I could tell you a million reasons why I have always wanted to go to Africa. It may or may not of started when I was a little girl watching “Out of Africa.” To be honest, I could of cared less about Robert Redford. It was Meryl Streep I wanted to be. Well, not really, but I wanted to be in a place untouched by human hands and ruled by animals. Perhaps it was all of the National Geographic magazines I read as a kid, analyzing different tribes and animals throughout the years. But, somewhere in my heart I knew I wanted to see this place some day.
My cousin died from complications of AIDS in 1992. It was a tragic death, horrible. I never got to see him before he died. I remember talking to him shortly before he passed. I remember him being confused and not sure of who I was. And I remember weeping for hours after I got the news.
I was close to him. He taught me about opera and classical music. Something this tomboy would of never appreciated without his help. I wound up playing the cello from the ages of 8 to 15. My favorite singer to this day is Luciano Pavarotti. As a kid I listened over and over again to a Leornard Bernstein record – especially when it played Tchaikovsky’s Piano Concerto No. 1 in B flat minor, Op. 23. And at our wedding, during the lighting of the unity candle, Pavarotti sang. My cousin would of smiled. I am pretty sure of that.
In high school I went on a trip to Watts in LA and it changed me forever. I wanted to work with inner-city kids for the rest of my life. Well really, I just wanted to work with people, period. And so I did. I was a drug and alcohol counselor of adjudicated adolescents for many years before having children of my own. When we moved to Pennsylvania, we started going to a big church. They had mission trips that went to Sendafa three times a year. I didn’t pay much attention at first. I was overwhelmed with three tiny kids, a bustling business and postpartum depression. Yeah, my plate was full.
I will be supporting an existing national team that is there. I will be holding hands with children and women who have HIV/AIDS and have been shunned by their communities. I am thinking I might want to bring some of the kids at the orphanage home – although my husband has politely told me, “um, no.” (I hope he will change his mind) I have no ideas or preconceived notions of what it will be like. I will be completely immersed and unable to communicate with my loved ones for 9 whole days. I will probably cry many, many times. I will be forever changed and humbled.
It’s always amazing to me how perfect timing is. How everything comes together when it’s supposed to. And how impatient I can be waiting for those moments. I can only tell you I have waited most of my life to go to Africa. I have anticipated the day when I would see the land, the people and finally that day is coming. My feet will be on the ground. And I will be full.