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Eleven years ago today, I returned home from my first trip to Africa. I didn’t realize it then, but that first expedition to Zambia with Mothers Without Borders would change the course of my entire life. The experiences I had and lessons learned from my time in Zambia would shape my choices and expectations from what degree to pursue in college, the kind of career and volunteer work I wanted to do, how I view and interact with people who at first seem so different from me, and how much I value and prioritize personal relationships. Most importantly, I’m still learning from those lessons how to truly love myself and to be true to my intuition and desires.

While this collection of images is a somewhat romanticized version of my memories and experiences, I think it conveys my deep love for this vast continent. I find it incredibly difficult to talk about the hard things I saw there. The depraved, the lowly, the humble, the suffering. Those things are inherently unpleasant to discuss, but I find the hardest part is to tell these stories to an audience who barely has the capacity or attention span to hear them. Sometimes even harder to explain is the paradox that exists for those who experience extreme suffering and yet the greatest happiness. It’s hard to comprehend how some of my friends there have survived wars, famine, poverty, betrayal, defilement, torture, abandonment . . . and yet are able to find love, joy, peace, and reconciliation even in the midst of those dark times. When I look at these photographs, that is the paradox I see. I see the beauty and simplicity, but I know the hardship that both the humans and animals who share this land experience. But that adversity is what makes the good so beautiful.

In my part of Africa, death is never far away. With more Zimbabweans dying in their early thirties now, mortality has a seat at every table. The urgent, tugging winds themselves seem to whisper the message, memento mori, you too shall die. In Africa, you do not view death from the auditorium of life, as a spectator, but from the edge of the stage, waiting only for your cue. You feel perishable, temporary, transient. You feel mortal.

Maybe that is why you seem to live more vividly in Africa. The drama of life there is amplified by its constant proximity to death. That’s what infuses it with tension. It is the essence of its tragedy too. People love harder there. Love is the way that life forgets that it is terminal. Love is life’s alibi in the face of death.

Peter Godwin, When a Crocodile Eats the Sun: A Memoir of Africa

1. An intimate portrait of Senegal’s most famous drummer, the late Doudou N’Diaye Rose.
2. Incredible birds-eye view of a camel caravan crossing the salt flats of Lake Assal, Djibouti.
3. Portrait of Rufo, a member of the Arbore tribe in the Omo Valley, Ethiopia.
4. If you need a good cry, you won’t be disappointed by this incredible video about Christian the Lion.
5. A Dinka boy from South Sudan lavishes endless care and affection on his animals which he considers part of the family.
6. Villagers play a round of Bao, a common mancala board game, on the coast of Tanzania.
7. A young Tuareg man wears a traditional turban, or tagelmust; only removing it in the presence of close family.
8. “The Smoke That Thunders.” Victoria Falls is one of the Seven Natural Wonders of the World.
9. Crocodiles lie in wait for the unlucky wildebeest as they make their annual 1800 mile migration across the Mara River.