Story 14 - Mission Africa.
Tony's reaction was that we shouldn't be worried about the possible dangers. He said if we kept our tanks topped off to the brim, and kept ourselves alert about the state of the world, we would have plenty of time to get ourselves back home before all hell broke loose.
This was bravely spoken, of course. Evidently, his comments were designed to lesson my fears and put me at ease. In real terms it would take us upwards to four days to get ourselves back
to the Azores, from the southern parts of South Africa, provided we would have access to the required fuel. It was wonderful in this regard to witness Tony's response to my fears, and the care he took to make the frightening world less real. He spoke about living, instead of dying. He spoke about the beauty of Africa and its people, instead of the misery we had thrust upon them. He said that he was looking forward to making new friends and to embrace them in love. He spoke about the beauty of the African women and the African men. He told me that he had been in Africa with the Air Force, in his earlier years. He promised that he would show me Africa as I had never even dreamed about it before. He spoke about the beauty of the human spirit that
exists even in the slums, or especially there, in the midst of gross ugliness.
I came to appreciate and love Tony as a beautiful soul,
as well as a beautiful man; beautiful in his soft voice and polite manners, never brash, never cruel; beautiful in his looks, tall, slender, his dark hair immaculately kept; beautiful in his eyes, that never strayed from whoever he spoke with or listened to; beautiful in the ease of his bearing, feather light, with the grace of a dancer; beautiful also in his generosity and caring. Yes, I was looking forward to our five week adventure together into the heart of Africa, which promised to become an exciting adventure to explore the human dimension where its light,
as he insisted, shone most beautiful. Maybe he was the personification of that
continent that he loved.
Before we arrived at the Azores the sky had turned dark again. Only a faint afterglow remained and that disappeared by the time we landed. Tony parked the plane near a US Air Force owned hangar and checked into the designated motel complex, a small complex with a swimming pool. The place catered exclusively to foreign service personnel.
Our evening together by the pool, and later in our room, was dominated by sharing. The sharing of our feelings, of our experiences, of friendships and our love. All of that made the evening beautiful. The sharing of our hopes, dreams, and aspiration, and ourselves too, added to that.
In the morning I was woken by the rising sun and a gentle kiss on the forehead. Later, in the cafeteria, after we had ordered our breakfast, Tony called the waiter back and added to the order a large pot of tea.
"I still can't figure out why we are going to Africa," said Tony after we were airborne again, flying at thirty-thousand feet towards Africa that lay still far beyond the horizon in front of us. We were flying into the morning sun. The scattered clouds below us were brilliantly white, casting a patchwork of shadows on the sea.
"Why are we going through all of this trouble to gather evidence when we have already more evidence on hand than anybody is willing to deal with?" asked Tony. "Our trip would make sense if we intended to actually do something concrete to help the people there. If Fred would have given us a hundred grand to spend on some urgently needed project to help reverse the bad image that America has earned, then our going there would make sense."
I rejected his suggestion, to his dismay.
"Why?" he asked.
I told him that he was asking for too little. What he was asking for was a pittance,
far too small for even a mouse. This gesture would make no difference in the overall scheme. I reminded him that all of the world's NGOs were already doing precisely what he proposed, and have been doing that for years, while nothing ever gets resolved. The status quo remains unchanged. The NGOs put up a few hundred-thousand in aid, while the financial raiders pull out billions out of Africa, and the people there continue to go on starving to death, or are helped along to die, by wars that we arrange for them. Africa has twenty-eight million people dying of AIDS, and three million orphans whose parents have died of AIDS already. I told him that this is only the beginning. The starving and dying population has become the world's foremost breeding ground for evermore exotic diseases that may some day overwhelm the whole world.
"We have to save the whole of Africa, to save the world, and thereby
ourselves," I said.