I am going to be overarching and overly general in this post, so stay with me.
When I was thirteen, my mother took me to South Africa with her. I had just graduated from the eighth grade, and we stayed outside of Durban for two weeks while she did something with XDR TB and I played with HIV-positive children at the hospital. While we were in South Africa I assisted on a C-section in a tiny hospital near the Mozambique border, sung traditional songs, and learned to pronounce the Zulu clicks. We would drive for hours across the countryside to get to rural hospitals and clinics, places where I played clapping games with children who were waiting to be seen by their doctors. On the way home, we stopped in Nairobi where my maternal grandparents were staying, and they took us to see the Masaai that they had befriended back when my mother was a girl. Driving across the Rift Valley, playing games with kids in Pietermaritzburg, my Africa addiction took hold.
Then when I was fifteen, the summer after sophomore year, my mother took us all to Rwanda to live for three months, and Africa struck again. We lived in a corner of Southwestern Rwanda, where the sunsets were hazy against the hill and where children in bright blue school uniforms sang songs. We watched the Euro Cup in a tiny bar with the entire village crammed in front of the television, cheering for whichever team got a point. I went to support groups for HIV-positive children and saw girls my age pretending to nurse dolls. I visited malnourished babies two hours away. I worked in the hospital garden, where we had planted different types of plots as examples of sustainable agriculture.
Africa holds onto you and doesn’t let go. I wake up dreaming that I’m back in my concrete room on the hill and try to push aside a mosquito net that doesn’t exist. I stop myself from saying “amokouru” to strangers on the street. There’s something about it, something that makes you pull back again and again. Go and visit, and you’ll see what I mean.