Okay, this last trip was something a bit new for me and Sara. We had never been sub-Saharan before so we leaped at the opportunity. Somehow the Association of International Schools in Africa got my name and their director contacted me about presenting at their annual conference. Of course I accepted, on one condition, that Sara was included.
This was a bit of a role reversal. Since Sara is the one with all the kids’ publications under her belt and it was she who introduced me into the education world a dozen years ago it is usually the other way around. A conference calls for her or more commonly nowadays both of us, and I come along as part of the deal. So I have not let it go unnoticed by her that I was the original contact on this one. Gotta take those small victories. Well in any case we both won on this one. We’ve been working the international school system for over a decade now, but mostly in SE Asia so when the prospect of visiting a new continent was raised, we swan-dived into the prospect.
Thanks to the transience of the entrepreneurial population who make up the talent pool in international schools we have contacts all over the world now. As such we have a modus operandi when a new overseas request comes in. We send a warning shot over the bow of folks we know in that particular part of the globe to let folks know we are in the neighborhood. It was through the efforts of Rita a librarian in Abuja, Nigeria who we had met long ago in Vietnam and who Sara had worked with in Sumatra that our month long tour of the Dark Continent became a reality.
We told the director of the AISA conference our intention to tour about the continent before attending the conference and he tried to dissuade us – noting the difficulties of traversing the expanse which is Africa. He wanted us fresh for the conference – free of jetlag, parasites, stomach distress, lost luggage, and not sitting in some sauna impersonating airport lamenting missed connections instead of presenting a session on writing across the curriculum.
Of course we ignored him – of course he was right. Luckily for all of us we had plenty experience in unpredictable travel twists and our schedule was (just barely) flexible enough that we were able to make all our commitments.
One thing we learned on this journey – we love the Africa we have come to know. We love the changeability of all situations, the color, the heat, the people, and the food. When we landed in Lagos, Nigeria and were tossed into the tropical tumult that is the roiling olio of the airport immigration and its Kafkaesque musical chair routines of standing in this mass of humanity and then that and then back for inscrutable reason - I couldn’t stop smiling.
The night before we returned home Sara and I chatted with another consultant presenter at the conference, a New Zealander whose specialty was learning and brain science. I asked him what was the impulse in the Kiwi psyche that impelled his countrymen to jump off of high things with rubber bands attached to their ankles. It is after all the home of bungee jumping.
He said it was the desire to confront fear and to conquer it – to step up to that edge, lean forward and let go. I think travel in the developing world is very similar and the aspiration to do so is that stretchy cord looped around one’s ankles. There is nothing like that first jump into a new place, when experience has no bearing, that initial step off the ledge when you just wing it.
Thanks for the ride Africa – we’ll be back.