Strong and brave, a sprout pushes its way up from the wet soil it has been planted in, one day to become a magnificent tree, if the conditions are just right. A gardener buried a tiny seed with gentle hands, knowing its potential, and hopeful that this one would flourish. In a Tree nursery there are a lot of seeds planted, which translates into a lot of potential and a lot of hope!
This week of Thanksgiving inspires gratitude. What better way to generate hope than to reflect on the relationships that bring you joy and the events that light a fire in you. (i.e. your (literal and figurative) travel partners, and the wonderful places you visit together.) Consider the experiences that give you peace, and usher in feelings of reassurance, that everything is going to be alright. That’s the feeling of returning home, wherever that is.
Reflecting on my recent travel in East Africa – in Kenya, Uganda and Rwanda – I’m astonished, really. Here I am, back in the comfort and security of home, back to the welcomed routine of having friends and family near, and back to the warmth of feeling loved by those who matter most. . . yet I’m thrilled, again and again, by the journey I’ve been on, the adventure I’m living.
I’m grateful for the chance to eat exotic foods, full of colorful flavor. I’m excited to listen to music that is foreign to my Midwestern ears, performed, on stage, in languages I can’t translate. There is a thrill in not always knowing what direction you’re facing, and needing to figure it out, with the help of a compass, the position of the sun overhead, the direction of the shadows underfoot, or the kindness of a stranger.
I travel, and everything is new. . . different. . . exciting!
Despite all of the newness, and the growth that comes from being challenged and stimulated likes this, I’m also pleased to find like-minded people in East Africa. I’m reassured to find people who care about the same things I do, who laugh at the silliness of our mistakes and swell with pride when their efforts lead to more of what is good in this expansive world.
At the African Fund for Endangered Wildlife (AFEW) Giraffe Centre I’m welcomed by owners, facilitators and animal caregivers that have a soft spot for endangered animals, as you’d expect. I feel right at home. Wrapped up with this passion for species preservation is an appreciation for ecological and biological diversity, a concern for local efforts at conservation, and a desire to educate the next generation about how precious our resources are.
I’m grateful for that.
I’m rooting for the ambitious little sprout, planted by a kindred spirit, at the AFEW Nursery. School children who visit the center learn about composting, and tending the garden. Their hands get dirty. These kids are builders, inventors and budding conservationists. They continue to get hands on, building a colorful fence around the nursery, repurposing discarded “single-use” plastic bottles that might otherwise find their way into a landfill.
Solar panels power the center. Feedbags are refilled and reused, as the next wave of visitors arrives. Shards of glass are arranged in a multi-colored mosaic, depicting the beloved giraffes at the center. Some tourists may be there just to take a selfie while “kissing” a giraffe, but their tourist dollars are funding a rather serious conservation education campaign and reestablishing vulnerable and endangered species.
I could linger, but are more sights to see. I decide it’s important to linger, and because we’ve planned this trip ourselves, we can spend as much or as little time as we like. . . taking just one more giraffe selfie, and absorbing a bit more of the conservationist mindset that makes AFEW so much more than a giraffe sanctuary.
A love of the land is being nurtured here. A “seed” is being planted, in the 3rd grade class that sits to listen to an entertaining talk by a center volunteer. Those adult visitors who care to do so get down to kid-level, and it’s the warthogs that provide the afternoon entertainment, rooting around in the dirt at the gangly giraffe’s feet. The joy of the school children is contagious.
Can a love of travel be nurtured and grown in just the same way? I can only express gratitude for the “seed” that has been planted, in me, in Nairobi, Kenya. Can a Wanderlust take root, so that it becomes a part of who you are. . . ?
It certainly has!
Join me on my next adventure,
African Fund for Endangered Wildlife (Giraffe Centre): https://www.giraffecentre.org/
U.S. Environmental Protection Agency (EPA): “Reduce, Reuse, Recycle”: https://www.epa.gov/recycle
Tusk: Rothschild Giraffe: https://www.tusk.org/species/rothschild-giraffe/