Alan & Kathy's Trip To Africa
September / October 1997
Part 6 of 6 - Reflections On Our Trip

So - what did we learn from this major trip covering half the length of Africa?

First - the old saying "you can never go back home" was never more true than for people of European extraction who grew up in Zambia in the 1960s. Although the buildings are still there, the pretty towns of the Zambian Copperbelt are not what they used to be. Thirty years of increasing population combined with decreasing industrial revenue takes its toll on maintenance.

The cultural institutions, too, have disappeared: no more RADOS doing dramas, musicals and pantomimes; no more Mrs. Elspeth Fraser-Munn adjudicating eisteddfods where one's peers played the piano or recited Milton and Shakespeare; no more camera club, library, movie theatre, ice-cream parlours; no dealers in new, or even used cars.

Those were all part of an imported European culture and could have been expected to disappear. What hurts more is the disappearance of the forest, chopped down for firewood or to make the charcoal sold along every major road. Without the trees to moderate the water cycle, Zambia's climate is changing - there are more floods and droughts, and some alive today may see the beginning of desert conditions in parts of Zambia.

Second - this was a healing journey for Alan. Most people find coming of age stressful, but as the years go by they come to terms with their past because they continue to interact with the same people and institutions. When Alan was forced to leave South Africa at age 22, that process was interrupted. Returning to the scene and meeting people who knew him then gave him the opportunity to catch up. He was also pleasantly surprised to learn that his peers in the 1960s had a very good opinion of him at the time.

Third - we are grateful to God that the entire trip went with so few hitches. Apart from the enforced rest in Johannesburg recovering from a Zambian virus, the entire 6 weeks went almost exactly as we had planned it. If you re-read the first chapter you will see that we can't take credit for that, as an amazing set of connections and "coincidences" came together to allow us to make the plan. And as our friend Tai says, "to someone who believes in God, coincidence is not a kosher word!"

So we give thanks to God for this opportunity to retrace and learn from Alan's past, to reconnect with old friends, and to see both the beauty and the challenge of Africa as it is today. Thank you for coming with us on this virtual trip!

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