“The Sixth Sense”
By Wes Wright
Landscapes change as we travel north from Wits Rural Research Facility through the Kruger Park. The scenery is beautiful. Savannahs filled with shrub mopane scattered throughout the landscape whose leaves resemble fall colors that remind me of the fall in Missouri. Beautiful grass that looks like golden wheat that lines the road, colorful birds and plenty of wildlife can be seen. Along the ride animals can be seen in the wild for the first time, time passes and is spent eating snacks, talking, laughing and most importantly, thinking.
The wind blows through my hair in the back of the Game Drive Vehicle, BMW’s, Audis, Range Rovers, and other luxury vehicles pass by frequently. Realizing the outrageous costs of these vehicles, I become increasingly interested about the demographic of people inside. I quickly notice each luxury vehicle that passes is being driven primarily by white tourists. Occasionally, a “beat down” vehicle passes us. A vehicle that reminds me of my rural hometown of Troy, Missouri. My first vehicle, where I would cheer if it starts on those harsh winter mornings as I drove to school. Wondering if the vehicle would even make it to my destination.
As these vehicles pass, I notice that they are, what I think to be, the workers in the park. These workers are primarily of the black demographic. It seemed every one of them that passes smiles and greets us with kind gestures in passing. These workers are the heartbeat of Kruger, pumping the blood throughout the park so tourists can enjoy the costly experience. While also working incredibly hard for their families and own livelihoods. Contrast to the tourists in the luxury vehicles who often grant a smug smile with a subtle finger wave coming up off the steering wheel.
I take a step back while we continue our drive north and realize I am a tourist. I saved up money for years to take this trip. I suddenly realize the amount of money I paid for this trip could be more than some of the workers make in an entire year. I also think this amount of money could save villages and some people from problems they endure that involve money: water, food, housing and other basic needs. How was I able to be born in the body suit I was given when I was granted life. My life could be so different.
We cross the northern border of Kruger and experience the villages directly outside of the park. I immediately notice the sharp contrast between social economic statuses, or who has more money. Some houses are brilliant. Often covered by a nice fence, nice shrubs and trees, combed dirt in the yard, vibrant colored, and most importantly finished. Directly next door you will see the frame of a house a quarter of the way done with a family sitting on the steps. Awaiting remittances or money from a different source to finish a basic need, shelter. Locals walk the road. The children smile with beautiful white teeth and wave, coincidentally asking for sweets. The luxury cars are gone. Even the beat down cars pass seldom now. The ones that do pass are often pickup trucks with locals standing crowded and uncomfortable in the back.
This is my first real experience seeing what is in front of me. The very sharp contrast of the Kruger Park and the communities that lie outside the border. I think about what we take for granted in America. Most have access to food, water and shelter. Thus, allowing for us to have issues and debates on other things. Such as television shows or sports, but what if you had to worry about when you next meal was or when you would have access to clean water? How different would we be?
I begin to think what is worse. Having everything and not realizing what you have or having nothing and realizing everything you have? One thing seems to dictate. Money.