Personal Journeys


October 17, 2004|By Special to the Sun

A Memorable Place

The pleasures and pains of Africa

By David Berry


The first thing you notice in Africa are the smells.

In Nairobi, Kenya, it is the smell of walking dusty paths along city streets choked with fumes from poorly tuned, oil-burning cars and trucks. It is the smell of corn roasting over open charcoal fires. Even in the best neighborhoods, it is the smell of trash burning along the roads. It is the smell of poverty so overwhelming that the average American has no frame of reference.

Africa is the acrid mix of burning acacia wood in the dung huts of the Masai villages you pass. The smoke is so dense in the villages and inside the huts that you dream of the odor for days afterward.

Africa is the smell of a rainstorm in the distance, its sweet flavor carried on the winds, hours ahead of the storm. After the rain, it is the wet grass and the dampened road dust that linger.

Africa is size. The Serengeti plain overwhelms. My first view is from the back rim of Ngorongoro Crater. You are looking at a land with no boundaries, no end line. The mountains in the distance fail to define the space.

You see a storm forming over the hills early in the day. You shut the windows on the safari vehicle believing you will soon be getting wet. Then you drive for hours, sometimes a whole day, before the storm arrives with such startling force that you cannot believe it took that long to reach you.

Crime is large. In Nairobi, armed guards surround our upscale hotel. Any neighborhood remotely middle or upper class is enclosed by high concrete walls with concertina wire or embedded glass on top, protected by men with machine guns.

Poverty is large. The slum in Nairobi runs for miles along both sides of the road. The locals say with some sense of pride that it is second in size only to Soweto in South Africa. You take civic achievement where you find it.

Death is large. The Masai who venture into the towns may bring back things far worse than the poverty they left behind. A small boy in a village has a 50 percent chance of dying from AIDS before he turns 20, Africans say. By African standards, the age of 50 is ancient.

Africa is the all-encompassing cry for education. You hear the adage "Give a man a fish and you feed him for a day; teach a man to fish and you feed him for a lifetime" until it becomes the official mantra of East Africa.

We ask our safari guide about his life. His only goal is to see his five children receive an education that will provide them with a better future. His weekly income is less than $15 U.S.

Africa is the lone acacia, standing in the Serengeti sunrise.

David Berry lives in Lancaster, Pa.

My Best Shot

Allen Schwartz, Baltimore

Good time for a break

My wife and I were exploring the winding streets of the old walled city of Rhodes on the Greek island of Rhodes. Although the town's fortifications were built in the 14th century (recent by Greek standards), the city dates to the fourth century B.C. I looked down a narrow alley and saw an elderly woman sweeping a street of mosaic stones. By the time I took this photograph, she had decided to rest. I later found out she was seated in front of the historic Kahal Shalom Synagogue.

Readers Recommend

Queensland, Australia

Nicole Eicher, York, Pa.

The coastal village of Port Douglas, in Queensland, on the northern shore of the Great Barrier Reef, is considered one of the most picturesque destinations on the continent. Couples from all over the world come here to get married in the chapel with a window at the altar that opens to the Coral Sea. Palm trees line the harbor in perfect alignment as the mountainous rain forest adds to the backdrop.


Laura Pawlak, Parkton

The Rock and Roll Hall of Fame is a unique building, designed by architect I.M. Pei and located on the banks of Lake Erie in Cleveland. It houses the most extensive collection of rock memorabilia in the world. Visitors can spend hours enjoying exhibits, filmed concerts and much more. With inexpensive direct flights from BWI, it's a great place for a weekend getaway.

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Readers Recommend -- Briefly tell us about places you've recently visited that you'd recommend to other readers. (50 words or less; photos are welcome.)

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