Women in Leadership Corner 11.2023

  • “Out of Africa…”

    I’m a firm believer in enjoying those marvelous vacations that are relegated to your bucket list. We all have them. For decades, I dreamed of going to Africa and seeing wonderfully wild and majestic animals in their natural habitat. Every time I tried to take this trip out of my bucket list, however, the time was not right.

    That obstacle melted away this past spring when AASA advertised an International Delegation Wildlife Safari to Kenya and Tanzania. I signed up the day I saw the announcement! I was going to Africa in August 2023!

    After six months of anxious anticipation, the date finally came and I boarded my flight to Nairobi. Two nine-hour flights and a lot of airplane food and movies later, 22 school leaders from across the United States arrived on a very different continent. Nairobi is a large modern city and, after getting some sleep, we started our journey of a lifetime.

    A safari Jeep became our home on the road. The first stop was Aberdare National Park where herds of elephants wandered aimlessly by as we watched an incredible sunset on the balcony at our lodge. There was no doubt we were in Africa! We saw hundreds more adult and baby elephants ambling all around our safari compound throughout the entire night. I was transfixed and glued to the window because I knew I would never see such a sight again. By morning, they had all disappeared! Where did they go?

    Our next stop was Lake Naivasha, over 6,000 feet above sea level, and the highest lake in the Great Rift Valley. Zebras, lions, giraffes, hippos, rhinos, hyenas, pelicans, and brilliant flamingoes gave us casual but disinterested looks. They were all used to the Jeeps.

    Our next game drive was through Lake Nakuru. Zebras, monkeys, baboons, lions, hippos, and rhinos were in abundance and, while we were enormously excited to see them, they ignored us …which was a good thing! The majestic Amboseli National Park, in the backdrop of Mt. Kilimanjaro, or “Kili” as it is called in Africa, beckoned. On this game drive, we saw the elusive cougars, cheetahs, plentiful wildebeests, elephants, and more giraffes, my favorite! Each species was more spectacular than the other. Safari game drives lasted between two and three hours and whenever our guide heard over the walkie that there was a highly sought after animal in a particular location, off we scrambled to follow and hopefully see it. Game drives demand much patience! More spectacular sights included the Tarangire National Park where we saw Africa’s largest herds of elephants. Our guides not only provided us with in-depth information on all species but were also talented drivers who could quickly get us out of any herd problems we encountered, which was helpful at times.

    Once in Tanzania, we drove to the awe-inspiring Serengeti National Park and stopped en route at the Olduvai Gorge which is known as “The Cradle of Mankind.” The Leakeys excavated 1.8-million-year-old human fossil fragments from the Olduvai Gorge. The Serengeti game drive was where we saw the impossible to find leopards. Our leopard was found sleeping, but alert, in a tree watching over her baby leopard in the next tree. One of the most fascinating stops we made was at Ngorongoro Crater, which is the world’s largest inactive and intact volcano. We descended one thousand feet into the crater where its bottom was filled with local wildlife and thousands of zebras, lions, and water buffalo. How do these animals climb down into that crater?

  • Our trip came to an end all too quickly as we traveled back to Nairobi for two long flights back home. During those flights, I had the time to reflect on this trip of a lifetime. I was left with two key observations.

    First, I was awestruck by seeing and learning about all of the wild animals. It is immediately apparent the love these animals have for their young and families. Elephants keep their young protected by holding them extremely close and stay with their herds for their entire life. Baboons share the care of their babies with other female baboons and they take turns nursing the babies. Zebras and giraffes stay in their herds. The love of family in the animal kingdom rivals the human bond and their sense of family motivates everything that they do. There’s a powerful lesson there.

    Second, Tanzania and Kenya are incredibly poor countries. People do not have electricity, running water or any of the essentials of our life. Yet those people who had the least showed us the most in warmth, compassion, integrity, and honesty throughout our trip. The family unit is the bedrock of the different African tribes and, while they don’t have the riches of our country, they have something even richer. The love of family is their most important and unbreakable connection. Another powerful lesson.

    So, friends and colleagues, I hope that each of you realizes your bucket list trip this year. You will not be sorry you did! Share your stories with us in a future edition of On Target so we can read about your Lessons Learned.