Preparing for Africa

We are less than a week away from our much anticipated Africa portion of our trip.
Since we have started traveling Avinash has had very little to no TV or iPad time.
So when I suggested that we all start watching some travel documentaries about Kenya and Madagascar he could barely contain his excitement.
A few nights ago we watched some Wild Kratts Brothers episodes which are great because they are produced by PBS and designed for kids. Last night I suggested we watch a National Geographic documentary about the Wildebeest Migration. It was beautiful, showing the plains of the Mara and the grandness of Ngoro Ngoro crater. And of course the magnitude of the Wildebeests crossing from the northern plains of Kenya to Tanzania.
I guess I had gotten used to the feel good easy watching of the Wild Kratts. The hosts enthusiasm distracted you from an animal getting stalked and killed because they focused on the ‘cool’ factor of its body getting dragged up a tree.
The Documentary we were now watching had no such characters to buffer the experience. In fact, James Earl Jones (Darth Vader) was narrating. No warm and fuzzys there.
We got to a scene where the Wildebeest were crossing a river filled with hungry crocodiles and had an impossibly narrow exit up a steep muddy bank where hundreds of animals were trying to clamber up to reach safety.
Up until now in the documentary Avinash had taken the animal huntings and killings in stride. There was always a single targeted animal and you saw the face of the cute animal cub eagerly awaiting the meal mom was out catching.
This Wildebeest scene was different. There was panic, chaos and death because of stampede from their own in addition to the crocs.
The end of the scene showed the injured and dead left on the banks while the rest of the herd had made it to safety.
While we had been watching the documentary we had all been pausing when we wanted to discuss something we had just seen or Avinash had a question.
At the end of the tragic wildebeest scene I saw his little finger reach out to the screen to hit pause. I looked over and his eyes we red and his lip was quivering. He stammered out that the wildebeests were getting left behind. “Where are their moms and dads? What about their friends? They won’t see them for many many years…mom they won’t see them forever!” He went for minutes. We just let him get it all out.
This is the first time I have seen so much sadness and empathy pour out from Avinash’s heart.
We spent the next half hour having a beautiful discussion about the ‘circle of life’, vegetarianism, and animal nature vs human nature. It’s the first time I think he really processed a lot of the concepts. He had tears and a lot of questions.
In a couple of weeks we will be in safari in Kenya. He might witness some of these things. I thought exposing him beforehand might somehow desensitize him in case we witnessed it.
On some level I am asking myself if we are thrusting things at him that might be emotionally advanced for him to process. But haven’t we been doing that in general on this trip? He has equally been surprising us by showing his maturity.
We’ll see how we all process Africa. To be continued…

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