During months of anticipation, I knew Africa would be life-changing but I could scarcely imagine how that promise would morph into reality. Now that I am here having daily experiences that reveal something new about myself and those around me, I am not sure how I can serve this experience justice.
By the close of the semester next month, I will have balanced daily schoolwork with constant and varied travel through four African countries. A school and lifestyle ethic that begins early, rising from a sleeping bag strung out on a bunk at a local hostel and ending that same night in a freshly pitched tent in the African bush has been rigorous to be sure, yet sublimely rewarding.
While I know it is possible to develop one’s self-expression regardless of location or circumstance, I had personally found it difficult to glean inspiration from my life in Los Angeles. In the short time I have been traveling through Africa, my inspiration has been expanded in a way I hardly believed possible. I feel myself constantly compelled to write and whether school papers or journal entries, my pen flows with passion. My mind ceases to find an idle moment, provoking ideas and conversations both shared with my traveling companions and local acquaintances or left unexpressed and zealously treasured for my own memories. While the rigors of a busy day may exhaust the body, I often do not want to sleep. Instead, I indulge in how completely content I feel after a day of finding comfort in every moment from a simple exchange with a local person to observing the scenic brilliance of an African sunset.
Each new experience brings new meaning and understanding of the human spirit, for the Battle of Blood River is no longer just a textbook entry; it is an event that I re-created with my classmates on the very ground where it actually occurred. The conflicts in Zimbabwe are not just an obscure snippet in a newspaper; they are stark realities for Japhet, our kindly driver who can speak endlessly of his own experiences and opinions. AIDS orphans are no longer just an inconvenient statistic; they are the very children who wrote me personal letters and for whom I felt love after only an afternoon in their company.
Before this semester began I wondered how Africa would affect me. Since my arrival, countless memories have clarified that I was meant to come here. While at the core I remain the same person, a pent up passion to expand my horizons and knowledge that has long lingered within me is now unleashed. With passion re-ignited, I also know fresh inspiration does not have to end when I leave. I am finally where I always hoped to be: at the beginning of an infinite pathway where the opportunities for a depth of knowledge are of ineffable proportion.
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