Founder of Fair Trade Safaris, Saurabh Khetrapal, was on a trip to Tanzania’s famous Serengeti National Park and Ngorongoro Crater earlier this year. We were all dying to hear more about his experiences; so here are a few of his insights and some new-found wisdom that could change the way you look at life; read all the way to the end for a most profound story…
Q: What were the memories/images you took away that keep popping into your brain when you recall the Serengeti and Ngorongoro?
SK: When we were in the Serengeti, the entire landscape was carpeted with migrating wildebeest and zebra...including new-born calves. The sheer number of wild animals is etched as a beautiful image in my mind.
Q: Was there a special moment?
SK: Yes! Click on this video to see the ingenuity of "Bush Mechanics" and the power of cooperation and unity!
Q: Can you remember any senses particular to your visit; sounds, smells, colors?
SK: The sound of birdsong early in the morning is absolutely mesmerizing - especially when one is staying in a tented camp.
Q: What wise lessons did you learn from your trip?
SK: On this trip, I spent a lot of time with people who have dedicated their lives to causes that impact the local communities. I also met many passionate men and women who are committed to protecting Africa's wildlife. I explored common goals and I discovered shared values between these good folks and myself. But I found one key area where our wavelengths weren't quite in sync...Since my personal background is a mishmash of 3 different cultures that originate in 3 different continents (I am an Indian-African-American) I sometimes get my values and priorities a bit mixed up. Having spent the past 25 years in the U.S. - and that too in the hyper-hectic world of Silicon Valley technology start-ups - I tend forget about the realities on the ground in Africa. I get frustrated with the slow progress as well as the seemingly lax attitude people have towards issues that I consider urgent or important. And that gets me in trouble. Here is a true anecdote from this trip that illustrates this point…
While on safari, the first place that I stayed at was a beautiful tented camp in Serengeti. On my second day in the bush, I had woken up very early - because I was still quite jet-lagged. With adrenaline flowing and my mind buzzing, I had worked feverishly from 4 am until 8 am developing several ideas that (I was convinced) would help Alex & Ester – my Tanzanian hosts and fellow philanthropists who are running an amazing school and orphanage project in Arusha. So by the time I showed up to my breakfast meeting with Alex and our safari guide Ombeni, I was revved up – excited about sharing my thoughts. Clutching my laptop tightly, I strode right up to the table where Alex and Ombeni were seated. They were quietly sipping on their hot beverages. I began unleashing all kinds of strategies and plans that I had been working on: “For the orphanage and the boarding school, I think the best strategy would be for us to…(blah, blah, blah)! And for the water-well project in the Maasai villages, a partnership with other local and international organization would really benefit us…(blah, blah).” After about 4 minutes of my rapid-fire soliloquy, I realized that both Alex and Ombeni had a look that can only be described as a combination of surprise, overwhelm, and disgust. “Is everything OK?” I asked, fearing the worst. A couple of moments of silence...Then Alex looked straight at me, smiled, and said in a calm voice: “Good morning, Saurabh.” (Pause) “How are you this morning? How did you sleep? Was your tent comfortable? How is your family? Are the kids missing you?” Right then, I realized that even though I had grown up in Tanzania, and for the first several years of my life I had been immersed in this beautiful, caring, and generous culture, the "American Me" had taken over. I had confused the African method of conducting “business” with the American definition of “busyness”. That morning, I learned a valuable lesson - the importance of respect and patience, and the awareness of the culture that I am in before defining expectations for myself and for others. I feel like this single incident gave me a new insight that has changed the way I tackle life and its challenges. Nowadays, whenever I feel anxious or frustrated, I stop and think about Alex's calm demeanor...and it gives me a balanced perspective.
What do you think? Can you look at life and work differently having read this? Tell us your thoughts and experiences.