SAFE TRAVEL To Africa and back

WHEN I WAS YOUNG, MY FAMILY LIVED in Nepal for two and a half years—and I attribute my love of learning about other cultures to that experience. I've always been fascinated by gazing at maps, running my finger over a spinning globe, and dreaming of ways to visit and live in other countries. One of the continents that fascinated me the most was Africa. As a little girl, I wasn't even aware that Africa was made up of different countries, but as I grew older, I dreamed of visiting at least one African country at some point. I really wanted to get to know the variety and differences between them. When I was in college, my first roommate was from Ghana—and I embarrassed myself on our first day together by spending a very long time looking for Ghana on the globe. This experience strengthened my desire to get to know Africa better, to see it as a continent made up distinct and diverse countries instead of as a homogenous whole.

But whenever I dreamed about visiting or living in Africa, there was a lingering fear in the back of my mind: What would I do about malaria, and other tropical diseases? In reading about other people's experiences in Africa, I was aware that taking regular malaria pills was considered necessary in order to remain healthy, and that many shots were recommended before making a trip there. As a lifelong Christian Scientist, I had always relied on prayer-based healing instead of medicine to maintain my health. In fact, in my experience, prayer had more often played a preventative role than a curative one. Throughout my childhood, I very rarely had to miss school because of sickness. And even while living in Nepal as a young child, I didn't have to deal with the expected diseases. Of course, my mother encouraged me to follow practical steps such as drinking only purified water, but when as a rebellious five-year-old I sometimes broke these rules, she wasn't alarmed because of her understanding that my health was based on something higher: my perfect identity as God's child.

October 18, 2010

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