Her awe of Africa

Malik speaks about her reformed perceptions on her visit to the distant continent


Malik embraces the new environment on her journey through Africa

Twenty hours from Dallas to Johannesburg. Two from Johannesburg to Windhoek. Eight hours from Windhoek to the conservancy. Africa was beautiful and I found something more to love with every blink. When we landed in Johannesburg, I was surprised to find that the city was nothing like my preconceived idea of Africa. Buildings lined every street and stretched into the skyline, cars zoomed past in every direction, and my belief that cities of this kind were only found in America quickly disappeared.

During the drive from Windhoek to the conservancy, I saw people living in conditions worse than what they show on the UNICEF commercials. The skyscrapers of Johannesburg were replaced with tents made of clothing scraps and cardboard boxes. The flimsy material provided meager protection from the blistering heat during the day and the freezing desert wind at night. I watched as blurs of small children, born into poverty and never knowing a better life, played happily with one another, skin clinging to their ribs.

On the third day of our hunt, we went to visit the Himba tribe that resided 50 miles into the conservancy. The village was centered around a spring in the middle of the desert. Date palms towered over their small huts and provided shade for the children to play in. The women of the tribe greeted us with blankets laid out, piled high with handmade jewelry. Their hair and bodies were coated in a red mud from the spring to protect their skin from the harsh rays of the sun. No one in the tribe spoke English, and our hunting guide was the only person in our party who could speak the tribe’s language. After I had purchased jewelry from their mothers, a group of children, no older than four, invited me to sit with them. They crowded around me and tugged at my dry hair.

After contemplating it for a while, all of the things that I had considered struggles over the course of the trip were nothing in comparison to the daily lives of these people. The happiness of people who lived in houses the size of my closet made me realize how truly blessed I am and how much I took for granted. What began as a hunting trip became an experience that I remind myself of daily. Africa is home to savannas and rainforests, meerkats and elephants, rich and poor, and a breathtaking view of the Milky Way. It is land apart from technology, full of beautiful people who find pleasure in simply being. Yes, it is more than a far off continent referenced by your mother when you don’t finish your dinner.