“Mzungu” is Swahili for “wandering aimlessly”, describing the seemingly pointless travels of early explorers and missionaries. Embracing the word, I’m not just another foreigner but an adventurer, wandering with a purpose.
The chapter titles in Climb Like a Mzungu categorize common themes that occur on a climb. This lifecycle metaphor advocates for living an adventurous life and striving to reach new heights to realize one’s full potential.
Guidebook – This is the Way
Leveraging the expertise of others, a guidebook provides a vision of the climb and entices taking action. Being born in Africa sparked the explorer in me at a young age. After college and my inclusion in the corporate world, it’s time to go home and return to my roots.
Approach – Taking Action
Many climbs require a short ten-minute walk or a four-mile jaunt into the wilderness. The approach helps to focus and mentally prepare for the transition from the city. Introduced to the outdoors by the Syracuse University Outing Club, I gravitate to rock climbing, drawn to the thrill and sense of accomplishment. Facing the consequences, I learn the hard way of the risks.
Belay – Keeping it Safe
While climbing is solitary, the belay establishes a lifeline, safely connecting a rope between team members. Committing to climbing, I leave my city job and move to the mountains to hone my skills and let my spirit soar.
Crux – Pushing the Limit
Every climb has a crux, with a single move or a series of moves. The rock remains the same regardless, whereas the crux is a puzzle that demands a combination of mind and body to solve. After a failed brush with romance, I push my climbing limits, gaining expertise.
Summit – Reach the Goal
As my mom fights her futile battle with cancer, I hitchhike to Seattle to reach the summit of Mount Rainier. When I return, she doesn’t recognize me; cancer has ravaged her body and mind. Despite climbing to fight fear, I am unprepared to process the grief.
Vista- Reap the Reward
The vista after the climb unfolds in all its splendor, and the senses flood the spirit with the accomplishment. Joining the corporate world leads me to an Alaska boondoggle that slakes my thirst for more adventure.
Rappel – Returning Home.
Getting down can be worse than climbing up. Rappelling implies complete trust in the rope, a risk that occasionally causes drama. Working hard and climbing on the weekends, I realize there’s more to life than climbing and work. Saving my money, I buy a one-way ticket to Cairo.
Campfire – Reflection on the Climb.
Almost reaching the summit of Mount Kenya, I sit around the campfire with my team to reflect and bond. Now it’s time to return home to Mbale, Uganda and reconnect with my family home.