A time of change

One afternoon in Namibia, Steve said to us: “Life is an ensoku.” I realized on this trip that I want my life to be fun and interesting and always filled with discovery, like an ensoku (excursion or school trip). Being out in Namibia’s awesome nature opened my eyes and taught me that there is no need to suffer and worry too much about what Japanese society expects me to do, because it is just a small part of this wide, wide world. Before I went to Namibia, I hated to think about my future — such as finding a job after graduating from university. But meeting and talking with people in Namibia changed my way of thinking. They enjoy their daily lives in nature, and enjoyment is a top priority. This is a part of the Namibian lifestyle that inspired me a lot. I also found that my life is my own. Now I’m excited about designing my life and my future; being honest about my own interests and feelings. I’m so glad that I had the chance to visit Namibia, because if I hadn’t, and just stayed in Japan, I might never have experienced such a big change!

Ideals can be lived

We saw heaven in Namibia. It was our fourth evening and we were driving across the savanna. We passed up through a rocky ravine out onto a golden grassy highland where the sun seemed to be sinking into the earth. The colors of the sky were changing every second, from bright yellow to orange, red, crimson, violet and deep purple, and each color fascinated me. Lines of sunlight caressed the ground. The landscape was changing so quickly that I gave up on my camera and started using my own eyes. It was completely heaven, and the road to it had been so dusty and bumpy. As we drove, Professor Hesse told us his history. In his youth, he did various jobs while traveling around the world, and he said he is happy to have done what he wanted to do, knowing that many of his friends could not do as they wished. I used to think this was just an ideal, and we had to choose a gainful, stable job. But now I know it is not just an ideal. Now I feel it is much better to regret what we have done than regret what we have not done. Surrounded by an endless horizon, I learned this from Namibia.

Start from respect

Standing in the Namibian desert feeling the dry wind stroke my cheek; all I can see are a clear endless sky over the dunes, reddish sands and dead grass. My first impression of Namibia is, “There is nothing.” Even seeing animals, such as springbok, hopping through the bush, I felt sympathy for them because they seemed lonely and isolated from any other species. Now, this idea has melted away. The longer we stayed in Namibia the more attracted to and familiar with nature we became. We learned to tell one animal from another and, taking a closer look at nature, we found there were many species just out of sight. Geckos, spiders, beetles, all part of the “circle of life” and dependent on each other. And we are part of the same circle. The moment I realized this was the first time I could truly love the Earth. Then a sense of destiny came to my mind, the need to protect this planet. How can we spoil this beautiful scenery and these admirable friends while all beings are interdependent? Isn’t it like committing suicide? This experience taught me the simplest of things: Respect for someone who helps you is the beginning.

On the 3rd day . . .

On our third day in Namibia we visited Sossusvlei in the Namib Desert. I was so excited because I had never seen anywhere like that — nothing but sand and beautiful dunes. When we touched the sand to see how fine it was, our guide, an energetic Japanese woman named Yuri, suddenly told us to look. “Those are the footprints of a white-dancing lady,” she said, pointing at small dots in the sand. She found the nest and opened its hatch door a little, and we saw the legs of a spider! How curious! We saw many other animals and plants and Yuri explained how they live. Some of the plants have narrow leaves to protect them from the strong sun and others have long roots to find water. We trekked for several hours noticing the lives around us. That day, I felt we were just like them; we need to adapt ourselves to our environment. I also realized that my first impression — of nothing but beautiful dunes — was wrong. There were many other lives there that I just didn’t know existed. Through this trip in the desert I felt that we humans can be too arrogant. We should care more about other lives living on the Earth.

Ears to hear; eyes to see

How many times did I sit and look around at the view — letting myself blend into the spectacular nature of Namibia? I had long forgotten how to be calm in Japan. Like most people, I was thinking of the immediate future and working frantically the best I could. Being proud of leading a busy life, I did not try to make time to spare. I cannot forget sitting in the shade of a tree by the dry Barab River in Namibia, listening to the sounds of the wind and the insects for the first time. Just as those things do not know how to be too busy, I learned to stop putting pressure on myself and others and find time to take a rest. Back in Japan I closed my eyes and listened carefully to the sounds of nature. I could hear the chirping of insects, just like in Namibia. I thought that nature was disappearing from Tokyo, but what was also disappearing was my composure to settle down and take a rest. The trip to Namibia told me to compose myself, enjoy the scenery, and keep calm, so I can see which way the wind is blowing.

Discomfort in joy

Agirl with a big smile holding a bottle of water . . . Children with blank faces singing and dancing in front of an elegant buffet . . . It was my first visit to Namibia and also my first adventure in a developing country. In Namibia, I was so impressed with the vastness of nature, but the experiences that made me reflect most were when I saw local children. Driving along a bumpy road trying to find our way, we stopped near some children standing by the roadside. They seemed hungry and were watching us, as if we might have something they couldn’t obtain. Hugh gave them bottles of water and juice. One girl looked so happy to get the bottles and a little boy started to drink the water as soon as he got it. I should have felt good, but I felt some discomfort. The drinks were ones we had grown tired of tasting day after day, while for the children they might be special gifts, like Christmas presents. We happened to stop there by accident, and the next day, they would feel thirsty again. Even if we could send them such drinks every day, it wouldn’t be a real solution to save those children.

New horizons in life

Rays of the sun lighting up the clouds made a fabulous scene. The sky seemed so close to us, because there were no tall buildings. It was the first time I had seen the horizon. Sitting in the middle of the savanna on a rocky plateau, hearing the wind blowing, the beauty reminded me of many important things. Living busy lives, we are working so hard and pursuing more and more convenient things, and even if we have free time we try to fill it with plans as if we are afraid of free time. We have no time to touch nature and be relaxed. We forget we are on such a beautiful planet and we are too busy to remember whose life we are living. Hearing the wind I learned a lot. It told me not to hurry, to take my time and to look around me since I am living my life, not someone else’s. It also told me how small are our cares compared with bigger things, like our planet and poverty in Africa. These are the most important things, but they are hard to realize living such busy lives as we do in cities like Tokyo.

See the main story:
THE TRIP OF A LIFETIME — Desert voyage of discovery
See related story:
The host with the most … broken ribs


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