Let me start by saying that I really like living in Oman. It’s great; I am busy all the time as there is so much to see and do, I am in a choir again, it’s sunny all the time and I can be at the beach in minutes. But, I also have to confess that I miss Africa.
In 2014 I moved to Tanzania to work in an International School, largely populated with Tanzanian children. Don’t get me wrong, the school had (more likely, has) issues, but I truly loved Africa. I took the opportunity to travel, spending time in Namibia, Botswana, Zambia, Zimbabwe, Kenya and South Africa. I met amazing people and saw incredible sights. I fell in love with elephants…one in particular called Ndotto, but also all the elephants. Of course I had seen pictures, and videos. I had seen elephants in captivity. However, the first time I laid eyes on a wild elephant is something I will never forget.
In South Africa I reconnected with old friends…maybe before they were just acquaintances, but they are certainly friends now. I had amazing adventures with new friends whom I know will be friends for life. I had always wanted to be in the water with Great White Sharks, and now I have, but it hasn’t quashed my curiosity for the species and I frequently wonder if I will ever be able to meet a GWS in the ocean without bait and without a cage between us. There is something very refreshing about seeing them wild – perhaps more situations should occur where humans are in cages rather than animals when it comes to viewing animals perceived to be a danger to humans!
Before visiting Namibia my answer was always the same when I was asked about my favourite country that I had visited so far: Iceland. As I scrambled up Dune 45 in the Namib desert and watched the sunrise over the vast expanse of nothingness I knew that my answer would never be the same. On that day, I felt smaller than I had ever felt before. In Swakopmund I jumped out of a perfectly good and functional airplane – another bucket list tick-off moment. Seeing the enormousness of the Atlantic Ocean meet the immensity of the desert as I dived back down to earth reminded me how diverse this planet is, and how much more there still is to see.
Victoria Falls was incredible. What I love most about travel is that no matter how much I see, there are still things to see for the first time, things that will amaze me and remind me how powerful nature is. I rode this crazy horse around the area – his name was Bafana Bafana (named after the SA National football team) and it was a joy to be experiencing a natural wonder of the world on this ancient and natural mode of transport.
I climbed Kilimanjaro with a group of Year 9 students (aged 14/15). The last day was hard, and I hated it, but knowing that if I turned back then the kids couldn’t go on as I was the only teacher with them by that point, was enough to keep me focused on reaching the top of Africa. I used the climb to raise some money for ‘Pencils of Promise’; a charity raising money to provide education to young people who live in a situation far inferior to the lives that you and I have been fortunate enough to live. The ice is receding on Kili – a further reminder of the fragility of the planet – and a clear signal to me that we must live lives not just for us, but for others – even those not yet born.
I cannot wait to return to that great continent, though I plan to use much of my time in Oman to explore Asia (including more of the Middle East). I will continue to miss it; the sunsets, the rains, stunning jacaranda trees with their delicate purple flowers, my beloved 1977 Land Rover Series II known to many only as ‘Simba’ and the friends I made there. Bob Dylan told us to ‘Take care of all your memories. For you cannot relive them’; this is true, but I will, for now, look forward to making more African memories in the future.