the past 4 years, together, plus many other countries separately. We seem to be amazingly lucky. We’ve been in, or missed by a day, five devastating natural disasters: a huge fire (South Africa), a landslide (Hong Kong), a 6.5 earthquake (Costa Rica), a volcano eruption (Iceland), and a flood (Peru).
These are things I love in Africa:
1. Wonderful fruits I don’t even know the name of. I got out of the car to ask villagers what this amazing little red fruit is. We bought a bag of them from people standing on the side of the road on the way to BlydeRivierSpoort. What they said sounded something like “Dilahdwa.” Anybody got a better name than that? WHY ISN’T ANYONE IMPORTING THIS STUFF?
2. There are 73 dialects in Zambia and amazingly, people seem to know what language others speak just by looking at them.
3. Mango farms. They’re everywhere. I ate dried mango till my jaw hurt. We cut up fresh ones in our hotel room daily–the best fruit on the planet. I think avocadoes and mangoes are my two favorite foods in the universe. Right after chocolate.
4. African babies. The people and the animals. Check out this baby elephant that crossed our path.
5. Rocket and Peppadew Salad. They don’t use dressings in Africa, just a little olive oil. Rocket is a green, and peppadew is a sweet-sour pepper I am in love with.
6. The South African practice of saying “Pleasure!” instead of “You’re welcome!” I can’t get enough of that. It makes it sound as if you’re completely thrilled to be doing an act of service. One of my 2011 goals is to say, “My pleasure!” when someone thanks me.
7. That I was briefly a millionaire in Zambian ketchwa. Actually it’s horrible that the exchange rate is 5,000 to 1, allowing me to achieve that status for $300. And I didn’t even need it because everyone wants your dollars in Zambia.
8. Nelson Mandela. Racism is alive and well in post-Mandela South Africa, unfortunately. My perception is that his tenets of tolerance and forgiveness for the oppressors who incarcerated him at Robben Island for many years are far from fully realized in the government and people of South Africa. I watched Invictus on the plane home: a good movie about Mandela inspiring and leveraging the national rugby team to unite South Africa and ease racial tensions.
9. Lions walking in front of your car. A pack of wild dogs, or a family of 60 baboons, lounging or clowning in the road. Kid you not.
Tomorrow, things I don’t love so much in Africa.