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Africa

Posted 3/5/2013

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  My most favorite first line of a book is from Karen Blixin's Out of Africa. It begins: "I once had a farm in Africa." I suspect that most people can read that without getting chills and teary; I can't. I am immediately transported and thrilled. And tomorrow we are going back.

  This is our 4th trip to Africa. The first was our honeymoon in 1995; my husband chose the trip; I would likely have opted for a warm beach somewhere. We were changed and profoundly moved by the experience. I do realize that going on safari, being very well tended to, is not really an accurate introduction to the continent. It is, however, a very real experience of the world the way God made it. As one of our first guides commented, there is no malice and no charity. On that trip, we witnessed a zebra's birth (The father grazed about 50 yards away. The moment the foal was born, he let out a triumphant blast and raced to the mother. He then nuzzled the mother and baby and stayed with them until the foal was up and moving, and then they all rejoined the herd.) We have been back twice since then. The second trip was to visit my daughter who spent a semester at the University of Cape Town; we took her and a friend to Botswana on safari as well as toured South Africa. Two and a half years ago, we went on safari to ZImbabwe and loved that beautiful, suffering country.

    This trip was motivated by an invitation to me to give a keynote talk and a number of other workshops at an international breast cancer conference in Cape Town.  Here is a link: :http://www.reachtorecovery2013.org/hosts.php

  I am thrilled about this opportunity to meet other breast cancer survivors/patients from all over the world and to talk with social work, medical, and nursing colleagues from many countries. The day before the conference begins, I am presenting at a full day workshop for oncology social workers. I saw the registration list a few minutes ago, and it includes people from several African countries, Egypt, Germany, and Italy. Exciting!

  We leave tomorrow (the cab is coming at the impossible hour of 3:30 AM), going to New York, then Dubai, then Johannesburg. From there, we go the next morning to Botswana for ten days of safari, watching the animals, learning more about life, filling our souls. One camp promises an opportunity to sleep on the roof under the stars. I suspect I will be a little nervous about that (although, if you think of it, how much protection is a canvas wall?), but am determined to do it. We have all learned to stretch a bit out of our comfort zones and to celebrate life in every possible way.

  On March 17th, I am going to Cape Town while my husband goes to ZImbabwe. Since our trip there, we have been involved with two tiny mission hospitals, trying to be helpful. We have written a grant to support cervical cancer screening, and he is planning to meet with a number of NGO and government officials, and to make site visits to the hospitals. I surely wish I could be with him.

  All of this is context for me to say that I will be out of contact until arriving in Cape Town on the 17th. I promise to report in then, and to blog about the conference and the women whom I meet.

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