Ubuntu: I am, because you are.

I have to admit I was excited for this experience but prematurely I anticipated that this would be my least favorite part of the entire trip. Now that we are back in civilization and showered I realize that I could not have been more wrong. This part of the trip was powerful, moving and inspiring to say the very least.

Where to begin? The South African people whom I had the honor of spending these four days with have changed my life forever. They are the most honest, courageous, resilient people I have ever had the privilege of knowing. They entrusted me with their stories, of trials and tribulations and of the richness of life here in Africa. I can’t say enough about their warm nature and pure spirits. They welcomed us with unconditional positive regard and smiles that were unbelievably contagious.

I should probably speak about one of these special individuals in particular. She shared with me her story of strength and I stand in complete and utter awe of her. A young girl in age, she epitomizes the strength that defines womanhood. Not only was I lucky enough to share in her story, but also she encouraged me to look into and explore the depths of my own soul. I was able to share things with her that I have never been able to share with anybody else. With her support and guidance, I feel like I am not truly able to look at my experiences with an attitude of growth and confidence.

This wonderful woman also explained to me the meaning of the African word, Ubuntu, meaning, “I am, because you are.” Although she has every reason to believe in the inherent evil nature of our planet and its inhabitants, she continues to believe in the humanity of all people. She highlighted to me the interconnectedness of all humans and recognizing the strength that I can draw from each individual that I come into contact with.

This incredible connection combined with the experience of being back in the wilderness was almost overwhelming. For the first time in a very long time I was alone with my emotions and fears. While it might sound cliché, I think that this time in the wilderness nurtured my soul and put me back in touch with things that I had lost sight of. I am leaving this beautiful place with a renewed willingness to embrace my feelings with the understanding that these emotions are valid and deserve recognition.

This experience is one that I will not soon forget. I have heard stories that have allowed me to reevaluate my own biases and perceptions. At the same time, I feel empowered to move forward in my own career with this opportunity to identify what I truly need to tend to my needs and nourish my soul. I finally feel fully present here in South Africa. My whole heart and soul is here with these people.

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