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Shot Of The Day

Africa: It Get's Under Your Skin

I don’t know where to start with Africa. It almost seems like I’ll do it injustice if I don’t start with something hugely magnificent like the picture of the elephants charging our jeep or the iconic shot of Soweto or the penguins on Boulder Beach. I know! Penguins? In Africa? Really? Yep! Really. Lots of them. I had no idea either. The truth is, there are so many visually stunning things to see in Africa that it almost doesn’t matter where one starts with pictures. We all feel like pros when we’re sitting in front of a water buffalo covered with brightly colored tick eaters clicking our shutters away. Even a simple i-phone shot is great when you’re sitting in front of something you don’t see every day in suburban America.

No, I’m not talking about where to start with pictures. Pictures and exhibits and books will be a second-lived amazing adventure without the fear of malaria or the avoidance of ice cubes and local water. Pictures are easy because they tell a part of a story that words can never tell. But, thankfully, they don’t tell the whole story. God gave the privilege of story telling to people. People tell stories. With words that fill a place that pictures can’t fill. It’s the marriage of the two that, well, makes me love the fact that God gave us breath and breath forms words and words edify and magnify and make bigger the things that make our hearts go pitter-pat or our minds go hmmmm? or our souls feel whole.

So, after ample time for reflection, I think the best place to start with Africa is with… skin. I’m going to start today with skin.

Before I left, a friend posted something on my Facebook page that I thought about a million times before, during and after my trip — Africa gets under your skin. I really didn’t know what she meant. But I do now.

When we boarded the longest leg of the flight and knew that we were going to be captive for close to 16 hours in a long cylindrical pressurized tube with 250 strangers, that got under my skin. It was like a freckle that you see on the surface but goes deep under the skin — a freckle of fear. When the Ebola story developed gradually over the months and weeks after I made my non refundable reservations, well that certainly got under my skin. It was like a varicose vein of angst. South Africa is far far away from the region where the epidemic is happening in West Africa, but still, I’d be lying if I didn’t admit, it got that fear thing going under my skin. When people gave me the “what, have you lost your ever-loving-mind” look every time I said I was going to another hemisphere without my husband, that got under my skin. It was like the melasma in pregnancy — slight discoloration in patches on the face that cause people to gawk and stare and lean toward judgmental thoughts that they really don’t want to have but can’t help. Part of the trip was a gift from a childhood mentor who changed my diapers when I was 2 and treated me and my sisters like the children she never had — Kathy Rymer. Who gets to do something like this? I’ll be absorbing that for a lifetime. When I got home and told people I had just been to Africa and they backed away or urgently said — WHERE???? — that got under my skin. It was like the psoriasis on my knees — unattractive for sure, but harmless medically. When people started to share their adverse reactions to malaria pills, that got under my skin. Not because I wasn’t grateful for the medical information, I was. In fact, I ended up leaving them at home. [it was winter in Africa! Too cold for the little buggers]. No, it got under my skin because the thing that I discovered most about myself and others who have never been to Africa is that fear is the most prominent emotion that rises under the skin when you think about the place.

So my story about Africa is about some healing that happened under my skin. Healing from a low din of fear. An affliction that haunts many. And has haunted me much of my adult life. Won’t you come with me to Africa and shed some stuff that might not belong under your skin? I’m learning, slowly, that it doesn’t belong under mine.

Welcome to the Africa Series…

Posted: 7 November 2014