A Reality Check

Hello Dear Reader,


Soo good to be back with you! I’ve missed you. It’s been way too long, but I do have a really good excuse: We are just back from a totally amazing trip to Africa – Tanzania actually.

Since we got back, I’ve been asked several times about what was the part that stands out the most, that most impacted me, my main takeaway, so to speak. I’ve been thinking about that a lot before posting this – to decide what I most wanted to share with you.

OF COURSE the animals were incredible – and countless. We were right in the middle of the great migration, and they  honored us not only with their dazzling beauty but with the privilege of allowing us such intimate access and proximity. I can’t believe I got such good pics with my little point and shoot.

But even though viewing the animals was the principal reason we did the trip, to my surprise that part isn’t what’s on my mind, so it’s not the focus of this post.

I’d be over stating it to say my Africa experience was life changing, but no question, it was eye opening and a definite wake up call for yours truly. It’s not as though I didn’t realize how tough things are for the people who live there, & how overwhelming are their challenges and their struggle to meet them. But when all of this is actually in your face and not just on the news, it’s a totally different deal.

We had a number of opportunities to meet and chat with many Tanzanians – school kids and their teachers, Masai warriors and their families; villagers; coffee growers; the blind, deaf and handicapped young workers (sooo beautiful) at the Shanga River House who produce the most gorgeous objects; and way, way more inspiring people. And, without exception, all who we met were  positive, smiling, happy to see us, welcoming, warm and dignified. No moaning, whining, complaining. Never a “woe is me”. Just getting on with it, and doing the best they can in the face of incredible obstacles.

Furthermore, the genuine warmth and friendliness with which we were welcomed by everyone we met is, in my view most remarkable, when one considers that for hundreds of years (up until very recently), and with very few exceptions, the only reasons Westerners (and others) came to Africa were twofold: either to steal something, or to kill something. Despite this, we didn’t feel even the slightest shred of hostility or anger. These people have moved on from  past history.

And, are they ever beautiful. Meet William. He carries a blade and a cellphone, and he can start a fire with a stick and a bird’s nest. I’m honored to call him my friend now.

Have a look!!Wow!!

We are so lucky to live here in CA. With all the depressing stuff that is coming at us through the media, we need to get reminded of that. We (I) really do.

Rick Santorum says that JFK’s ideas make him want to throw up. Well I do admit that Rick Santorum’s ideas make me want to puke. But even Santorum isn’t recommending female circumcision (which should be characterized more aptly I believe, as female mutilation) which to our dismay, we encountered at a celebration in a Masai village (when what we thought we were celebrating was a wedding!)

The Masai still do this atrocity to their girls even though it is illegal in Tanzania, and even though they, the Masai, are lovely, goodhearted people.

The kids we met walk 90 minutes to school, and 90 minutes home…every day…in the heat. Thankfully, not our kids.

And, for some of them, the cup of porridge you see me serving here, may well be the only nourishing meal they will receive that day. Thankfully, not our kids.

Water is a HUGE problem. Wells are prohibitively expensive, so there are very few. Securing your needs for water for your family can use up a disproportionate amount of your daily time and energy. It is not unusual to see women walking many miles with 4 gallon jugs on their heads. I do remember very well, when our water pipes froze occasionally at our Vermont cabin, and I had to carry 5 gallon jugs of water for just a few yards, just how heavy that water is. So I ask, if you are doing that in the 90 degree African sun for hours, how much time and energy is left to you for making a living? We just turn on the faucet and run as much water as we want. How often do we (I) think about that?

And finally, there’s the biggie – the life/death thing: The rhythm of life and death, and the reality of the nearness of the one to the other is so unambiguous in the wild. Watching a lion bring down a wildebeest brings this lesson right in your face and your consciousness. No “pussyfooting” about it. One minute you’re there. Next minute you’re not. Somehow, we humans have this quaint notion that we are not part of all that, or if we are, at least we’re somewhat above it, or a bit removed from it. But certainly, not like the “beasts”…right?

Take me for example. I have these two concurrent visions of my own small death: One, very imminent, is of this huge, loud freight train comin’ at at me, full speed, down the tracks, whistle blowing, big white light shining right on me. I’m right in the spotlight. It’s time. The other vision is way more relaxed – not even a vision really – more like some vague but pesky concept –  something I meditate on, read and write poems about, and greet briefly every morning. For sure, it’s something that happens, but always, always to someone else. So, as oncoming  freight or pesky concept, before Africa I moved back and forth between these two ideas. Now, I have an additional icon (if I needed one), to remind me to live in gratitude for every single day. I was even lucky enough to get a picture of it:

I do admit though, that I’d really appreciate it if these angels would stay put in their tree a wee bit longer.

And so for now, Rush Limbaugh notwithstanding, I’m really happy to be home and grateful to be alive, with people I love, here in this paradise.

I prepared a very small slideshow with a few more of the pics I took. I hope you will find it worth a look. You can also click the audio player just below (right above the thumbprints) to listen to some music while the slideshow plays.

*The usual caveat applies: If you are reading this in your email, the slideshow and music may not work. Clicking on the title of this post will take you to my site. Everything will play from there. Enjoy!


Practice tip:

Dear Reader,  “Gratitude is basic hygiene for the heart” – so at the end of each day, think of, and jot down, just one thing for which you are grateful. That should be really easy.

And please, be kind to yourself.



About Michael Scott

Michael Scott is a life coach, author and teacher in the San Francisco Bay Area. After spending 35 years in business - coaching found him - and he's never looked back. Michael uses his coaching training and experience, in the service of his clients, as their constant and loving guide towards joyous, fulfilling lives which are genuinely their own. He lives with his dear wife in Sausalito, CA.

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