Jambo! I’m Nevis Granum, a senior at Pacific Lutheran University seeking majors in Fine Arts and Literature. At the moment my head is whirling with excitement; I’ve just returned from an incredible J-Term course in Africa titled “Chimps, Cheetahs, and More: On Safari in Tanzania.”
I heard about the trip last January when I was on another J-Term program in Antarctica. The instructor, Dr. Charles Bergman, asked if I’d be interested in going with him to Tanzania. Even at the bottom of the world, I signed on; I knew that Dr. Bergman and this world would change my life yet again.
Africa was entirely new. I had never been to Africa before and I wasn’t sure what to expect. The continent had been filled with many stereotypes of crime and disease. It’s easy to get caught up in these stereotypes and be blinded by them, especially in the reporting on the news, however Africa shared itself with us in an entirely different manner; Tanzania is unwaveringly the most beautiful place I’ve ever been.
For 3 weeks our group strode through a blooming country. We hiked with chimpanzees in the Mahale Mountain jungles. We were surrounded by lions, cheetahs, elephants and many other incredible animals in the Serengeti. For a month we let ourselves become a part of the natural world, and in return, we were accepted by the animals who call Africa home. By trip’s end, most of us actually began to call Africa home. It isn’t so crazy to think, really. It was only 5 million years ago we were living in mountainous jungles with our ancient ancestor chimpanzees. Only about 2 million years ago we began to walk upright in the Serengeti for the first time. In a way, this trip was the ultimate homecoming; we were walking with our most ancient ancestors; walking with chimpanzees, and looking them in the eye.
A good friend of mine has this philosophy that whenever we leave our driveway to go out on an adventure, all subsequent roads become an extension of our driveway. In other words, the entire world’s road map is an extension of our driveway. I rather like this thought and I always have it in the back of my mind whenever I travel. Driving into the Serengeti for the first time, I felt that this washboard gravel road was the culmination of all the world’s driveways. That somehow they all led here, and that this strip of dusty gravel was the homestretch of the globe. As I stood up in the back of the pop-top land cruiser letting the warm afternoon wind lick my face, I knew that I had just driven home for the first time.
PLU’s question to its students has always been, “What do you plan to do with your one wild and precious life?” (Mary Oliver) In Africa we learned what it means to live a “wild and precious life.” We saw the love within a pride of lions and a community of chimpanzees. We discovered our place within this wild life; we discovered that the natural world is home. PLU’s J-Term programs continue to change my life and help me discover who I am as well as who I want to become. They facilitate global connections that will last a lifetime. It is in these moments within the world’s classroom that we discover our “one wild and precious life.”