My two weeks in South Africa were filled with emotion, awareness, and utter vacation euphoria. One of the most beautiful places I’ve ever seen, it is indeed my very favorite place in the world to reflect, relax, and revive my life’s purpose.
The 22 hour direct flight from New York’s JFK to Johannesburg was something that required great preparation in my mind. The two weeks away from my children would be the longest I had ever been away in their lifetime. Three meals, two naps, and a night’s sleep later we landed at Johannesburg International Airport, with another short connection down to Cape Town. Landing in Joburg launched the first few tears that marked the beginning of 14 days of emotional ups and downs as my husband and I traveled the country.
Traipsing across post apartheid South Africa gave me such an appreciation for the history and racial divide in the US. Less than 20 years post apartheid, there were still remnants of resentment in the southern part of the country. However, those sentiments weren’t nearly as prevalent as in this country hundreds of years after slavery and 40 years after the Civil Rights Act was passed. I wrote a comparison and contrast list each night in my journal of the racial experience. Despite being in a foreign land, I felt more accepted and more included in the world around me.
The land was so beautiful, nothing like the visuals of “Africa” that we get in the US – as if it is a homogenous place filled with poverty and violence. South Africa is a country, not unlike the US, that boasts mountains, oceans, lakes, and flat lands. The vegetation showcased in botanical gardens took my breath away. Standing atop Table Mountain, I was lost in the clouds only a few feet from my husband. The wine country made for a romantic afternoon meal on our anniversary.
In addition to the rich historical journey and appreciation of the diverse topography, no trip to South Africa is complete without going on safari. So, hubby and I took a three day trip to the “bush” in Mpumulanga where I refused to bathe outside alone while baboons stole our breakfast in the morning. Sleeping in the darkest night I’ve ever experienced was frightening while elephants walked through the campsite. We were lucky visitors because we saw all of the Big 5 on our trip: lions, elephants, buffalo, rhinos, and leopards.
Traveling to Africa is something I recommend for everyone, especially Black Americans. I can’t wait until my youngest son gets old enough to handle the flight. It’s an experience that my children need and one that will shape their lives the way it molded mine. Since my trip to South Africa I have lived my life “on purpose” with intentional decisions not made by television portrayals and backwoods legends. I want the same for my sons and all children of African descent living in the US. You go much farther when you understand where you’ve been. I’m glad that I’ve been to South Africa.