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Breathtaking: Falling in love with Africa

Africa, at first sight, is like reuniting with a lost love. It is a place where once dormant emotions are instantaneously rekindled. She is dark and very beautiful. She exudes a sweet, sensuous smell. In her presence you can feel the rhythm of her heart. Her breath is slow and enticing, she tantalizes my senses. She is hot, humid, and glowing with passion. Oh Africa, from the moment I saw her I knew I had fallen in love with her. To be in her presence alone is breathtaking. Africa, at first sight, is like reuniting with a lost love. It is a place where once dormant emotions are instantaneously rekindled. She is dark and very beautiful. She exudes a sweet, sensuous smell. In her presence you can feel the rhythm of her heart. Her breath is slow and enticing, she tantalizes my senses. She is hot, humid, and glowing with passion. Oh Africa, from the moment I saw her I knew I had fallen in love with her. To be in her presence alone is breathtaking.

My visit to Kenya was not a vacation; I went on a mission to help build a health clinic because malaria, among other things, is rampant. The conditions that I saw quickly outweighed the concerns that had been shared with us prior to our departure for Africa. At that time there were numerous warnings from the U.S. government for Americans in Kenya because of terrorist threats. I remember the apprehension and concern shared by family and friends about the timing of my mission. But I knew in my heart that my rendezvous with Africa was long overdue, no matter the risk.

The building project was labor intensive, to say the least. I traveled by truck to a town called Taveta, with community leaders from MaliTatu. In Taveta, the stones to be used for the clinic are cut by hand. It made me think of the rock quarry featured in The Flintstones! Once the stones were cut, they were then lifted manually onto a truck and transported back to the work site, and unloaded again by hand. At the site, the stones were hand-chiseled for a custom fit.

"What tribe are you from?" This was the first question put to me by the members of the Maasai tribe when I first entered their village. My immediate reaction to this question was shock – not of disbelief, but one of deep honor. I discovered the Maasai, in fact, believed me to be from another great tribe in Kenya known as the Kikuyu. I remember taking in the majesty of Mount Kilimanjaro when they asked me this question and fought back the urge to tell them that I had come from the other side of the mountains. They were taken by surprise when they found out I was from the United States.

I met Chairman George, a Maasai elder. Although younger than I, the respect given to him was something to behold. He was a gentle, quiet, and reserved man who still had a commanding presence. He embodied the philosophy of how the Maasai live: the connection of one mind and one spirit. They made me feel as if I had always been there – I was treated like a sibling that had been on a journey in a far away land and had finally returned home. As a testament to their feelings for me, and upon learning certain factors such as my age, and that not only am I a father, but more importantly a grandfather, they recognized me as an elder of the tribe. In the Maasai tribe the males go through three distinct stages: boyhood, warriorhood, and elderhood. I was relieved to know that I didn’t have to repeat the first two stages.

I absorbed Africa to the point that every part of me cries out daily for my return. Africa awakened a spiritual sense of being that I had never before felt. I left Africa with an overwhelming sense of pride, dignity, and respect. The experience of it all flooded my entire being: Oh Africa, my love, your beauty, your majesty, your culture, your history, tells me now that I must and will see you again.

Photo above:
R. M. Campbell with a child in Africa.

January 19, 2004
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