Friday, May 30, 2008

South Africa, and the benefits of reading *before* travel 

I was fortunate as a kid, to have parents eager to travel with their children. It was an incredible gift. Every summer since I was 8, we used the miles my dad had accumulated and flew between 7 and 14 hours to some new country that I'd never seen before.

This meant seeing many countries before I could locate them on a map, let alone know the history or socioeconomic circumstances that shaped the lives of the people that lived there.

I heard the word "Holocaust" for the first time at the gates of Dachau.

For a girl whose idea of travel was simply, "If I smile pretty standing next to this statue for a picture, maybe my parents will let us eat at the McDonald's where weird because the words on the place mat are strange," it was a bit...earth-shattering.

I never let it happen again. I began to prepare for our trips. I was always a reader, so I only had to divert my eyes to history and geography instead or whatever else I would have been reading. I began to see more as we traveled. I saw deeper. I saw the history of things, the story of things, instead of just the things themselves. My parents noticed, and they let me feel smart by letting me point out things like a tour guide would as we walked places. Eventually, I took point in suggesting countries and hotels.

Then I moved away, married, and went on trips of my own.

My parents are going on vacation this year to South Africa. My husband and I can go with them, if I promise to produce National Geographic quality photographs while on safari.

I could probably fill a broadsheet with what I know about South Africa, with space remaining at the bottom. And the libraries are too vast to tackle alone. But I know people. I asked Kim du Toit to give me a few titles to orient myself. These books are going to the top of the "to read" pile.

I'll be prepared.

I just read Uhuru. Good book, though I wonder if reading the prequel first wouldn't have been better.

I am surprised that Kid didn't talk you out of visiting. The country is more dangerous by far that Russia ever was and you are limited in what you can do for self-defense. Not so much on the safari as in cities.
You're surprised he didn't try or that I'm dumb enough to go?

We will spend most of our time on safari, and not as much in cities. The Jeeps, I'm told, do have rifles.

So I guess you have until August to make a rifleman of me, capable of taking down a charging lion or stampeding buffalo.

No pressure, though.
I'd worry more about snakes, parasites and humans than about big game. Anything you can see you can shoot down.

That said, I am not sure that you can have autoloading rifles and anything less than that would limit what your 100 pound weight can control on recoil. For self-defense up close, I'd almost favor 44 Mag or 454 Casull pump rifle with solids over a slower bolt action in a smaller but faster chambering. To break a charge, you'd be firing at 50m or less over open sights.
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