Travels impart changed world viewSam Cook column: She had gone to Africa, to Zimbabwe in particular, to hunt. Not to hunt big game, but to hunt birds. She told me a little about the hunting, but not much. What she wanted to tell me about were the people she encountered. As she talked, she began to cry.
By: Sam Cook, Duluth News Tribune
She had gone to Africa, to Zimbabwe in particular, to hunt. Not to hunt big game, but to hunt birds.
The woman does not fit the stereotype of the African safari hunter. She is a person of modest means who had saved for some time to make the trip. She does not flit around the globe, shooting something here, something there, to check off a list or to mount on a wall. But she is a hunter, and she wanted to hunt game birds in Africa.
She told me a little about the hunting, but not much. What she wanted to tell me about were the people she encountered. She told me about African women carrying clay pots balanced on their heads, walking to a dried-up river and digging in the mud for hours to get water for their families. She told me about the young boys, the beaters, who would walk through the fields on cold mornings to flush birds for the hunters. They were often cold, these boys, she said. They didn’t have enough clothing.
When her party left its camp after two weeks, the woman left all of her clothing and shoes to the local families except for what she was wearing. As her truck pulled out of camp the last morning, the children ran behind for a long way, she said.
As she told me this, she began to cry.
“Those kids — I wanted to bring every one of them home with me,” she said through her tears.
I know this woman a little bit, enough to know she was a compassionate person before she traveled to Africa. She came from humble origins. She
doesn’t take things for granted. But it was clear that the safari had touched her in ways she might not have expected.
“Have you ever wanted to go to Africa?” she asked.
I told her I did not have a strong desire to go there.
“You should go,” she said. “Put that on your list.”
Every now and then, someone tells you something that rises above a casual recommendation and seems to border on wisdom.
Many who have seen something of the world cannot come home unchanged. If you have been in a Guatemalan woman’s hovel-like home with its dirt floors, if you have worked in an African city where you did not leave home without a driven escort, if you have stood in a hot plaza in Africa watching people stand in line for vouchers to buy food — once you have experienced those things, it puts your life in sharper perspective.
You can better understand the famous Mark Twain quote, “Travel is fatal to prejudice, bigotry, and narrow-mindedness.”
You might come home feeling that you are better off than you realized, and that maybe you could do something to improve the world right where you live.
Some have come home, acquired specific skills, and returned to places in the world where those skills are desperately needed.
My friend’s point was simply to go in the first place. What happens next will take care of itself.
Sam Cook can be reached at (218) 723-5332 or firstname.lastname@example.org. Follow him on Twitter: @samcookoutdoors.