By Alex M. Eduque
I am a true blue, one hundred percent certified city girl. The kind who thrives in the hustle and bustle of it all – in the midst of pandemonium even, when things are happening simultaneously. Maybe a bit too much, actually, being the type to bask in the quintessential New York City noise, and who needs that type of multi-tasking frenzy to thrive. So much so that even if I do cherish some quiet time in a more rural setting from time to time, being away from the city for days on end gets me antsy, and agitated. So when I found myself embracing the serenity and silence of the African bush even after many days without missing the busyness and the city way of life, I knew something was special, and some sort of magic existed within its vast lands. For once, I was sad to leave the wilderness for the city when the day came, and up till now, I find myself longing for those magical moments. From the surrealness of animals I only ever saw on National Geographic in their natural habitat at arms length, so free and moving about in unrestricted motion, to the picturesque sunsets that would turn into a star-filled sky, Mother Nature was ever so generous to treat us with her beauty in those glorious six days. I never thought I would find it in myself to appreciate, let alone be moved by the greatness of nature as much as I have. And that is perhaps the reason why God brought me to South Africa – to take it all in, to broaden my horizons, to shift my perspectives and to awaken my soul to his wondrous and majestic creations outside the world I have grown up in and have come to know.
The vastness and greatness of the African bush lands have a way of altering one’s perception, and placing things into proper perspective. Or so I found. Its landscape, and the abundance of nature alone has a way of reminding, and making one feel as if you are but a small aspect of nature, amidst all of God’s creations in the grander scheme of life. That our problems, and whatever burdens we may be carrying with us are rather futile when placed among the blessings bestowed on us. That humans are in fact the greatest predators of animals, and that the “Circle of Life” indeed exists – what goes up, eventually comes down. Seeing nature before our very eyes awakened me to the reality that while we all aspire to get to the top, being up there can sometimes be the loneliest and toughest place. And in the animal kingdom, it is in fact no different because sometimes, it is most difficult to be at the top of the food chain. As one of the rangers explained to us, male lions perhaps live the hardest lives because they are predators to all, and thus, have to hunt to eat, and cannot subside on the abundance of leaves. They sometimes go days without eating, and have to make the most out of a kill, which they share with the rest of their pride. When compared to humanity, one cannot help but reflect on the image of a leader who is feared by all. At the end of the day, while being at the helm has its privileges, it comes with a whole lot more of (command) responsibility that sometimes makes us feel like it is much easier to just follow instructions and directions, versus managing people and creating systems.
Surprisingly, while in the bush, I was not compelled to check my phone half as much. The absence of signal did not bother me quite as much as it probably would have in other places, like it has at other times in the past. The only time I had the urge to bring it out of my pocket was to snap a shot in the attempt of documenting a special moment. The safari experience proved to me that the only way to fully connect with those around you, and with your immediate surroundings is to disconnect from the rest of the world, and to focus on your now. That indeed, to live is to be fully present and aware in the moment. Carpe Diem has never resonated with me as much, and I think I can now confidently say that I have had my fair share of quality moments where I have fully seized the opportunity, and the day.
The bush is undoubtedly a full sensory experience. Quite the overload, if you will. And I do not think I remember the last time I have engaged, and appreciated all my five senses all together, and as much. The bush has a way of reminding us of the importance of minimalist, cutting out and de-cluttering – not only materially, but emotionally as well. Quite simply put, how little we actually need to subsist, be comfortable and happy is quite surprising. Indeed, the beauty of nature in its purest and rawest form, is under appreciated, and its ability to tranquilize – even in as simple as stepping out of a confined space to inhale a breath of fresh air – is underestimated and underutilized.
Lastly, if there is anything Africa has gifted me with for ten days, it was the liberty to just let go and let live. Cliché as it sounds, the daily agenda of early morning wake up calls for game drives were no bother, and instead of zapping the energy out of me, actually uplifted my spirits. I guess it is the magic of being in the great outdoors – breathing the freshest air, and simply being in the midst of the rising and setting sun – that we take for granted. It is almost as if I could not get enough of what nature had to offer. Everyday had an element of surprise, and as routine as the time of the game drives were, it was the mystery of not knowing what was in store, and what we were going to see that drive that kept us on the edge of our seats. I always found myself wanting, and longing for more – I still am actually. And as I sit back in the reality, and daily grind of things as I type this, I am already dreaming about the next time…