Part II- Continuation of Noah’s Ark
On Monday I met with the booking office, feeling very guarded and expecting to receive the same resistance to my refund request. However, they had a completely different attitude, much to my surprise. The booking lady, Marika, was extremely concerned and upset at the events that unfolded. I almost cried because I felt ‘heard’ for the first time in several days. The man called Frikkie that yelled at me at the petrol station appeared and apologized sincerely for his behavior. WOW. I was shocked. Almost catatonic!
Marika ensured I would receive a refund and pleaded with me to try another program they offer called the Exclusive program. Its meant for the older crowd (50′s + age), but you go with Frikkie step, by step and have an exclusive interaction on volunteer work. She was offering it to me for free, because she wanted me to have the true Harnas experience; the one I received apparently was not what Harnas was about.
I was extremely hesitant to go back as you can imagine. I was angry with everyone. I was wounded and hurt. I also had this new found fear of animals that I never had before! I didn’t want to go back and face my persecutors again. I didn’t want to hear the snickering as I walked around. I didn’t want to experience the looks and attitudes from the scarlet letter of justice I had to carry.
But in the end, I figured if they were big enough to make a true apology and extend an olive branch, then I was big enough to accept. I would face the persecution as it was only for 4-days. And I would do it with a smile on my face and love in my heart. I called upon all the great martyrs from Jesus to Ghandi to Mandela to give me the strength to hold my head up high. And they showed up for me.
Although the program is 14 days long, I could only stay for 4 because my adventures take me to Tanzania next. But these past 4 days have been such a different and amazing experience- the experience I intended from the beginning. The staff made a great effort to make me feel comfortable and accepted. They apologized in a more sincere way and Frikkie made a special attempt to include me in many back-scene experiences that I wouldn’t have had otherwise.
For example, I went with just him to encounter a lion that wasn’t eating while a German Film crew filmed. He had to approach her, give her food, touch her and check her out to see if she was ill. In the end, she was fine, but the experience is branded into my heart.
On the first day we were having animal encounters immediately and I was treated like an actual person! I forgot what that felt like. I actually think that I had to experience this to truly understand the plight of the black population during Apartheid. I’ve been feeling so much sympathy for them, but now I have a new found respect and empathy for the Black struggle in South Africa. I only experienced a minor version for a few days! They had generations of disrespect and belittling. How tragic and humiliating! I can’t believe people can recover from that and still hold their heads high- but they do. Their strength is such a beacon of light. I am truly humbled.
Frikkie also gave me the opportunity to touch cheetahs and sit with lions as the sun set below the African trees. Every morning we made the rounds and fed the cheetahs, the lions, the leopards, the baboons, the ostriches…
It was really a beautiful experience and such a lesson that from the sour can come the sweet. I also learned that standing up for your beliefs, for your truth is the most important thing you can do. Not only for yourself, but as an example for others. I don’t know what they think of me, or what they are saying now that I am gone. All I know is that I saw injustice and wouldn’t take no for an answer. I fought for the experience I wanted, and in the end I got it! I didn’t give up.
I’ve also learned that I’m never running from a fear again. I guess I had to learn it in the literal way of running at top speed for 45 minutes, scared for my life. LOL. But next time there is a hyena loose (where figuratively or literally), I’m not listening to anyone except myself. I’ll stay and fight and die if I have to, but I’ll never run. I will never be a sheep, following the crowd because its too painful. I’d rather go down being ME, then running like everyone else. Thank you God for this horrific, but HUGE lesson.
Bottom Line: If you want the “real” Harnas experience (which I recommend!) PLEASE PLEASE PLEASE only do the Exclusive Program. The regular volunteer program is terrible and you will not get what you want out of it. Or if you do, its a long road! I’m planning on coming back with friends for the Exclusive Program and only if Frikkie is there. I suggest you do the same! Maybe you can come with me! xoxo!
Here is more info on the program: