I am seriously doubting the truth of the old saying “Well begun is half done”. Our journey to Cape town, South Africa was anything but well begun! Imagine hours of trying to calm an infant, who has been disturbed from his sweet dreams to take the red-eye flight and then onward to travel another 14 hours in a confined space with specific rules to tie the child and yourself to the seat. If you ask me, that’s the perfect recipe for disaster. Haiku had a lot of company in the first flight with his little peers, all joining in the musical(?) chorus. I seriously wonder how many other sleep deprived passengers wanted to break the glass and jump out with a chute. But to my surprise, the world is indeed a kinder place when it comes to kids. This I kept discovering, thanks to Haiku.
After that long flight with your hands and arms screaming such colorful words at you for having to hold a sleeping baby for continuous hours, you finally land and think all’s going to be well, now that we are in the safe hands of mother earth. That’s when the temper tantrums start. Baby wants to be let down to explore mother earth too. Only, you are not yet feeling centered enough to give him free reins. So, you collect him in your hands and he gives you a hard bang on the head that you literally see stars, exclamation marks and @ signs, in assorted combinations! At that moment, with all that sleep deprivation, I just wanted to take the flight back home and mark it as a complete failure. Go back home to peace and calm. Well, sometimes we all need someone to say that quitting is no option. My fellow sailor, although exhausted and weakened by the events above, had the calm conviction that we are doing this, no matter how difficult. Once you are ready for anything, then the universe smiles at you with special favor, for passing it’s litmus tests.
Our days rolled on, as smooth as a roller coaster! We simply took on the role of being each other’s cheerleader. Having known the joys of being a lonely traveler or in the company of like-minded adults, who can feed and take care of themselves, the journey does get difficult at times! But there is no comparison. The joys of being a parent in an alien land is of a totally different nature. You simply become famous among all the tourists. “Hey, we saw you and your husband with the baby on the boat”, “Cute kid”, “Beautiful smile” are just some of the phrases I remember. Your heart just melts with pride. The aches seem to melt away too, just until the next episode of the “moods”. The whole world just wants to hug you along with your baby and you bask in the shared glory. To watch the world with a child’s eyes literally, to give him your undivided attention, to teach him that “Oh, it’s a beautiful world”, that’s indeed some priceless moments that justified undertaking this journey.
As the days progressed and we had a new life every day, I saw myself changing too. From losing my cool over mere trifles, back home to handling serious problems with poise, there I was growing as an individual. Sometimes it takes a new situation to teach you how precious the ones you take for granted are. A mom was maturing and being open to the new wonders that every day comes with!
Whether it was watching the fish, corals and giant turtles indoors or basking in the beauty of flowers, greens and sculptures outside; Whether it was playing hide and seek in the presence of Nobel Peace winners or feeding food to the goats ; Whether it was watching a South African TV serial on a city woman adjusting to country life or looking at the dancing women exhibits in the museum ; Whether it was listening to an impersonal audio tour giving accurate information of the places that fell on our eyes along the way or it was understanding the depth of knowledge of our tour guide, presenting the history, geography and culture of the region with timely humor; Whether it was watching the nation’s future in it’s election booths or knowing the past in it’s castles and paintings; Whether it was having high tea with high society in the Mount Nelson Hotel or it was sharing a laugh with the underprivileged children of Khayelitsha; The flavors were so many and so varied, but just perfect. Words bow humbly before the magnificence of those individual moments!
As we travelled with people from other countries sharing the joy of discovery, we were pleasantly surprised to see that it’s not just about another culture or another place we were learning. At a deep level, it was all about us and what it means to be human. In the end, you just come back with what in Africa is called “Ubuntu”! (No, not the operating system as my tech-savvy husband answered when queried on the meaning) In a simple sense, it means “brotherhood”. I feel it is described succinctly in the words of the Liberian peace activist Leymah Gbowee – “I am what I am because of who we all are.” (Source: http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Ubuntu_(philosophy).
I am glad I started and finished this journey. I smile with happiness at the memory of Haiku calling the Africans we met as “akka, anna and maama” – Just simply our son’s slice of ubuntu!