Being from Africa is the best thing that could have ever, ever happened to me. I cannot see it any other way. All of my fundamental principles that were instilled in me in my home, from my childhood, are still with me.
I grew up in my environment. I lived on and off the land. We grew and bred some of our food. We saw people’s lives made and broken by the weather and man. From that universe, I pictured an immaculate western world. There were no ants, no rubbish, no poverty, no down and outs. I knew the western world held opportunities and services abound.
When I moved to the western country which was labelled home, it was, in fact, very foreign. I learnt that I couldn’t point out someone’s skin colour. I learnt that no one else saw the rubbish on the streets nor the animals around. I learnt that weather, good or bad, was an inconvenience to someone. I saw people exist over the land, barely touching it.
As a teacher, I returned to Africa with students who would, without knowing, do the reverse of my journey. With their western eyes, they saw happiness stemming from little but environment. They found unity in a leopard’s paw print on treks or a baby scorpion in the campsite. Seeing fresh water was like a mini-Christmas. They chastised those who’d littered before us. They saw opportunities abound in a land that they thought of only in terms of lack.
Sometimes I look back and think now that it means little in the grand scheme of things. Litter still exists, the environment still nurtures us as we ignore it and the human race still tries to race as fast as the globe spins. But then I see students of those expeditions champion charitable causes, teach in remote regions abroad and reminisce over times spent in the desert. The changes may not come soon enough for some but at least I know a few more seeds are sprouting out there than before. And I can take nothing but comfort from that. There is a slow, almost imperceptible shift but I’m happy that I’m in a generation who can see it.