FROM THE PEARL OF AFRICA TO THE HEART OF AMERICA
We are returning home to America after a two-year hiatus. These returns are always full of emotion and are often bittersweet. The things I will miss the most about Africa are the friendly people with their stark white smiles, the multitude of cultures that are so different than ours, the dramatic savanna thunderstorms, the ethereal sunrises and sunsets, the incessant “exploring their new world” with our children, and of course the never-ending travel in this amazing wonderland. Most of all, I will miss the African animals, to whom I feel a strong spiritual connection. I have relished witnessing our girls fall in love with the living world around them, especially the African world of charismatic megafauna. Like so many people I know from the Western world, Africa stole my heart years ago and my return is inevitable.
There are a few atrocities that I cannot wait to escape: the discrimination against minorities and lack of basic human rights, planning preemptive escape routes for fear of al Shabaab terrorist attacks, and mostly the corruption and poaching that paint a grim picture for the unique animals in this part of the world. Uganda also has expensive internet that is controlled by Uganda’s corrupt government and horrible traffic and pollution that limits your daily movements.
I feel excitement to return “home” to America and to spend quality time with friends and family. I look forward to taking a deep breath of clean, crisp air, and I will noticeably appreciate the relatively clean streets and cities. The beautiful snow-capped mountains with green trees and clear blue lakes will make me feel more alive than ever. America also provides a place where our children are generally safe running and exploring in their own neighborhoods. In addition, I will be astutely aware of the high number of middle class people in relation to the relatively low number of the impoverished, the lack of corruption in everyday life, and the comparably reduced gender inequity and discrimination of minorities. I do recognize we are a work in progress. Or at least I still hope it is this way.
This return is yielding slightly different emotions than usual: I’m returning to a country that is brewing hatred, with a presidential candidate that was nominated through hate and fear mongering, who acts as a positive feedback mechanism within his own party that continually increases the fear, hatred, and division within our own people. I am concerned about the minorities, about the non-Christians, about the foreigners living within and out of our borders. Mostly, I am worried about us as Americans. We are divided as a country and we are making an enemy of ourselves. Our fear and hatred for our own people is spiraling into an infinite chasm and the light at the other end of the tunnel is getting dimmer and dimmer. I was initially in disbelief, which eventually led to anger, and now I feel pure sadness toward the hateful words that are leading to actions of violence, this violence that seems to be not only accepted, but praised by our presidential nominee. I am worried about November and if we continue down this path of anger and discrimination, I dread the grim, desolate road we are building for the future generations of Americans. I am still very excited to be returning to our beautiful home that we love so much, but for the first time, I am full of anxiety about the possibility of feeling like I am no longer escaping the atrocities of a developing country. Please, please, please let Americans choose a road of peace and love and continue to strive to get rid of discrimination, hatred, and violence. Let us create a world that is hospitable to our children and grandchildren; let us teach them love and tolerance and leave a legacy of which we can be proud.