Cee’s Which Way Challenge – Africa in the news again

Road in Samburu - photo by E Jurus
Road in Samburu – photo by E Jurus

How can you beat a drive through a landscape like this? This is a typical road in the Samburu Reserve in Kenya, one of the most unspoiled places in Africa.

Africa is in the news a lot lately. Unfortunately we usually only hear the bad news, and as a consequence travellers will once again be fearful of landing anywhere on its shores.

We tend to view Africa as a volatile place, but we tend to forget that Africa is a vast continent composed of many countries and many influences. In North America we have a short timeline and history, but countries in Africa have to contend with centuries of culture clashes, both internal and from external sources.

However, quite a few countries remain fairly stable, and we can continue to hope that the organizations working so hard for stability in other countries are able to create the change necessary to achieve it.

Having visited Africa four times and having enjoyed its beauty and warmth firsthand in many different countries, I believe all efforts to effect change are well worth the effort, no matter how many setbacks.

One planet-wide organization that is surely on the right path is the Council for a Parliament of the World’s Religions. You can read their recent blog called The Parliament and URI Call for Peace and Prayers in Africa.

Don’t be afraid to visit Africa! You’ll come back a different person. Travelzoo has just posted a great trip to South Africa with an add-on to Victoria Falls, truly one of the wonders of the world and one of my favourite places in Africa. See our article on what safaris are like and how to prepare for one.

Victoria Falls Bridge straddles the Zambezi between Zambia & Zimbabwe - photo by E Jurus
Victoria Falls Bridge straddles the Zambezi between Zambia & Zimbabwe – photo by E Jurus

This trip includes airfare from Toronto, which a significant cost, so it’s a very good deal, and although the itinerary only includes 3 game drives, it’s a nice overall mix. As you have a couple of free afternoons in Vic Falls, you may want to consider some of the many adventure activities in the area – see a great selection at Safari Par Excellence, in particular the Lion Encounter, where you can actually do a bush walk with young lions as part of a conservation program. It’s like nothing else you’ll ever experience!

Yours truly with a young lion on the Lion Encounter, Masuwe Reserve, Zimbabwe
Yours truly with a young lion on the Lion Encounter, Masuwe Reserve, Zimbabwe

Weekly Photo Challenge – a rare spring flower

The lovely and fleeting bloom of the Walking Iris, Peruvian cloud forest - photo by E. Jurus
The lovely and fleeting bloom of the Walking Iris, Peruvian cloud forest – photo by E. Jurus

Sometimes in life you plan for one thing and get extraordinarily lucky with something else.

Spring for me is a time of flowers. I’m fortunate to live in an area with orchards, and every May is blossom time. This year, though, after a long cold winter, the blossoms are late, so I’ll post a special blossom from a past adventure.

We visited Peru in its spring season – specifically November, which is orchid season in the Andean cloud forest. We stayed at a wonderful ecohotel in Aguas Calientes, at the base of Machu Picchu, and were able to do a guided walk to explore the 300-odd varieties of orchids that grow wild around the grounds of the Inkaterra Machu Picchu Pueblo Hotel. The orchids were amazing, but as we explored them our naturalist also pointed out a whitish flower that was on the verge of blooming. He told us that it was an iris that only blooms for one day a year, and that if we were lucky we might see it.

The next day I was up early for a bird walk, and checked eagerly around the grounds for signs of blooms. Finally, about mid-morning, the magic happened! The beautiful Neomarica northiana, known as the Walking Iris for the rhizomes it sends out to propagate, had graced us with her brief but spectacular debut. No one else was with me, so I savoured it quietly alone. Taking a photo of the iris was challenging, as it appears to like the shade/low lighting, and a light breeze kept moving it around so much that the camera had a hard time focusing on the delicate petals. I managed to get a couple of decent shots as a record of this small miracle that Mother Nature gifted me with, and which I was duly grateful for.

Many things in life are ephemeral; it’s up to us to make the most of their fleeting gifts.

Bucket List – Forgiveness

Forgiveness can bring peace - photo by E. Jurus
Forgiveness can bring peace – photo by E. Jurus

What baggage do we carry around with us in our lives? Sometimes the emotional baggage, residue from episodes of anger, hurt, disappointment or betrayal, can weigh us down enormously. Forgiving someone, while sometimes a seemingly impossible task, can do us a world of good. Even if we only make it as far as letting go of the emotions, that’s a substantial step in the right direction.

When I was in my twenties, an arsonist set fire to my parents’ home. They were lucky to make it out alive. The insurance company rebuilt their house, but it couldn’t rebuild their lives.

The police never caught the perpetrator, although we had our suspicions about a miserable neighbor and some union involvement.

The ripples from that event lasted for the next decade and a half. My dad’s health went downhill, and my mom started drinking again. I cursed the arsonist for years for all the pain he/she caused to all of us.

It was only after my parents had both passed away and were free from the event’s clutches that I was able to let it go myself and move on. I haven’t forgiven the arsonist for what he/she did, but I don’t really think about it any longer, and there’s no longer bitterness associated with the memory. The Mayo Clinic website has the following thoughts on the process:

” Generally, forgiveness is a decision to let go of resentment and thoughts of revenge. The act that hurt or offended you might always remain a part of your life, but forgiveness can lessen its grip on you and help you focus on other, positive parts of your life. Forgiveness can even lead to feelings of understanding, empathy and compassion for the one who hurt you.

Forgiveness doesn’t mean that you deny the other person’s responsibility for hurting you, and it doesn’t minimize or justify the wrong. You can forgive the person without excusing the act. Forgiveness brings a kind of peace that helps you go on with life.”

So by that definition, I’ve found forgiveness.

It’s been far less easy to forgive myself for hurts I’ve caused others. There’s a subconscious sense I have, right or wrong, that I need to pay for those hurts by my continued pain at having inflicted them.

forgiveness-is-a-giftOn May 4th, the Global Forgiveness Challenge begins. It was created by Desmond Tutu and his daughter Mpho, who live in a country where there are decades of grievous hurt and stored resentment. The goal of the challenge is to encourage you to let go of your emotional baggage and begin the healing process. Once you sign up for the challenge, you’ll receive a daily inspirational message by email from Tutu and his daughter, daily exercises to practice, articles to read and the support of an entire community of fellow sufferers.

I’ve signed up for the challenge. Perhaps with their help I might even be able to forgive myself.

You’ll find more information about the Forgiveness Challenge here.Let me know if you’ve joined the challenge, and perhaps we can all help each other.