En Route to Africa

I have been waiting to say those words for as long as I can remember. I have heard about Africa from every Reed family member, been surrounded by gorgeous artifacts, and admiring elephants since day numero uno. 

Finally, the bags are packed, the meds have been consumed for all of the diseases I’m dodging, and I’m wondering how many Instagrams a day is too many. Nine feels right to me.

In preparation for my family’s two week trip to Africa, I’ve been asked a lot about where I’m going, who I’m going with, why I’m going, and if I’ll remember not to pet the animals. 

The Where:

You know when your mom has it under control so you lose all sense of responsibility? That’s what we’re working with. What I do know is that we’ll be doing a safari, going to to Kruger National Park, and ending the trip with a visit to Victoria Falls. 

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Made this map just for you. And my own comprehension.

 

  • 4 days in Cape Town
  • 3 days in Hluhluwe
  • 2 days in Swaziland
  • 2 days in Kruger Park
  • 2 days in Johannesburg
  • 3 days in Victoria Falls

The Who:

My family loves to travel. Our big trips have mainly been to Europe, planned around when my sister was studying or living abroad in France, and when I was studying abroad in Rome. Without asking them, these are the stories I remember of their previous experiences with Africa. I have clung onto all of these stories for years as if they were my own, because in some ways they are.

My sister, Lindsay: She went to the Canary Islands when she was very young. The story I hear from this trip all the time is that my parents and grandparents were in their hotel room playing cards, while she slept in her crib in my parents’ room. At one point during the night, they heard a knock on the door, where they found little Lindsay on the search for Mom & Dad. We still don’t know how many doors she knocked on until she found the right one. 

My mom, Sheryl: Also may be referenced in these posts as SherBear, it’ll catch on one day. She’s traveled to Africa before with my dad, but I’m not sure how many countries she’s been to. One time, my parents were sleeping in a tent outside, let’s say in South Africa. My mom woke up to heavy breaths outside the tent, which she could hear and feel through the thin canvas wall. There was a huge lion standing outside their tent, my mom said her heart was racing, worried that it would barge in. Luckily, it kept on walking. 

My dad, Scott: The Africa expert, in my humble opinion. I had always heard stories of him being the only white student at a boarding school in Nigeria. On a recent trip, we visited where he wandered around Switzerland while his sisters were at boarding school there. 

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Fondue dinner in Switzerland- yes please

However, all the details have always been fuzzy to me. This may be because if you’ve ever gone on a big trip, people will ask you to “tell them everything,” but their attention spans tell you to “skim the highlights.” But I try to repeat the stories anyway, because they feel like home.

This brings us to the why.  

Why Africa? 

Apparently in eighth grade, I got to the bottom of this question. I don’t remember conducting this interview, so that’s why you keep the same desktop for 10+ years. Here is future B.A. in Journalism, 13 year-old Sarah with the facts (and notes from 2016 Sarah) on a project called My Family Story:

“For this project I called my grandma and had her tell me about her husband Jack Reed’s life. This let me learn more about my family, which I am very close with. I always loved my grandpa but I never really talked to him about his career or his amazing experiences. I loved learning so much about him, but I wish I would have done this 3 years ago, so it could be in person; my grandpa died of Cancer when I was 10 years old.”

Grandpa-isms

  • “When your retired everyday is like Sunday, except Sunday.” (I read this at his funeral and everyone laughed, but I didn’t get it for years)
  • “The k in knife is silent like the p in swimming” (Personal favorite)
  • “Finer than frog’s hair” (This was another where I would smile and nod)
  • “You can’t pick your family, but you can pick your nose.” (Still true)

“There are some people who follow their dreams in their careers and there are others that just settle for what they’re given. My grandpa, Jack Reed, never settled nor gave up. His dad was always interested in Africa, but never followed through, you could say he settled. (A little judgy for a 13 year old living in Mequon, WI) My grandpa shared the same deep interest of Africa and animals, but I wonder if he knew that he would be different; that he was going to follow his dreams.

In 1967 he was offered a Nigerian teacher education project employed by the University of Wisconsin. In Nigeria he would be writing the curriculum for teachers there. My dad and [his sisters] voted and decide they would agree to go, only if their dog could come. (ATTN: Friends, the dog-love is in my blood) When my Grandpa confirmed that would be fine, everyone was ecstatic, it was not extremely hard for the kids to leave considering they had done so much moving already. They had some doubts because it would be such a drastic change. 

‘We were curious of what we were letting ourselves get into, but more curious than doubtful,’ My grandma told me.

They moved to Nigeria in July 1967 working on the Nigerian teacher education project.  There he taught at the Amadu Bello University.  He enjoyed hunting big game there such as elephants. (This is brand new information. I think I purposefully blocked this out of my memory due to my love for elephants) His interest in animals and adventure resulted in lots of exciting camping trips, due to the world around them. The family saw Victoria Falls and would go to swamps to see any animal imaginable for the region.

They lived in Katsina, Nigeria for 2 years despite the food and water shortages, and having no phone or electrical outages. The first year in Nigeria my aunts went to the American School in Leysin Switzerland. My dad went to a primary boarding school in Nigeria where he was the only white kid. Because the school was close to home he came home every night and went back every morning like a normal school.

They lived on the edge of a dessert, so my dad would ride his horse into town and he would come back with chickens and other goods the villagers gave him. ‘All of the villagers loved the little white boy riding his horse,’ my grandma informed me. They came home after every year to see everyone back in Wisconsin, but never got severely homesick. The second year all three kids went to the International School of Ibadan, which was also a boarding school. They left Nigeria in 1969 and moved to Madison.

In Madison he taught science education at the University of Wisconsin. In 1974 he and my grandma moved to Botswana employed by the Ohio University. He taught at the University of Gabarone Botswana, where he was the Dean of school education. My grandma and grandpa stayed in Botswana for 15 years, but still returned once a year.

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My kind of decor: Grandma’s hand-me-downs from Botswana & Nigeria

All three kids were in college or graduated, so it was just the two of them. They returned to Wisconsin in 1995, two years after I was born. ‘Me and Jack first held you when you were four months old, like a peanut,’ My grandma shared. (I read this how she says peanut. All the feels)

I knew my grandpa for ten years but with all the memories I have of him, that number seems unreasonably small. (I actually only have a lot of other people’s memories of him, but I always remember his joy and humor)

He was an amazing person who able to fix anything from toys to sorrow. He wasn’t very serious, except for when it came to his dreams.

My grandpa was the type of person where no matter what, around him you would have a great time. He did what his heart told him to and didn’t follow through with something that didn’t make him happy. This reflects his career choice completely and knowing all this information has helped me understand not only him but a lot of my family. It now makes sense to me why there is always a dog in all of our family’s houses. (Finally this mystery is solved) All of his qualities and traditions are great to pick up habits from, such as his loving nature.  No one would be settling to have Jack Reed as family or a friend.”

There you have it. Stay tuned for blog updates whenever possible and follow @rarahseed for all of the Instagrams of animals and sunsets.

Happy holidays!

The tenacious pursuit of this trip, the complete disregard for details, and the emergence of an 8th grade assignment with the answers to all of my questions puts the S in Scrappy

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