Whistles in Africa

by Sydney Kahl / Feb 10, 2013 / 0 comments

When I was eleven years old, my grandmother took me to Africa. She had read a biography about Teddy Roosevelt and what an impression a trip down the Nile with his father had made on him. She took each of her three grandchildren on an adventuresome trip. We decided to visit the southern countries in Africa: including South Africa, Botswana, Namibia, and Zimbabwe. We toured many famous locations such as Victoria Falls, one of the natural wonders of the world, and saw the stereotypical large African animals. However, those weren’t the major reasons the trip was meaningful to me. It was the natives that made the journey unforgettable. The atmosphere their personalities created were unlike anything I had experienced in the United States. Especially the children, as their spirit towards accepting my gifts impacted my life just as much, as it did theirs - if not more.


Before leaving the United States, I had been told to bring small gifts for kids in school. I decided to bring plastic lips whistles in bright primary colors - red, yellow, and blue. The lips fit over human lips and there was a hole to blow through to make a whistling sound.  


While riding in our jeep with a guide, toward a small town in Botswana, we saw women walking down a dirt path without shoes carrying giant jugs of water on their heads. The women turned to watch us foreigners go by. When we arrived at the village school, I noticed it was run-down, with no windows, and just an opening in the wall for the entrance. Only a few children had writing utensils, and like the women, few had shoes, or clothes that fit properly, even though it was cold enough that I wore fleece. The school was dark and smelly inside; the desks in some cases were sheets of plywood held together by a couple of nails.


When it came time to visit with the children, I pulled out a whistle to demonstrate how they worked. The children swarmed me when they saw my bag of whistles, reaching their hands out to try one. Their faces lit up with smiles and colorful lips. At the end of the day, I saw the children walking home, showing off their whistles to sisters, brothers, and friends. I wished I had brought more.


Handing Out Whistles to Eager Children

Handing Out Whistles to Eager Children


The next morning from our camp, we saw flames and smoke not too far away, and decided it was no longer safe to stay. So, we boarded our jeep to seek refuge in the small village with the school we had visited the day before. Before we reached the town, the children heard the jeep and came running to meet us. To my surprise, all the children lined the road blowing their whistles, laughing, and chasing the jeep. I smiled and waved back. This image is one of the most vivid from my trip.  Seeing the kids so happy with this simple toy made me happy. Those whistles are the best gift I have ever given. 





Sydney Kahl is a member of the Youth Travel Blogging Mentorship Program.


Photo courtesy and copyright Sydney Kahl