Back in the U.S. – sort of! Ironically, due to the length (17 hours) and timing (overnight) of the flight back from Johannesburg, I got a fair amount of sleep, so the first day back home wasn’t bad. Day Two was a different story. Wow, this case of jet lag was different from any other I’d every previously experienced – like a really bad hangover from one of the many misspent nights at college but without the fun part. Anyway, after a couple of days of good living – sleep, exercise, gallons of water, mounds of healthy food (so happy to have access to fruits, vegetables, lean proteins, complex carbs again), physically, I’m making huge strides.
The mental aspects of re-acclimation to life in these United States may, however, take some time. That is not meant to sound negative, there’s just a lot of data to process before I can reach some conclusions. As a result, when people ask me how the trip went, it’s hard to give a simple answer. I generally say it was great and, as for the future and what it all means, well, I don’t know, it’s complicated, I’ll get back to you.
The good news for now is that, for me, the trip dispelled a lot of myths, and that is worthy of one more posting. Here are a few things I learned:
- Africa is definitely on the rise. Commerce is breaking out everywhere; good ideas abound; freedom, capitalism and upward mobility are desired by all elements of society. When you discuss the future, the energy and hopefulness of the Zambian people is just electric.
- Huge problems remain but progress is being made. One trip through Kenyama Compound would render the most upbeat person depressed. There’s a ton of work to be done, most notably on water sanitation; this and the other problems you have heard about are real. However, thanks to a multitude of government agencies, NGO’s and charitable organizations, where we were, big progress had been made on welfare issues like HIV, water access, food distribution, etc., and a lot of work is underway on education, child care, malaria, and other issues. Life in Africa is improving and, with perseverance, progress will continue.
- Anyone can do this. When I packed for the trip, I had no idea what to expect, so I made sure to fill my suitcase with every medicine I could possibly need, with clothing for every type of weather, and with enough protein bars to feed a small army. Imagine my surprise when, on our first day, we walked through a mall that rivaled most in America, including a Wal-Mart (branded there as Game) that sells virtually everything. If you go, you should still prepare well (get your shots & prescriptions) but, in general, allow yourself to relax a little. Brushing your teeth with bottled water is a pain, but I’ve experienced a lot more hassles in my domestic travels around the U.S.
So, there is one conclusion I can go ahead and state: pushing yourself out of your comfort zone may require some inconveniences, but they are well worth the rewards. It occurred to me on my flight home that the Zambia trip occurred on about the 20th anniversary of my first Big Adventure: a trip across the U.S. to Montana with three other guys crammed into a Honda Civic. After about a month it was time for us to go home, however, I found I just wasn’t ready to give up the freedom I had found there. So, when we were about thirty miles out of town, I asked my friend to pull over, I got out, hitchhiked back into town (my first & last hitchhiking experience), got a job, and stayed for six more months. People thought I had gone completely crazy, but from there I still went on to law school, I got married and had a family, and I built a nice career.
I’ve been blessed in my life, and I know that answering the call and getting out of my comfort zone in 1992 had to be a big factor. Where this most recent foray will lead is unknown, but it was definitely a worthwhile endeavor. I’ve just gotta do this more often than every twenty years!
Thanks very much for reading and especially for the comments, forwards, re-tweets, etc. – they were all very encouraging to me and the Team.
One last reminder (plug): official pictures and more detail can be found in the Team blog at zamjam2012-1.blogspot.com Most importantly, if you want to learn more about the work of ACE/CAC-Z, visit childreneverywhere.org. Please leave behind a donation if you’re so moved.