Visiting Africa has been on my bucket list since I was a teenager. I have always been fascinated with traveling, and Africa is certainly one of the places I have on my list. I often think of the children that have been a victim of poverty, civil war, and diseases such as malaria and AIDS, among many other things. On this trip I will have the privilege to visit a clinic to meet some of these children firsthand. This is all made possible through The American Foundation for Children with AIDS (AFCA.) AFCA is a non-profit organization that helps children in sub-Saharan Africa, as well as their guardians, who are HIV positive or who have contracted AIDS and lack access to appropriate medical care.I also have always felt a connection with the people of Africa. Being Puerto Rican, I can attribute some of my beliefs, vocabulary, food, and especially music to African roots. Puerto Rico had a large population of African slaves that arrived from the Gold Coast, Nigeria, Dahomey, and the region known as the area of Guineas, the Slave Coast. The vast majority were ethnic groups from Nigeria and the Guineas. Their contributions to music, art, language, and heritage have become instrumental to Puerto Rican culture. And what a rich culture it is!
Thinking about my trip brought to mind some questions. How many of us have to live with no running water? How many of us go to the bathroom in an outhouse? How difficult is it for our children to attend school? I grew up in a relatively humble household. We had no hot water and oftentimes we didn’t have any running water for days at a time. Sometimes our electricity would go out and we’d have to get around by candlelight. When the gas ran out on our stove, my mother would have to prepare dinner outdoors on a rustic makeshift stove comprised of stones and firewood. Nevertheless, this type of poor living pales in comparison to the poverty many people still face. No matter how tough we have it, we really don’t know what struggle is when we compare our circumstances to other real-life situations.Climbing Mt. Kilimanjaro will be no easy task. It will take approximately 6 days to reach the summit, and only 1 day to come back down. We will experience several different climate zones, from dense trees to rocky terrain to snow atop the mountain. A big cause for concern is the possibility of altitude sickness, which occurs when you cannot get enough oxygen from the air. Air is thinner at high altitudes. When you go too high too fast, your body cannot get as much oxygen as it needs. Altitude sickness can range from feeling like you have the flu or a hangover, to more serious symptoms that could result in death.
Life is no easy trek either. It is a lot like climbing a mountain. We will encounter uphill climbs, downhill descents and plateaus. It may take us a long time to reach the top, only to find ourselves at the bottom in an instant. Rushing through life may make us succumb to “altitude sickness.” My advice? Take your time, keep your eye on the prize, and aspire to reach the summit in your life. I guarantee the views from there will be worth all of the sacrifice.