Lifelong Learners

I can think of no greater compliment than being considered a Lifelong learner!

Waking up every day with an open mind, a willingness to keep looking for new snippets of information and interesting facts; feeling the buzz of seeing new things or making new discoveries. It doesn’t matter what we are learning – rather it’s our attitude to learning that counts. Our enthusiasm, our acceptance that the world is a fascinating place.

Would you think of yourself as a vibrant Lifelong learner? If yes, how amazing – if not, I hope reading my blog will convert you!

Recently my husband and I traveled to Tanzania, a country on the east coast of Africa, about half way up the African continent. Not a ‘usual’ travel destination, but we went to meet our son who had been doing a gap experience in safari camps for two months.

After five incredible days traveling in this extraordinary country, and waking up each morning excited to learn something new, I’d like to share some of my journey with you:-

  • How deeply having an education is valued
    On the long drive to the Ngorongoro crater to the Serengeti National Park, we saw many Masai people, proudly clad in their red cloaks and patiently tending their cattle. We encountered groups of adolescent Masai males, faces painted white – forced to leave their homes for three months as they prepare for their traditional circumcision and entry to adulthood. During this time, they are expected to fend for themselves and also to kill a lion to prove they’re ready for manhood! Safari guides shared how much government emphasis is being placed on educating the Masai about the importance of sending their children to school, especially in the realm of conservation (not killing lions who are becoming endangered). Schools are available – and they are encouraged to embrace learning and a new way of life.Arusha is a thriving town of approximately two million people – nothing can prepare you for the dust, the traffic chaos, (trucks, scooters, donkeys, goats, traffic police, and pedestrians everywhere), the vibrant colours and the African buzz! Driving through the town in the early morning, we were taken aback by the sheer number of children smartly dressed and determinedly walking to school. Apparently a two hour walk each way for students attending a public school (and 110-120 students per class), and a bus ride for others more fortunate in a private school (35 students per class).What hits home is their determination to get to school! The long walk, the dust, the effort – it’s all worth it because the only way to move out of a life of poverty is through Education! What struck me was the contrast with some more affluent societies where school is disregarded, and ongoing learning opportunities taken for granted and wasted!On another level, we met two wonderful American conservationists who have devoted their life to camping in the African bush – tracking and recording giraffes. A PhD and a Master’s degree – highly pedigreed researchers who are such lifelong learners that they have given up the home comforts and can quite literally spend months living remotely, analyzing their data and finding a way to secure the longevity of the giraffe population.
  • The brilliance of blending cultures and religionThe first President of Tanzania, Julius Nyerere, did the country a great service some years ago. From stories told, he encouraged Christians, Muslims and Masai to live in the same areas, to blend and assimilate, to marry and find common ground. The result has been a nation of peaceful cultural and religious diversity, valuing family life above all else. The Tanzanians are noticeably friendly, welcoming and proud of their country and their heritage. We could all learn much from them, especially on weeks like this when we hear of the terrorist attacks in Paris.
  • The extraordinary migration of the wildebeest and zebra in the Serengeti national Park and KenyaTanzania has several National Safari Parks, one of which lies in the north and is called the Serengeti (place of wide open plains). Every year, a miracle occurs! Around 1,6 million wildebeest and 600,000 zebra migrate from the south of the Serengeti to the north and back again. Actually what I learned is that their migratory pattern is not fixed – rather they wisely follow the rains! This year it rained early in the southern part, and walking 100 km a day, they changed direction to find greener pastures! Imagine walking 160 000 km every year, with a lifespan of about 14 years – that’s a lot of walking!
  • Countries can leave a mark on our soulI have lived outside of Africa for longer than I lived within it! My mindful learning from this time in Tanzania was that we are all deeply affected by our nascent senses. The smell of the trees after the thunderstorms, the shrill of the kingfishers and the smell of acacia logs burning in a bush fire! Sleeping within mosquito netting and waking up to African birdsong. They all touched a chord!
    I learned that no matter what country you were born in, you’ll always feel that sensory connectedness.
  • Family and Friendship are a blessingMy son’s trip to Tanzania was made possible by family and a friend we connected with some twenty years ago. Our lives remained intertwined and whilst we don’t see each other often, we find ourselves supporting each other in whatever way we can. Every day, I feel thankful for our families and for friendship – and for the positive influence they bring into our lives.I’d like to leave you with one thought – try to embrace learning at every opportunity. Being a Lifelong learner has enriched my life, each and every day. I love the question, ‘what’s next?’ Another book to read, another course to study, another podcast to listen to, another documentary to watch! Perhaps an opportunity to travel!Whatever learning comes your way, I encourage you to embrace the opportunity with both hands. It’s a lifelong journey – and it never ends! Thankfully!Cheers
    Alison