Taozi Tree Yoga is thrilled to present… “Adventures Abroad” with special guest writer, a soldier in the US Army, JJ Black.
If you haven’t read Part 1, please read it first!
Some other memorable experiences I have had while here in Africa have involved engaging with some of the beautiful and rare animals. I feel blessed in my luck with the people I have met so far while I’ve been here. Among these new faces was a young woman who works on the wild life refuge not far from my camp. She gave us a tour of the refuge and introduced us to some of the amazing animals of Africa. I got to get up close and personal with a beautiful cheetah named Zula. While we were still separated by a fence, the sweet girl would come right up to the fence and lick my hand. There were lions, hyenas, zebras and of course the monkeys that would eat bananas and grapes right out of our hands. That experience was definitely more than just a trip to the zoo, but it was not even the best of my adventures with animals yet. Djibouti is located on the East coast of Africa right at the base of the horn. In this special place, something magical happens during certain parts of the year. That’s right, Whale Sharks.
The migratory patterns of these majestic animals bring them just along the coast of Djibouti and I was able to witness it. Not just witness it, I got to swim with them. The whale shark is the largest fish in the sea reaching lengths of up to forty feet (12 meters). When I arrived, I heard about this trip, and I knew it was something I wanted to do. I signed up for the trip knowing it was one of the last weeks they would be in the area. It was about a forty-five minute boat ride to where these amazing animals would swim and filter feed on plankton. The Djiboutian guide did not speak much English, so when he saw the fin peak just out of the water they simply stopped the boat and yelled “GO!” I was shocked!
I couldn’t believe that was the extent of our coaching, But I went! Wide eyed and jaw dropped I jumped on in. The next hour and a half was a memory I will never forget. Beneath the water, among the peaceful quite, and serenity of the silky blue water, out of the dark in the distance, this enormous creature emerged slowly and gracefully towards me. The stab of anxiety and overwhelming aw mixed one magical moment with one giant magical creature. I was so caught up in the moment I almost forgot I had my camera. I felt like nothing to this animal-so small and ignored. The whale sharks swam around us like we were on the other side of a piece of glass in an aquarium even though I could reach right out and touch them.
They were completely indifferent to us being in the water around them. It was an amazing and beautiful thing. Maybe they weren’t afraid because they could crush us with one swift move, but it was almost as if they were proud and liked to be able to show themselves off a little bit. Being in the water with these startling massive creatures, so beautiful and powerful, reminded me that the design of life is so specific and unique but yet, still so connected. I mean, a whale shark, the largest fish in vast ocean, feeds on plankton-a barely visible plant. In my humble opinion, only a pretty creative power could come up with that kind of design. I like thinking sometimes that there is a plan taking place out there and whether I’m aware of my participation in it or not, I’m along for the ride and every experience is shaping me into the man I am meant to become. Moments, like this one, I’m more aware of the spiritual effect, others, just as powerful, may have a similar spiritual effect; just not as much awareness is involved. Either way, this was a…
“God, You Kick Ass!”
…Moment. It felt kind of like I was getting to visit another world. Just a reminder how small my little world is in the big scheme of things.
I am still here in Djibouti and making trips to visit my friends in the city. I also did a little traveling to Uganda and other places in Africa on a mission. I am getting so much more out of this deployment than I ever expected. I am being fed spiritually. I am learning, I am growing, I am making friends and I am getting to see God in the face of not just my peers, but in the beautiful creatures of Africa. When I leave this land, I will hopefully be leaving it just a little better than the way I found it, and I know that I will be leaving it a better man than when I first set foot on it. I know that I have been greatly affected and impacted by this place and I will always remember how lucky I am to have such things as simple as shoes. I will remember the faces of the whale sharks and the inviting souls of the animals and the people I have met. I want to thank Theresa for asking me to write about my experience here. It really has been such an amazing journey and getting to share my knowledge so that it may become another’s and reflecting on it myself is a blessing for me. Thank you.