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The Carletonian

The Carletonian

The Carletonian

First Love: A Tale of Robert Redford and Unequalled Nobility

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I distinctly remember my first love, and how it all came to be. It was the summer before my senior year of high school. I was sixteen. But unlike my friends whose first loves were boys or girls, mine was a place.

During my junior year of high school, I got a catalogue in the mail from a program called “The Road Less Traveled.” They had a host of community service projects ranging from India to Panama, each about a month long. I remember flipping through the highly-glossed pages one night. My mind was elsewhere, scanning the television for a suitable show to spend my evening getting lost in. I was distracted until I stumbled across the program based in Tanzania. There were pictures of herds of zebra and writings about a fascinating tribe called the Hadza, nomads who only hunt and gather for their food. From those beginning pictures, I was entranced.

“Africa?” my mom questioned, swinging her office chair around with a puzzled look on her face. She thought that I was joking. Maybe as many mothers, she didn’t approve of my choice for a “date.” But nevertheless, being the incredible parent that she is, she let me go. She let me be open to making my own mistakes. Isn’t that what a first love is all about?

Before going to Tanzania, I had envisioned Africa solely from my grandmothers’ couch as we watched Out of Africa with Robert Redford and Meryl Streep. It’s a romance: the dashing, free-spirited Redford wins the heart of the intelligent, independent Streep. But I never paid much attention to the love story: I just wanted to see the golden planes filled with animals and the people and their way of life.

When I finally arrived, I thought that there could be nothing more perfect. And nothing more natural. All I could think was: this is how people and animals were meant to live. This is what was intended. So as it goes, my first love was totally engrossing, it dominated everything else and was all I could possibly want. Tanzania was just… otherworldly. I remember making the climb into the Nogorongoro Crater at 6 A.M., the mist rising from the lush green forests as our jeep roared full-force up the dirt road. I couldn’t see anything, I could only feel the sprinkles of moisture. But as the sun rose and we reached the top of the crater, what I saw below was just remarkable.

What I saw was all out of a scene from Out of Africa; the umbrella trees that spread their branches like wings outspread over the ever-expanding golden hills and the herds of migrating wildebeest. Except I didn’t expect Robert Redford to pop up with his golden hair and illuminating confidence and self-assured speeches about freedom of self. Nor did I really want him there. I just wanted to see Tanzania for what is was according to the author of the novella Out of Africa: a “land of unequalled nobility.”

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