I grew up in a place that most people would think was pretty cool. After all, people travel from all over the world to Washington D.C. to see the museums, the Lincoln memorial and of course the White House. Like most "locals" to any city, we spent very little time there. In fact, I can't ever remember a time when my family went into the city. Of course there were field trips to the Smithsonian and the Air and Space museums, but we never went as a family.
My Dad was a police officer while I was growing up. In fact, he spent a year of his career in the Homicide division in P.G. County MD, which at the time I believe had the highest murder rate in the nation. A year was all a 2 time Vietnam Vet could handle (he deserves a medal for the year).
I think my Dad spent alot of his time protecting us from the worst of life. This had alot to do with why we didn't go into the city. We vacationed every year- always to the East Coast to the beach or up to PA to visit family. Once we went to DisneyWorld - my first plane ride! My mother will probably post and correct me, but I don't believe any of us, singular or as a whole, left the US. (she traveled a little with her job as a civilian with the Air National Guard but I believe it was all domestic. Okay, maybe Greenland?).
(Stay with me - I do have a point to make)!
It wasn't until I started traveling for scrapbook conventions that I ever left the East Coast. Traveling to CA for the first time was a BIG deal for me. Seeing the Grand Canyon and Sedona for the first time was a BIG deal. Seeing the magnificent dairy barns in Massachusetts was a BIG deal.
The thought of getting on a plane and heading toward a foreign country across the map was a BIG deal. So big that I actually shed tears and made myself sick with worry for months before I left. Silly me.
So here is my point. . . (I told you I had one)!
Being comfortable is a good thing, no doubt. But being so comfortable that you miss out on grand opportunities to see the world in a new light, in a way that the 10:00 news just can't communicate would be a shame (and I almost missed my opportunity).
I guess I went through the trouble to type all of this because just saying "South Africa was great" didn't seem like enough. In the end it meant alot more to me then just seeing Lions and Elephants (which were of course AMAZING). The people I met (have I mentioned how warm, friendly, and laid back everyone was?) have changed me. The level of poverty I saw has changed me. The history has changed me. Knowing that something near 1 in 5 people around me had AIDS changed me. Seeing beautiful children laughing and playing in the midst of it all (as all children do) has changed me.
Don't get me wrong, this certainly wasn't a missions trip. But somehow in the midst of all I did see (watch a sunrise over the African savannah and see how your perspective changes!) I came back with a new outlook on life.
I want to thank Glenda and Louise for the opportunity to be a part of the convention. It was more then I ever imagined it would be and I find myself missing the two of you so much (and Gary and Auntie)! I also want to thank all of the ladies who attended the convention for their warm welcome and hospitality. I hope to be back soon!!