How Did I Get Here?

Five years ago today, I came to Africa for the first time.

Over the last few days I’ve been thinking a lot about this impending anniversary, pondering what to say about it on my blog. I have many thoughts on the subject, but one thought keeps recurring: I can’t believe this all started just five years ago. That day — March 6, 2007 — feels like five lifetimes ago.

I considered trying to recount what happened that day, and summarizing how it brought me to where I am now. But that would be the longest blog post ever written. Instead, I’m going to talk about Jon.

Jon at the Elephant Orphanage in Nairobi, Kenya, 2008. The photo was taken by Katrine, a good friend of Jon’s who I hope to meet in person someday. I’m grateful to her for this photo. It says so much about Jon. 

March 6, 2007, was not only my first day in Africa; it was also the day I met Jon. Jon was the first person I met when I arrived in Africa, unless you count the Tanzanian immigration officer who stamped my passport.

I’ve said this before, but today I want to say it again. I feel unbelievably fortunate that I came to Africa and found Jon. The last five years have been the most difficult, painful five years of my life. They’ve also been the most exhilarating, beautiful five years of my life. I’ve learned more about the world, and myself, in the last five years than in the previous 32. I owe much of that learning to Jon.

The first-ever photo of Jon and me — a self-portrait taken in Tanzania in March 2007. Please excuse my disheveled appearance. I’d spent the day running around the hot, dusty Tanzanian countryside, and my face was covered in a weird rash. (Jon said they were bed bug bites but I will never believe that.) 

Sometimes I think back on the many events that led me to that moment five years ago. I think of all the forks in the road — the choices I made, the people I met — things that could easily have gone differently and led me down a different path. But for whatever reason, life brought me to Kilimanjaro Airport on March 6, 2007.

If I could travel back in time to that day, I wouldn’t change a single thing.

I’m sorry Jon isn’t here to celebrate with me. I miss him so much. Sometimes I still wake up in the morning and think, “Jon’s dead? What the fu@&?” I really wish he didn’t have to die. But I’m grateful he stayed around long enough to bring me here.

In honor of Jon, here’s a photo of his favorite subject: clouds. I took it from our deck at sunrise yesterday.

Happy anniversary, Jon.

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  • Reply landofnams March 6, 2012 at 7:52 am

    beautiful tribute. and such cute pictures of Jon.

  • Reply Gail Scott McDonnell Wilson March 6, 2012 at 8:01 am

    Love reading your postings and happy anniversary!

  • Reply Lu March 6, 2012 at 8:39 am

    Beautiful photo of Jon with the baby elephants… Hope you have a great day – Happy Anniversary

  • Reply Slowvelder March 6, 2012 at 8:46 am

    I think many of us are glad you came here too :)

    • Reply 2summers March 6, 2012 at 8:53 am

      Thanks Jackie. I’m glad you’re glad. Ha.

  • Reply Joburg Expat March 6, 2012 at 8:54 am

    Beautiful. I love the elephant picture.

    • Reply 2summers March 6, 2012 at 9:09 am

      Thanks, although all the thanks really go to Katrine. That might be the best photo of Jon, ever.

  • Reply mrbaggins1d March 6, 2012 at 9:26 am

    Be strong, stay strong and let Africa be part of the journey…’s a scary-beautiful place to be – big skies, big issues, big smiles, heart-ache, pain, tremendous joy – all the things this thing called life is

  • Reply 1cruzdelsur March 6, 2012 at 2:44 pm

    The writer Paul Coelho wrote:
    Nobody puts their dreams in the hands of those who can destroy them.
    You are the person that continues to the dreams of Jon here on earth.

    • Reply 2summers March 6, 2012 at 2:47 pm

      Thank you. That’s a beautiful thing to say.

  • Reply Jenna March 6, 2012 at 3:37 pm

    Beautiful post Heather – and happy 5 year anniversary!

    Love that photo of Jon with the elephants :)


    • Reply 2summers March 6, 2012 at 3:37 pm

      Thanks Jenna. See you soon :)

  • Reply Charles Visser (Chuckv) March 6, 2012 at 3:48 pm

    Through pain the most growth… or some such tripe. I actually think I have met Jon once or twice. I am sorry to hear of his death.

    • Reply 2summers March 6, 2012 at 4:56 pm

      Thanks Chuck. I’m sure you did meet Jon — he lived in Melville for many years. And you’re right about the pain and growth tripe. 100% true.

  • Reply Kathryn McCullough March 6, 2012 at 5:04 pm

    What a powerful post, Heather–and lovely tribute. Though I don’t know what if feels like to lose a partner, I do understand being grateful for the process–even the pain and loss involved. I feel that way about my illness. It’s part of my story. It’s essential–inherent to who I am.

    Happy anniversary to you and Jon! And hugs, as well!


    • Reply 2summers March 6, 2012 at 5:28 pm

      Thanks Kathy. Yep, I knew you would understand :)

  • Reply Tilly Bud March 6, 2012 at 5:43 pm

    Happy anniversary. Jon will always be with you, no matter where you are or what you do, so it’s right to mention him today.

    • Reply 2summers March 6, 2012 at 7:06 pm

      Thanks Linda. Hope you’re doing well.

  • Reply Claire March 6, 2012 at 11:04 pm

    Happy anniversary, Heather. It’s been an amazing life journey. I love the photos and tribute to Jon, and I remember when you sent me that photo of you and him in Tanzania, years ago. That was the first picture of Jon that I saw, and knew he was a big part of your onward journey…it’s clear now, having known him and how much love was between you, that he always will be.

  • Reply Eugenia A Parrish March 7, 2012 at 5:07 am

    Without him, you would’ve missed so much.

    • Reply 2summers March 7, 2012 at 9:20 am

      Yeah. I wouldn’t even be the same person.

  • Reply Deano March 7, 2012 at 2:03 pm

    Wow…..quite powerful and emotional!


    • Reply 2summers March 7, 2012 at 3:32 pm

      Thanks Dean. Hope you’re doing well.

  • Reply haslacla March 8, 2012 at 3:46 am

    I wanted to tell you how much I love reading your blogs. I don’t know you, and you don’t know me, but as a fellow writer I can see right away that you have a gift. You are very insightful and write with such feeling. I enjoy the photos that you post also. It has been heartwrenching reading about Jon and all that happened over the past year, but it is also clear that you are such a strong woman. I know you will get through this and keep getting stronger as time goes on. Good luck to you, and I hope you continue blogging and posting photos to share with the rest of us.

    • Reply 2summers March 8, 2012 at 9:51 am

      Thanks so much. I can’t tell you how much it means to me to receive comments like this. I assure you that I’ll be blogging and posting pics for a long time to come. I couldn’t live without my blog now.

  • Reply Meruschka March 13, 2012 at 10:06 am

    Another beautiful post Heather. Your writing is so sincere and powerful. Love the elephant pic too.

    • Reply 2summers March 13, 2012 at 11:27 am

      Thanks Meruschka. I really appreciate that. Hope to see you soon.

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