Disjointed thoughts about life, passion, travel, and the pursuit of happiness crawled lethargically through D’s mind as he stood, shoulders hunched against the tempest, in the crudely constructed canoe. The murky waters of the Mabamba Swamp undulated languidly while the leaden skies above dumped sheets of water and lightning flashed ominously in the distance. Not for the first time since D first packed his backpack at the end of high school and set off to explore a new part of the world did the nagging thought, “What am I doing here and why?” cross his mind.
The Foreign Service lifestyle lends itself to eclectic acquisition. A couple of years in one country, several more in another – if one is really into original artwork, it’s easy to get carried away. We are not avid collectors by any measure, but we do try to acquire something meaningful everywhere we’ve lived – one or two pieces to subsequently stir our memories and help evoke all the good times we had in a foreign country that for a few years came to feel like home.
“Why is it that every time we visit you something crazy happens?” mused D’s mom with a touch of fatalism. In Ecuador, where D served in the Peace Corps, protesters shut down the country’s major highway during D’s parents’ visit. Violent clashes between protesters and the police took place in a small town in the Amazonia quite literally minutes after D had turned the rental car around to head back to Quito. In Kenya, we also were forced into changing our travel plans on the fly during D’s parents’ visit when we came upon a roadblock and, predictably, angry protesters about to clash with the police. In Rwanda, on the other hand, our misadventures were entirely self-inflicted.
After two months of sorting, the final tally is in, and it exceeded D’s hopes and expectations. In addition to all the spectacular animals we saw – cheetahs, lions, a leopard, desert-adapted elephants, and much more – we photographed 170 different bird species in just under two weeks in Namibia. All this without setting foot in the Caprivi Strip – the country’s remotest region, and the one that has the highest concentration of birds.
The weeks between our Namibian travels with S’s parents and the visit to Kigali of D’s parents passed by in a flash. No sooner had we settled back into our house and our jobs than it was time to snap out of our routine again. With S scheduled to travel to Pretoria for her 20-week antenatal appointment, we took advantage of D’s parents visit to organize a miniature baby-moon trip to South Africa.
Victoria Falls was an afterthought – a last-minute addition to our itinerary on the way back from Namibia to Rwanda. We had to fly through Zambia anyway, so we figured we should tack on a visit to one of the world’s most famous waterfalls since we were going to be in the neighborhood anyway.
This is a tumultuous time for S at the office. A few hours after Munchkin’s birthday party wrapped up, she was on the plane headed to DC for a weeklong conference. And while D did not appreciate being left to clean up the post-party mess, the week of quality father-son time alone with Munchkin easily made for it.