What The Ogooué River Taught Me
Dr. Allana Da Graca
I stood in front of the tiny boats and asked myself why I dared to travel so far. How would we make it to the Ogooué River on these small modes of transportation? My husband and I made the 23-hour journey from the United States to Gabon (Central Africa) to reconnect with loved ones and to give me a new experience. It was one thing to be heading to the continent, but another to fathom the several hours of travel to this village called Abondesimba. Nothing could prepare me for the natural anxiety I felt. How did a city girl from Roxbury (Boston, Ma) make it all the way to the continent of Africa? I heard a thousand comments from people before I went. “Make sure you do not eat the fruit, and try not to get bit by mosquitos,” one said. Another warned, “Be careful, I hope you get back safely.” Of course these comments were noteworthy because there are always chances of calamity anywhere, but these warnings were often said with extreme caution. With that in mind, I decided to take the journey.
We got on the tiny boat and our guide who I will call Edward, became our tour guide. He guided the boats safely until we reached the Abondesimba village. Be sure to watch my video of the journey here. I was so nervous! I had never taken a small boat to a destination in this manner before. I wondered if I would get sea sick and whether an alligator would somehow interrupt our journey. I wondered if I would see animals that I normally would not have up close and personal. All of a sudden I felt a deep peace and calmness surround me as I began to take in the life forms all around me. It was breathtaking. There were small villages and communities that were nestled within the river on stilts. There I stood in the Abondesimba village taking in the beauty and the landscape.
In that moment time stopped. Edward decided to take us on a wildlife excursion the next day. He wanted us to discover elephants. We walked through tall fields of grass to a small path in the jungle to see if we could catch a view. My mouth dropped as I saw the elephant foot prints. I truly felt like I was on the real Survivor show, but without the nature experience. We were told to stay quiet in efforts to not distract the animals. Edward, had his rifle on his shoulder and became my safari warrior in that moment. I remember being awe struck as I smelled the animals hibernating in their natural habitat. The funny part about this is that I also realized I was not at the zoo and there were no rangers there for my protection. Fortunately, we were fine and I had a blast seeing all life forms in the midst of the jungle.
As we continued our journey Edward led us through the field further and all of a sudden we found ourselves in the midst of another village. These individuals cooked for us and made us feel like we had known them for years. There was one gentleman who decided to show us how he made a special drink straight from the tree. This was amazing. I tried to capture all of the stories and historical references that were made. In the end he asked, “What are you going to do about it?” I was shocked and said, “What do you mean what I am going to do about it?” He later explained that individuals would come to their village and assume that they were ignorant because of their living condition. I told him that I thought it was commendable that he was so astute with nature, and preservation of fish etc..
I left the village with gratitude to see how beautiful the land was. There was something precious about the river, the foliage, and the landscape. We can truly learn more about ourselves when we take a step out of our norm to experience something new
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