When I was a young girl, I lived in Kenya. I spent long days at Masai Mara game reserve, a massive wildlife park (and popular tourist destination) where the animals roam free. I watched the lions sleeping in the hot afternoon sun; the gazelles, fleet of foot and on the watch for cats; and the zebras swishing their tails, a black and white tangle of shivering flanks. The boars rammed each other in the tall grass. A herd of elephants circled to protect a single calf. As the sun started to set, the nocturnal animals emerged: the hammer-headed fruit bat; the aardvark with its long snout and shuffling gait; the bush baby with wide, staring eyes and a whip-like tail; and the civet who’s musk is used in the fanciest perfumes.
When I was seven years old, my family moved to Nairobi, Kenya. We lived there for a year while my mom researched Pygmy music for her dissertation. That experience is a large part of the reason I’m so gung-ho about voluntouring with children. It’s funny how memory works. With a few exceptions, my early memories are more impressions and snapshots than specific events. I remember jumping in a pile of leaves but not when or with whom. I remember feeling angry with my dad but not why. All that changed when we moved to Africa.