Remember the eyes of one who loved you and don’t forget their mark on your soul- Marianne Williamson
When King George walked from Elephant Hills Resort back through the bush to the BOMA, where the guests had gathered for a traditional meal, native music and dance, he frequently encountered a leopard. But he feared not. He was dressed in costume- in a leopard strip skirt, with a lion’s skin draped over his shoulders and down his back and grasped a spear in his hand. He communicated with the leopard and told it there would be no fighting, but if there was, he would win, and so they respected one another’s space.
I met King George at an ATA (Africa Travel Association), in Victoria Falls, Zimbabwe, where delegates from around Zimbabwe, the continent of Africa, and the world had gathered to learn about tourism initiatives in Africa and how we as journalists could promote it. We were also here to learn about the Zimbabwe people, see their land, and share in their customs.
King George was the music and dance director/coordinator for the Congress’s events. He is also a musician himself, a dancer, a choreographer, and has his own dance troupe. In conversation, I complained that I did not know where to go for a walk and he said he would come to my resort and take me.
He arrived at my hotel at 7 AM and was on foot, walking from a village five miles away. He owned no car. Besides the miles that we would walk together, he would need to walk five additional miles to get home. No worries. I was beginning to understand the deep kindness and generosity present in this man, and in nearly all of the Zimbabwean people.
His plan was to follow some dirt tracks, game tracks, and then head cross country to the Zambezi River. All this was his Kingdom, the King said. We snuck up on some huge bull elephants but I was not fearful for King George was a warrior as were all the men in his family before him. We arrived at the river and sat by its side, watching the mist rise high in the sky from thundering Victoria Falls. We ate peanut butter and jelly sandwiches that I had prepared from my resort’s breakfast buffet. We bathed in the warm sunlight, drank in the delicious wind, was serenaded by the rushing river with not a want in the world.
King George told me how many years ago, he fell in love with a Botswana woman who was having his baby. But when they returned to her family in Botswana to ask for permission to marry, he was rejected and told to return to his country and take the baby girl along, never to return, simply because he was Zimbabwean.
Even though this was not legal and he hadn’t the faintest idea how to diaper, feed and raise a daughter, King George found a way. And this is in a culture where traditionally, men do not touch a diaper nor a pot or pan, never do the laundry and are served by their women on their knees.
Today, at twelve years old, father and daughter enjoy a deep love for one another and he says, “She was never a hardship, only a blessing.”
King George and I talked of many things- our lives, our dreams, our children, and we held hands while we walked. Even the men hold hands when they talk together in Zimbabwe- a wonderful show of affection and warmth.
After four hours in his company, I was emotional when I hugged him good-bye, knowing I may never see him again. I felt very fortunate, however, that we had become friends in such a tiny sliver of time. We were separating on a much higher plane of living, and renewed to go back to our separate distant lives and continue the work we are on this planet to do. I was also reminded that part of that job is to reach out across the differences and find commonality. And if we are open to it, however brief and fleeting, even love one another.