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THE AFRICAN HEART

Written by DanielaZavala. Posted in Blog

Tagged: , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , ,

Published on October 13, 2010 with 2 Comments

Africa's beauty

Africa's beauty

I looked at the clock and it was 4:50am. I struggled to get off bed with my body still sore from the rafting.

Maria and Vien were still sleeping. Ronnie was ready to take me to the airport.

Kampala was dark, rainy and quite, just as it was the day I arrived. I had been in Uganda for only a week, but I felt as if I had been away for home for a long time.

As we droved to the airport, I thought of Miami and my life there. It looked so far away, like a distance reality. Home not longer felt home, it felt as a place I just had to return to.

We had been driving for about 20 minutes. For a week, Ronnie and I were talking in the car (or signing!) but today, Ronnie was silent, and so was I.

I had mixed feelings, and probably so had him.

Ronnie was technically my guide, but in those few days together he became my travel buddy, my host, my protector, my friend… he showed me his country, but also his world… he took me into his home and introduced me to his family. I don’t know if he will ever know how much I appreciate that gesture.

“We would be honored if you stayed with us” I remembered his invitation to stay with his family instead of the hotel after the tour ended.

I was the one who felt honored. I knew at that moment that I was just not another tourist for him either, just as he wasn’t just a guide.

Saying bye to new friends one meets while traveling is always the hardest. The intensity of the moments and experiences shared create a special bond…

It was sad to say bye to the Scottish boys… it was going to be even harder to say bye to Ronnie. He had been my introduction to Africa and the best host I could have ever had for my first journey to the continent.

“Daniela. Is there country that you feel you could live besides the US?” he suddenly asked.

Happy exploring Africa

Happy exploring Africa

“Ronnie, I am a nomad, I feel home every where I go, but my base is the US. I worked very hard and went through a lot to be a US resident, so the United States is my country now. I wouldn’t mind to live temporary in different countries if I had the opportunity to, but I will always come back to the US,” I responded.

“OK. I just want you to know that if you ever think of a second home, another country to live, please remember that you have a family in Uganda, people who love you not because of what you have or you may have, or because of the color of your skin, but because of who you are. You are a beautiful heart,” Ronnie said.

My eyes got watery instantly and struggled not to show any tears to Ronnie because I knew it would break him down.

“Thanks Ronnie. I know I do,” I was sad to leave, but mostly moved by Ronnie.

“Would you take care of yourself Buganda Queen? I would be worried because I won’t be there to take care of you,” he spoke to me in that fatherly tone that so many times made me and the Scottish boys laugh. I was Ronnie’s age, a grown up woman, but in his eyes I was vulnerable girl who needed to be taken care of. And perhaps, he was right…

“I promised” I couldn’t look at him. Ronnie was making my heart shrink each time.

With his formal English, his “so-together” attitude and his height, he looked like a tough guy, but he had such a tender and caring heart… an African heart.

I took a deep breath. It was my time to tell Ronnie how I felt.

With Ronnie, my Ugandan host & friend

With Ronnie, my Ugandan host & friend

“Ronnie, I told you about my travels. For 13 years, I neglected Africa. I came here because I wanted to check it out and see the gorillas. I thought I would visit Uganda and Rwanda, and go to Antarctica or return to Asia on my next trip. But this trip has touched me so deeply, more than what I could have ever imagined or anticipated. I think Africa showed me its very best to make me come back to her, and I will. There are many beautiful places around the world Ronnie, but people, the locals are the ones who make the difference, at least to me. Meeting you, getting to know you, your friends, your family, and sharing this journey with you have a lot to do about how I feel about Africa right now and the reason why I want to explore it more. You have been the best that could have happened to me on my first journey to Africa. You are not a guide to me, you know that, right? Thank you for making me feel home,” I managed to keep composed.

“Could I hold your hand?” asked Ronnie as we approached the airport.

I looked at him, smiled and extended my hand.

We didn’t say a word. We just hold hands. Ronnie held my hand as if somehow by doing that he would keep a part of me in Uganda.

At the entrance of the airport, we were asked to get off the car to get checked.

“It is because of last night’s bomb. Just extra security,” Ronnie explained.

We passed the security point and drove to departures.

He put my backpack on my shoulders and hugged me.

“Please come back my Buganda Queen!”

“Thanks Ronnie for everything. I said I would come back to Africa, and I will,” I walked inside the terminal.

Ready to come back!

Ready to come back!

I checked in, and went to the gate. As I passed security, my cell rang. I had got a text message. It was Ronnie.

“Dani, no good bye ever made me cry. Can’t stop the tears now. U will always be my little Buganda Queen,” read the message.

Like a movie, all the recent memories rushed into my head in a few seconds: the raining night I met Ronnie at the guesthouse, the struggle with the ATMs, Eddy and the Scottish boys, the rough rides through the wild, the long singing sessions with Ronnie in the car, the moment Muyambi looked at me in the eyes, seeing the tiny hands of the one-month baby gorilla, the lions and the cub, the night out in Kampala, the rafting, my new Ugandan family, Ronnie’s African heart…

I started crying too. It was my first journey to Africa, and it was memorable.

I don’t know if I would keep my promise to Ronnie about taking care of myself, but I will keep my promise to him of coming back to Africa. My journey to this continent has just begun… in two months I am returning to Africa to summit its highest point and to live with one of its oldest tribes…

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2 Comments

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  1. What an adventure!…Ronnie touched my heart just as yours. So glad your journey was ao magical. =)

  2. It was a true adventure Ale. I was really moved by Africa 😀

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