My trip to Africa was not to feel like a more enlightened “white person” so I could go back to the states and brag about how it has added meaning to me life or that I helped save a tiny village…. I hate phonies. It was primarily for personal growth and to learn about the world around me. Everyone has asked how was Africa? How was Africa? I wish I had finished putting my thoughts into this earlier but here are some short stories and thoughts:
“Idle Men, Laboring Women, Frolicking Children”
These are words I read from the Dark Star Safari as I was experiencing it around me. I’m sure he writes it better so if you want to know more just read his book about his travels from Capetown to Egypt. Why does he say “idle men, laboring women, frolicking children.” First I got the jist that most of the men just don’t like real work. I came to Africa with the opinion that of course Africa needs help, food. Now I truly believe, You can not help those who do not help themselves. As we drive along the bumpy road men are passed out face first on the ground. What are they doing? Probably passed out drunk. Women are walking the streets carrying 50 pounds on their head with a baby strapped in a towel on their back while men are doing nothing. Kids are running about dirty, shoeless half the time, and completely unattended. Why is this? Their parents fathers are drunk and their mothers are either working or infected with HIV and dead because their husband slept around and infected them. This is told straight from a friend I made over there, who hates his father, his mother was dead and his grandmother raised him. I am not saying they are all like this obviously but if you are going to help you need to get to the root of the problem. And, I am not saying if they are in a crisis like a natural disaster or water shortage you don’t help people. Otherwise, only education will help. There was plenty of food and resources but without parents willing to work and provide for their children there will be hunger no matter where you go….that is just the way it is. Food is not the problem… people are.
When I went through Malawi I had a weird conversation with the oldest African man outside his house about how Malawi is a friendly country because they are a Christian country. This was probably the poorest country we stayed and also the friendliest. I am by no means an advocate for religion but if it gives someone hope when they have nothing to hope for is it worth it? Sometimes I think maybe so. But what if it is really causing them to have blind hope for a distant future and thus be stagnant about their current predicament. Is being ignorant to reality or truth worth the happiness and contentment it may bring some people for the moment? I don’t know you will have to answer that for yourself. They are a peaceful country and one makes me question why this is when nothing but the worst is happening around them. Many of their family member, parents are dead from HIV and many of them are starving and survived a serious drought. A simple water bottle made a young boy run off like he had the “golden” ticket.
Half of the people had a very strong, strong odor. It was pretty consistent. One person I traveled with gathered that it was probably because they were not getting enough water and their kidneys were excreting odor. I thought it may have been the food. And, I am sure it had to do in part to their bathing habits but… At the end of this trip it may have been my imagination but I started to smell like it. So either my clothes and everything was just soak in the odor from playing with children or I started to smell bad too. I thought it may have been the addition of curry to most of the meals but that was just a crazy Morgan hunch. And maybe it is my imagination but it seemed to linger quite a big after the trip
Dinner at the Locals
A small group of us were invited to dinner somewhere in the village. We stayed at the campsite on the beach and walked with one of the merchants into town for at least 45 minutes.. He went to buy a few things from the very nonexistent market. A girl on the side of the road selling something green. And a few small tomatoes. He asked us if we wanted to sample the rotting fish. We were not sure if this was a joke but I don’t think it was. The fish were covered in flies, hundreds of flies. We tried to give a polite no and continue on. We headed back off the road onto “something” of a trail through shrub and haphazard gardens. We arrived at a few houses constructed from clay and straw roofs, maybe some were aluminum. Our host was a younger guy and so we ended up at one of the smallest homes not much bigger than 200 sqft with 4 rooms. He asked us to wait in the foyer. He came back through the old wornout sarong that was hung in the doorways with a bamboo mat for us to sit on the floor. We chatted briefly then he headed out the back to chop up fire wood. The food was prepared in a small structure (hut) separate from the house. I have an excellent video of his female “landlord” making the food. He had a young baby girl and wife and was taking care of this nephew for whatever reason I can imagine. He had two women, both not his wife prepare the food. It seemed almost as if they were friends but I didn’t understand the social reasoning behind it. The best I got was that when he paid to rent the house it came with a cook so his wife wouldn’t have to. This cook may have been cooking for the whole area, it was not quite clear. We ate with our hands and the mealie-mea (doughy to gather the messier foods).
Being a White Girl in Africa
Was it safe? Well for me..hmmm… Mostly. I was on an overland tour most of the time so I felt fairly safe. However, I had a few big scares to say the least…Nairobi and Zambia. Zimbabwe felt fairly unsafe at the time as well.. the government was in shambles and people were extremely intense in their begging tactics. It seemed Malawi was the safest country… our tour guides let us wander the town freely, visit, make friends, eat dinner, drink at the “local” bar which was no bigger than a 10 by 10 room a mile away on a beatin trail. I sat on the bar and it was lit by a single candle because the power was out (very normal occurrence). Zanzibar was also very safe and cool to meet other interesting white people if this was your intent…. Tons of white hippy types hanging at the market square on the south side. Also, Kendwa Rocks is probably the coolest bar on the North Shore and a must go place (we swam to this bar but you can lodge there).
I have so many other stories and I could probably write a 1000 page book on this if I wanted to but I just won’t. So what have I learned from Africa: (1) Africa is not all about HIV, Starving Children, and Animals. It is a Beautiful Country and the Most Amazing shock for me were the stars. Sometimes the unexpected is the more rewarding experience. In the U.S, you never see even a small fraction of all the stars, galaxies I saw in the sky. Look at my pictures, you will mostly see what I mean. I felt like I had experienced “Heaven on Earth”. (2) You can’t help those who aren’t willing to help themselves. Of course if a much richer person is giving you a hand out you will take it and feel no sympathies, you will also take it for granted like it is chump change to them. The hand that feeds will keep on feeding. Yes people are poor, they allow this. Half of them are pretty content with the way they are living, they know of no different and everyone else lives the same. Otherwise, the men are LAZY and half the time corrupt and you won’t find one person who would try to debate to me otherwise. This is not a resource problem, this is a cultural problem and I am sure they will change with handouts unless they were taken away and they felt they had no other way. Otherwise, they just don’t care, are happy…. some do feel helpless to their corrupt governments and people (but honestly, I work the Intelligence Community, our government is not all peachy keen…there are people involved).
Back in America
My first impressions upon coming back to the U.S. was “Wow, look at all this shit. How did it get here?” ..particularly since I arrived in NYC. This was probably the biggest eye opener of all…COMING BACK. Home looks so different when seen through different eyes. I looked at a simple 4-legged chair differently. Life was so simple back in africa. You had the clothes on your back and maybe a pot to cook in. I miss that…I really packed nothing, and traded anything I didn’t need anyways, including underwear. 😀
Sorry if it is not perfect grammar or spelling… I don’t have time for perfect. You read it! I will have other posts on Africa…advice, more fun less serious topics, how to, anything you want to know in the next posts?