Daniel Gottlieb Ph.D., a quadriplegic, spent 10 days in South Africa on an Access2Africa safari. I just returned from 10 days in South Africa where I had the honor to witness the awesome perfection of nature. Thanks to Jennae Tachea and Access2Africa safaris, (www.access2africasafaris.com)( Contact Jennae email -firstname.lastname@example.org) I was able to get closer to nature than I have been in the 33 years I’ve been a quadriplegic.
Because of her wealth of experience and great knowledge about the needs of the disabled, I had no difficulty with bathroom facilities, transportation or accessible restaurants. This was the first time in 33 years I didn’t have to worry about details. What a relief! Our party, which included friends and family, was treated to a luxurious first day at palatial gardens of Makaranga Lodge where we had no responsibility but to enjoy the beauty around us. The grounds were completely accessible, the monkeys were playful, the original sculptures were powerful and the view was indescribable! A little later, we were introduced to our friendly and knowledgeable guide named Dave who seemed to know everything about the flora and fauna of South Africa. We left the well manicured flora in that 5 star resort to have a completely different cultural experience. We were first taken to Leopards Walk, a Lodge with breathtaking views of the wildlife that is South Africa. Our chalet consisted of a very comfortable bedroom, bathroom with a wheel in shower and a hot tub! 3 of the walls were all glass which enabled us to see whatever animals were around as soon aswe opened our eyes. This was a wonderful experience with warm and generous hosts. Later that day, we were taken to one of Africa’s many game preserves was simply breathtaking as we watched elephants, water Buffalo’s, giraffes, hippos and many other species in their natural habitats. Natures perfection! Dave was so knowledgeable that he was able to spot some 25 elephants who would be crossing the road right in front of us. So he moved our vehicle in such a way that we were surrounded by these magnificent 4 ton animals as some came within 30 feet of our vehicle! Hearing what we humans have done to this animal population, I felt ashamed of my species. But that was all to change the next day.
think the highlight of the trip for me was a visit to the Khulani Special Needs School. This is a school in the heart of rural Zululandwhich caters to over 100 children with a wide variety of disabilities from cerebral palsy to autism to intellectual disabilities and many more. This school had very little money to work with and children (all residential) slept on the floor on mats and not all of them had blankets or shoes. Their wheelchairs were not in good shape and I was told they didn’t have equipment or parts. I watched as children with autism pushed children with cerebral palsy in broken down wheelchairs over this sandy terrain as both of them were laughing. There was no dining room as meals were picked up by each student and taken outside to be. And yet these children seem to be happy and filled with love. I spoke a few words to them and they surrounded me as I felt bathed in their sweetness. At that moment, I saw the best of humanity. One of my great life lessons came from the woman who founded this school many years ago. She was now aging, overweight and walked with difficulty on a cane. Yet she had this beaming smile. I commented to her about how happy she looked to which she said: “as long as my hut is clean, I am happy.” How many of us would be happier with that perspective. And yes, I got to pet big cats, elephants, watch hippos while I was riding a wheelchair accessible riverboat. One of my fellow travelers said that it would be very difficult for her to go back to the “real world”. “No, I said “this is the real world. Most of that stuff back there is the outward manifestation of human egos trying to move mountains. Where we are in South Africa we were surrounded with people who don’t try to move them-they honor them. ”I’m making arrangements for my return trip as we speak. Daniel Gottlieb Ph.D. DrDanGottlieb@aol.com www.DrDanGottlieb.com http://www.huffingtonpost.com/dan-gottlieb-phd
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