Dear Doctor

You’re about to do something amazing, and I’m not even sure you know it yet.

You’re about to spend 29 hours in transit only to reach my most favorite far flung corner of the earth: AFRICA.

You get how amazing that is, right? You understand that every day since I’ve left I pine to be back? I’ve cried myself to sleep missing something I barely know. I’ve sung myself smiling with the words that I remember. I’ve lost myself in the frozen eyes of a portrait of a girl I once loved.

And you’re about to have all of it.

It’ll be yours for the taking.

That’s incredible. Be excited.

For 12 days, set everything else aside. Let go of the tension of obligation and rest from responsibility. Don’t miss him so badly you can’t fall in love with another. Don’t be so professional that you aren’t also human. Let go of your tricks. Forgo composure.

For 12 days, let Africa have its way with you. Good or bad, you won’t be the same. I never was and now there’s no going back. I hope with every ounce of my being that you are as lucky.

It is the most cruel and unfair and real and beautiful and raw place that I have ever experienced. From the dry hills to the lush lakeside, the colors span the spectrum of stunning. And then there’s the sky. Oh my god. Bigger than any you’ve ever known, slip from the reach of city lights and stand under the sky at night. Its ominous and comforting and pervasive, this African sky. Fall in love with this landscape. And love deep.

And that’s not to even mention the language. Swahili is the most stunningly gorgeous language I’ve ever heard uttered and the easiest I’ve ever tried to learn. The rolling rhythm of constant vowels is captivating. It bounces with contagious energy. It is perpetually pleasant. Listen hard.

Oh, and the marketplace. Find one. And then loose yourself in it. Be lost in the colors of chaos. Give in to the beauty of a country’s ingenious, of a people’s persistence, of a livelihood and a bargain and the resounding human nature to strike a deal. Laugh at the insanity of it all. Laugh, but be generous.

And then when your feet are stained with the red dirt and your heart is exhausted from the rawness, cry. Cry over the injustice and the compassion and the humility. Because above all else, this place is real. It’s surviving. And in the beat of a drum and the smile of a child, it might even convince you that it’s thriving. In its own unique way. Against all odds. It exists.

And that’s incredible.

So enjoy Africa. Say hello to it for me. Let it know I’ll be back. Let it in. Let yourself out. Be humbled by the grandness of everything you’re about to see and make sure you see it. Really. Truly. In all its ugly beauty. Smell the burning garbage. Appreciate the dark faces. Step over the sewage. See the colors in the cloth. Breathe in the hazy sky.

And then in the safety of company, sneak out of the city and stand on the lake shore and walk down the alley way. Be safe. Be kind. Be brave. Because the beauty lies as much in the impossibly dark eyes of its children as it does in the continent’s countryside. Beneath the banana trees. Under the thatch roof. That’s where you’ll fall in love. That’s where I was changed.

Get ready to be changed.

And finally, while I know it goes against everything you’ve ever been taught and any instinct with which you were born, promise me this: don’t try to fix Africa. Let it fix you.