What will I miss from Africa and what did I take with me when I left it? Reading Tan’s African review made me think about this. What could possibly be better in the Motherland?
Just like with most things in life, we were scared. I could deny it and try to show off as fearless traveler, but that would not be true. I always seek for a challenge in my life and then I get flooded with fear. It is always scary although exciting at the same time, to go into unknown. I am not sure whether it was a fear of unknown in Africa or more a general fear for a long term travels. But does it really matter? Fear is good, but you have to make sure it does not overtake you. Changes are needed and are there to help us grow and Africa did help me grow in a way.
Of course I loved all the adventures we did, but it was also a journey on a deeper level. Learning about how to voice my opinions and wishes stronger and sometimes louder (in cases of persistent touts) was probably the most important achievement. It is interesting how I taught myself controlling my voice as I am very high tempered personality; but only around my family. Around strangers, sellers, or people that I only occasionally hear from; the situation is completely different. I gave myself a blockage and was unable to say no or was almost submissive. Africa definitely changed that. When someone does not respect me or ignores my plea’s of wanting them to let me be, my bubble of niceness pops. I have now no problem to tell them off. Sometimes I get so excited about my new ability that I raise my voice. When dealing with African touts you usually have to.
But I must admit I still have to learn to ask ‘stupid’ questions or asking for perks that I am entitled to instead of just hoping that I can get them. I have no problem of voicing this out via email, but still need to work of actually using my voice. Just like with everything, this can be achieved and I did start doing baby steps on this topic.
I am definitely more confident than I was, although people that know me would think I am very confident anyway. They say I talk so much and can’t keep me quiet. But it is different with new encounters with people. I need few pints of beer or few meetings before I open up and start comfortably chatting. I am very interested into anthropology and you won’t get answers if you do not ask questions. Spending short time with tribes, forced me to start conversations with complete strangers without booze and with a time strain. Learning about a different culture sometimes requires starting taboo topics, which can have mixed reactions with the receiver. It was nerve wrecking at the beginning, but now I just ask about circumcision, infidelity, gender inequality/equality with no hesitation.
My opinions about various topics defined in more detail. For example I love animals and I do not approve ZOOs or dolphin/whale shows. But I did not expect that this will expand during this African part of the adventure. I thought I am already doing my part by not participating just to those three activities. Out there, there is plenty more activities that are questionable. With Tan we regularly debate about this topic especially if there is an activity regarding animals. In general I now try much harder by doing my homework before booking animal activity. I love to see them in their natural environment, without luring them to us by feeding them, chumming or chasing them. I did not decide to go to the extremes and I let each person decide for themselves without me preaching them (unless they ask for my opinion); and at the end of the day I am not a vegetarian either. I do think it is important to make informed decision, just like you check the Bank’s interests before deciding to open an account with that Bank (a bit odd example, but hey I am a spreadsheet lady).
Africa also changed my view regarding aid. The change was combination of talking to locals and reading Paul Theroux’s African themed books. I am not saying that we should not help. The help should be done in a sustainable way, so when the donations are gone and foreigners are back home, locals are able to take care of that. In a situation of project we encountered in Tanzania, the kids who were raised within the project are coming back to help by teaching and helping the younger ones. Although this project was started with foreign help, today there are more and more Tanzanians who are donating for this same project. But there is too much aid that started on a wrong path such as all the abandoned missions we saw; there were too many of them. Locals have to be involved from the start, to learn the skills they need in order to be able to get back on their own feet. We encountered a lot of people with mentality; why bother the money will come from abroad anyway.
These are only few changes that happened during this 3 month African adventure, but overall the continent was good to us and we are both eager to come back, with already daydreaming where to take our children to learn the simplicity and see some amazing sceneries. We want them to enjoy the smiles and return them back, buy peanuts from the bus’s window to later open them and smell the freshly roasted goodness. So they can see the animals in their natural environment and learning about their habits, just to be able to reveal the story behind their behavior at a later waterhole (behavior of animals can reveal where and if there is a lion). For them to meet all these beautiful tribal people and realize that nothing should be taken for granted and see how we saw Africa; amazing place with so much to offer and a place that teaches us through its simplicity and hardship.