Being Outside of
July 24, 2006
Traveling throughout developing countries requires sacrifices. One of which is being out of touch with the outside world. Let’s
face it…technology (such as the Internet) is still relatively new. Yet it is near impossible to fathom being without it for…oh, let’s
say…a week. Pathetic, I know. Being from America, these things are constantly at our disposal. Coming to Africa reminds me
that, at least around here, these things are luxuries…not necessities.
While I was in Oudtshoorn, I could have checked email whenever I wanted. But because I did not have anything I needed to
do, I saw it as a waste of money (since there wasn’t free access where we were staying). When I did finally check it five days
later, I learned of a war going on. In Lebanon. In Israel. Lebanon which I got to experience two months prior. Israel which I
got to experience just one month prior. Both countries that I had no doubt I would return to again in the future. If I hadn’t
received handfuls of emails from friends, I might still not even know what is going on in the Middle East. Luckily people wanted
to let me know that they were relieved I wasn’t in that part of the world right now. I then needed to find out what was even
going on as all of the emails I got were very vague and just mentioned Beirut and Israel. After reading the news on the
Internet and hearing about the Beirut airport, the Beirut-Damascus highway (which I traveled on) and the bombings within
the city, I contacted two friends I had made while I was in there to make sure they were okay. After hearing back from them
(and releasing tears as I read their emails), I sent an email out to my list of contacts expressing my new-awareness of what
had already been going on for days (if I had never checked my email, it would have still been a non-awareness).
Friends who were Israeli replied. Friends who were Lebanese replied. Friends who were living/working in Israel (yet not
Jewish) replied. Most who received the initial email just became bystanders for the replies that came through their email
inboxes. Many of these people sent me messages saying that they had learned far more from these people about the current
situation than they had from the numerous news stations reporting the stories.
From this point, I knew I had to check the news daily (it would have to be done online as I had no access to a newspaper). I
tried to search images so that I could see what was happening in each country. To each country. While I found many pictures
of Haifa, those of Beirut were few and far between. Most pictures were of foreigners evacuating the country – something that,
assuming there is no dual-citizenship, Lebanese do not have the option of doing. The most disturbing image I saw was of
American evacuees who were on some luxury ferry. There was a cocktail waitress walking around serving orange juice
cocktails in champagne glasses. People were standing around with near-smiles on their faces. The caption also mentioned that
there was a good amount of griping about the amount of time it took for them to finally get out of the country. This was the
mentality as bombs were being exchanged between two different countries at that moment.
The last I read, it sounded as if the war was close to spiraling out of control. I am now out of touch once again and can only pray
that some type of resolve occurs before the next time I read a paper or turn on a computer.
If what is going on in the world isn’t bad enough, I received word right before I left for the safari from a friend half-way around
the globe. It was regarding another friend who is dealing with an entirely different kind of war. One within himself. Because it
is internal, it has been invisible to everyone else for the years that it has been going on. We are all just learning about this
When reading the email that informed me, more or less, of his situation, I was brought to tears right then and there at the
table. I could barely speak. I would have been in denial about this except that I knew the email was coming from a 100%
I am sad to admit that over the past few years, he has actually gone more from being a ‘friend’ to being ‘somebody in my group
of friends’. It was becoming increasingly difficult to have even a small conversation with him when I would see him. I never for
a second thought that there was something majorly wrong going on—I thought, if anything, the problem might be something
like a social anxiety disorder. I just wish it was something as simple as that. If I could see him right now, I would give him a big
hug. A huge hug. I would give his family (whom I have never even met) a huge hug. I know a hug wouldn’t solve anything. I
would just want him/them to know that I was there for support, if needed. Instead I will have to turn to using a computer to
send my support. It just seems so impersonal yet it is my only option. All I know is that thoughts of him and his family have
been keeping me up at night ever since I was told of the situation.
It is a bit ironic that this year is really about me getting more in touch with the rest of the world. Yet I have never felt more
out of touch with it…