The summer I turned 15, my father took me back to his home country. From the moment the airplane began lifting, I felt this overwhelming sense of adventure yet to come. The dull roar of the plane eventually lulled me to sleep, and when I woke up, I was in South Africa. Our family in Jo-burg was so welcoming. The unfortunate part of the night was that the moment we arrived, the power went out. Early the next morning we prepared for the real adventure: the game reserve. Rusks and dried mangoes would be the staples of our sustenance. I couldn’t help myself once we reached the gates of Kruger National Park; I bought every postcard in sight. As a special yet illegal treat, my dad let me man the vehicle. It was really no adjustment for me to be driving in the right hand seat nor on the left side of the road, as I had never driven before anyway. My grip on the steering wheel was so tight that my knuckles turned white because everywhere I looked, magnificent wildlife was swarming. “Yawners”, as my dad called them because there were so many, were these elegant creatures: gazelles, antelopes, kudu. My next wildlife encounter wasn’t quite so pleasant. A great, black rhino charged the front of the SUV while I was drivng. It was the most terrifying moment of my life. My dad came to my rescue; he quickly changed places with me and got us out of that predicament. I can still recall the feeling of being frozen with my mind racing and my heart pounding. We stayed in the game reserve for about a week and a half and had many adventures including the time a monkey stole my lipgloss, but that is a story for another time. What really impacted me the most were all of the fresh grave sites strewn by the roadway. Colourful tributes to those taken violently by AIDS were a shocking juxtaposition of celebration and tragedy. In South Africa, the AIDS epidemic is kept mostly underwraps sadly. I felt hurt for those victims and anger that they are being given no more attention than a passerby’s pity. Still, we trekked on to have an amazing time in the Drakensburg Mountains with our cousins, the Hathorns, in Thendele. We hiked to the peaks of the mountains and got so close to the edge, we could have easily been blown away. Most of the land is untouched, pure beauty. South Africa is astounding in that it is like a world of its own; it’s so diverse. From Cape Town, which is like nothing else I have ever seen, to Durban, our hometown, seeing all of that, I feel as though I have seen the world and beyond. If I breathe in deeply enough, I can still breathe Africa.
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