Yesterday, Brian, Bob and I took a hiking safari in Arusha National Park. I really didn’t know what to expect and to be honest I’ve seen giraffes and other animals before so my mind really didn’t fixate on the fact that this time I would be seeing the animals on their turf, not mine. My idea was that we’d have a nice little walking path and go around the park and see some animals. But I quickly realized that the day would bring so much more. The day would help me to understand the importance of trust – both human to human, human to nature, and to ourself.
Our driver to the park was Galieb. He arrived about 20 minutes late and we all figured he wasn’t going to show up. But the hotel clerk said just wait. Bad traffic which was unusual for a Sunday. He’ll be here. And sure enough, he arrived. He made no apologies for his tardiness but instead shook our hands, verified he had the right passengers, and stated “I am here now…” which I believed to be both a statement of fact and his acknowledgment of being late, but without need to apologize for something he couldn’t control. I liked this because I think at times we apologize too much for things we can’t control so the “sorries” and the intensity of them get lost when they are genuine sentiments about things we can control – or should have controlled.
The jeep was rugged and lacked air conditioning. But it didn’t seem to matter. The hot African air seemed to cool us all down through the windows as we started our drive to the park. The drive to the park was back towards the airport. In daytime, this city is completely different. The amount of stores, both open and boarded up and best mirroring our strip malls in the states, lined the landscape of our drive. They were too numerous to count, too improvised to know if they could sustain employment. And yet there was trust in their existence that perhaps for some it meant food for their families while for others a sense of community.
Trust in God was also apparent on this Sunday morning for this predominately Catholic community. Orthodoxy, Hinduism, and Muslim also are strong religions here. But as Galieb said, “we all worship in the name of Christianity… We respect all.” A statement that kept echoing in my mind as I watched so many women beautifully dresses in their African garb and men in their suits walk – some
for many miles Bible in hand – to pray. I was particularly struck by the sight of an elderly couple who hand in hand walked in the heat and the dust – to pray together and by the sight of the group of children near the orphanage who walked together, the older ones carrying the younger ones to church. If my spirit hadn’t been so moved by these two images, I would have snapped a photo, but instead they will remain pictured on my heart as a reminder of love and faith.
The drive to the park was about 45 minutes during which my mind was filled not only with images, but also with knowledge I learned from Galieb. He didn’t mind the many questions about population, education, and religion that I asked, and thankfully neither did Brian and Bob, although they may have mastered the art of tuning me out! In the absence of relying on the Internet for answers, I have rediscovered the art of asking questions and to trust myself as a learner and knowledge filter. Once we arrived in the park, we left our jeep and our feet allowed us to travel the next journey.
(Brian with our jeep).
Our ranger was Seyed. He guided us through the park enriching our understanding of Arusha’s natural beauty. The rifle casually slung on his back seemed to innocently remind us of the potential dangers that may lay ahead. And yet we trusted. In Seyed, in the animals, and in us.
Our walk started out as expected – on a tame path, across a bridge where we stopped to admire the “brown stream” that was the end of the waterfall’s river.
And then we came to the prairie and saw the giraffes in the distance. Camera raised I went to snap the shot – but with his hand raised Seyed motioned forward as we veered off the path straight onto the prairie — within feet of the giraffes, buffaloes, and warthogs. It.was.indescribable. Seyed snapped this photo of me when I was about 30 feet of the giraffe I named Gerald, a character from one of my favorite children’s books,Giraffes can’t Dance. The other picture I took as I braved closer, coming to trust in me and my surroundings.
Throughout our hike, which took us up part of Mt Meru, my thoughts were abundant as I was continually amazed being so close to all this natural beauty. In nature’s lesson, I learned that the animals have come to trust us though their own instincts as much as they know their predators, and we come to trust each other when our interactions bring harmony and peace to our soul. It is how we are complete and trust in ourselves, especially on those occasions when, like Gerald, we dance to the beat of a different drum and come to recognize that is perfectly fine.