“I can still smell Africa,” my father said one day, and that led me to consider which memory I have that stands out in the everyday. I asked myself and my parents that exact question.
My mother is a very kind and empathetic person, always worried about the plight of others. I wasn’t surprised by her response:
“My (Holly, my mother) most outstanding memory isn’t probably one to talk about. It was the poverty. I have never experienced a place that was so poor. The irony of a luxury hotel in the midst of a population without real housing and no plumbing just overshadows most of the memories of a great, fantastic trip. I know the hotel employed many people, but still, it didn’t sit right with me. I will never regret sharing the time with you, Amanda, Andrea and Dad.”
Randy, my father, the one who gave me this idea, said:
“it is the smell of the air in the bright sunshine. The dry, dusty smell of the breeze as your Land Rover travels over the plains of Africa in search of the animals that are the reason for your visit. It is the smell of the canvass of your tent and the darkness of nightfall as you rest your head on a cot to awaken to a new dawn of adventure.”
My wife, Amanda, is an enthusiastic animal lover, so her clearest and most treasured memories are of watching lionesses great each other by bumping heads, the surprising beauty of hyenas (and the thrill of hearing them sniff around our tents at night) — the list goes on and on. But if you ask her for a single, striking memory, she’ll start talking about size:
“I wish I could explain the vastness of the Serengeti in a way people who haven’t been there could understand. I remember feeling slightly unmoored and wondering why, and then it hit me. It’s so massive and so flat, and I had never been anywhere I could stand and look around and see the clouds touch the horizon no matter where I turned.”
I have found that when I can see the individual limbs of the tree on a distant mountaintop I think of Africa. I remember how clear the air was. How as you sat in the Ngorongoro Crater surrounded by wildlife you could look to the crater’s rim high above and still see the limbs of the trees. Whenever I’m driving along the valley floor here at home, look up and can see the trees clearly it takes me back in an instant.
I think we were seldom more than 50 feet from each other and yet our impressions varied. We can also have a common shared experience yet the impact it makes on each of us is vastly different.
I do not dream of Africa, I simply remember it. I have to say it’s nice to have all those memories of such an amazing trip.