Africa has been in my heart since birth. There is no other place that I have been in this world that invokes the emotions I feel when I dream about this fabulous continent. My memories of Africa as a young child are a mixture of on-the-ground experiences and I'm sure in many ways, subtle nuances including the sounds, smells, and sights of the continent. My imagination also forms a component of how I feel about Africa as a small Canadian boy responding to natural stimuli in a foreign land. It is a tantalizing concept for my mind's eye.
My African journey began in the early 1970's in a very small town in northern Zambia. My parents, a biologist and a nurse, were working with an international NGO. They had recently graduated from their university studies in Canada and their combined ambition to both contribute their skills in a meaningful way, and to see the world, motivated them to move over 16 000 km away from their families and friends.
It is no secret that the problems of Africa have and continue to dominate the world's perspective, and opinions vary about what Africa is and how it might look in the future. With a storied history, over 50 countries, and 1000's of languages in use, it is no wonder that Africans have been unable to completely overcome their differences and unite to take their uniqueness as Africans to the world. In my view, many of the African countries that I have visited in my life give credence to the adage that in variety, there also exists the spice of life. I have often felt the rhythm of ancient drums in the ground in an acacia savannah or in the oldest desert in the world. Time in Africa feels immemorial.
There is also the natural beauty of this amazing place. From the vast deserts of the north to the meeting of two great oceans in the south, from the emptying of the Congo into the cold Pacific in the west to the enchanting history and spices of Zanzibar in the east, the natural component of Africa is unmistakable. What lies in between forms the fabric that weaves together the heart of the land. The bio-diversity of this continent is perhaps one of the most studied in the history of the human experience. It is nothing less than a tragedy that many of these wonderful life forms are quickly being threatened or are on the verge of being lost forever.
Many of you may wonder why I choose to write about Africa. The reason is simple. In a world that has given me so much, my natural impulse is to nurture and teach. Japan has been blessed with social harmony and riches beyond the imagination. This country is both the perfect place to reflect on our experience and to dream of a better world. In terms of language study, one could draw a parallel between trying to understand how a different culture thinks and communicates, and our desperate need as humans to understand how we interact with our world. Lest we forget, to truly nurture the world is to understand and respect it; we should look to our fellow humans as the first step in that journey. Keep on dreaming!