Africa: The last two days and final thoughts

(you can see all my blogs about Africa by clicking here)

When we were leaving Twachiyanda and headed for Choma…I was excited. We were in the home stretch and I’d be seeing my family again in a few days.

But at the same time…I couldn’t believe the journey was almost over. And I was definitely missing taking photos of the kiddies we just left. They melted my heart. I kinda didn’t want that part to be done. It was one of those things, where you know you captured everything as best you could and you probably got enough stuff…but there is always room for more.

I wish I had more.

This is my last post from Africa. People have asked me a lot of questions and it was tough to answer them all at first. My favorite moment was playing soccer. What I took away from the trip was that there are AMAZING people in this world willing to help others without recognition, many times spending their own money. It blew my mind. The people of Zambia are friendlier to strangers than we are here in America. By leaps and bounds. When people over there have someone sick, the community bands together and brings food, even if they themselves don’t have much. We should do stuff like that. Over there people wave when you drive by…over here…well, you are lucky to even get a look and you might get an obscene gesture.

I actually randomly waved at someone the day I got back, as I was driving by, and they just looked at me. I was like…yeah, definitely home!

Zambian kids with next to nothing have the biggest smiles in the world. They take care of their little brothers and sisters, even if over in the USA we would never trust them with that responsibility so young.  And those of you who sponsor children, through World Vision, Compassion, or whatever…that really does help. We met a young man who was a teacher at the school he attended as a kid, all because he had a sponsor. You DO make a difference.

I kinda want to keep writing so this doesn’t end. But I’m going to get into the pictures now

We woke up the next, said goodbye to people and headed to Livingstone…which is basically the place tourists go. That was weird and I’ll talk more about it a little bit down from here.

But as we were standing around, wishing people farewell…the clouds came out. I hadn’t seen clouds in Africa almost the entire time we were there. It’s weird how I had no inclination to take photos of anything at that moment…and then I saw clouds…and suddenly was wandering away from the hotel to shoot some of the scenery around the lodge.

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Super special thanks to Austin for snapping this for me.

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These next few shots are from the LandCruiser on our drive to Livingstone.

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This is us arriving in Livingstone at a gorgeous resort/hotel. It was amazing.

But it was also kind of “culture shock” after the last 8 days. What struck me as very funny and also kind of a downer…these four guys here posing as natives for the guests…well, they are there to act like the natives living out in the bush. But I was just out there in the bush. No one looked anything like this. It felt a little cheap and weird. Catering to tourists.

It was probably no big deal, but after being submerged in the outskirts of Zambia, it twisted my brain a little.

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Our hotel was also in the middle of a  bit game preserve…so animals…well, they aren’t scared of anyone.

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And then we walked only 5 minutes to Victoria Falls, which was utterly spectacular.

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Thanks to Su for the pic!

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I walked down to this spot…which to the left is basically a dropoff to certain death. It was kind of creepy, but I wanted to stand right above the falls!

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What does it mean???

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Later in the day we went on a game drive. No “cats” on the drive, mostly everything else though.

I want to say a word real quick about Dan and Denise. Wow. Not only did the listen to their 9-year old son who wanted to help orphans in Africa, but they actually empowered him to do it and then helped build and run the charity . And now it’s 10 years later and Hoops of Hope has raised millions of dollars. I think most parents might say “sure, let’s sponsor a kid and send some money”…but they went above and beyond, because Austin was special and I’m pretty sure they knew that. Amazing to see what they all accomplished together.

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Now I don’t want to butter up Austin too much because I know he reads this, but…this kid was inspiring. I believe he’s one of a kind and will do even MORE amazing things down the road. When I first met him, I said…”Dude, you’re gonna be a senator or something someday.” And when I was in Zambia, some of the World Vision people said that everyone over there says Austin will likely be President. That’s just the feeling you get from being around him for a little bit.

From the moments when he’d suddenly ask to pray for a family, to speaking in front of hundreds of students and people…he was genuine and real. I feel so blessed to have been a part of this trip and travel around with this guy!

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Okay…now that all the mushy stuff is over, let’s talk about the Game Drive! Before we even got into the park, like 15 elephants crossed the road in front of us. Our guide was named Purity and she kept backing the jeep up because a few of them were staring us down at one point!

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Elephants did this.

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Run Impala, run!

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Probably my favorite pic from the game drive. They are beautiful creatures.

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Sadly the only croc we saw showed us his tail and that’s it.

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Giraffes!

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So this guy. So funny.

Our guide takes us off the beaten path to find Rhino’s. This guy with a machine gun is standing there waiting for us. When we get out, he says something like “Okay, so you all know this is not really part of the park and you are here because of our good will. Please SHOW ME  YOUR APPRECIATION.” Which essentially was…tip me alright!

We laughed. And then he told us to stay in a single file, they are dangerous, etc…but also the guy was waving his machine around the entire time, and I was wondering if it was even loaded 🙂

But dang it if he didn’t get us to within 60 feet or so of a family of Rhino’s!

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The fact that I even got this shot is amazing. We were driving and I had to focus and snap with a 70-200 and not miss. I missed a few others, but this one was in focus. Prob my fav Giraffe photo of the day!

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Pumbaa!!!

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I love these Bow-Bow trees!

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So weird…seeing Zebras just walk through the hotel grounds. This was a mom followed by her colt.

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Sunset on the Zambeezi river. Just to the left is the falls. Also there were monkey’s everywhere.

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On our final morning, we walked over to some shops which were right on the Zambeezi with the falls right in the distance. A beautiful mist was rising and an amazing rainbow panned across the sky. We decided to get some pictures of US for a change.

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Much love to Dan for getting this. Took two tries!

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Well that’s it then.

When I got home to the airport, it was the best moment ever. Even in Johannesburg, getting on the plane…I was giddy. Couldn’t wait to see my family.

I want to thank everyone who has followed along with these blogs, commented on them and shared your love of Africa with me. It was such a different experience for me as a photographer and it’s been such a blessing to hear from people about how much the photos and stories have touched them.

Thank you for that.

And I know people were praying for me over there and that means more than anything. I humbly appreciated it. Especially when those giant elephants were staring at us 🙂

Thanks to the Gutwein’s…Austin, Dan and Denise, for bringing me along on this adventure. I can’t believe they wanted me to do this and I’m so humbled by it.

Thank you to my sister-in-law, Jennifir, for flying out from Memphis with my little niece Kayleigh, to stay with my pregnant wife for most of while I was gone. That made me feel so at ease.

And finally to that wife of mine…Jina…who is so ready for Asher to be born. Thanks for talking me through some hard times on this trip and before it, and always giving me the confidence to know I can do anything. And also for taking care of our pesky kids for 10 days. And all the other days as well. I love you.

Thank you all!