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Africa In Retrospect

12/24/06

  01:09:41 am, by Nimble   , 666 words  
Categories: Thoughts, Travel

Africa In Retrospect

Now that I've had some distance in time away from the trip to East Africa, it's a nicer recollection. I remember some of the bad toilets, but the memories no longer affect me viscerally. I remember the nice people and the annoying people, and it's cool to put it into a bit of perspective.

I will not miss the oodles of people who converge on you, hoping to sell their goods. I will not miss the naked greed of those who try to shaft foreigners. I will not miss bush toilets, or sitting on my bum for eight hours at a time, or waking up at 4:30 to move camp.

I will miss a lot of the people I met. I will miss the children (though they are overwhelming in groups). I will miss the bartender, Chibiina (spelling?), at our campground near Jinja, the helpful guides in Rwanda, the guy who got us our traditional meal, Godfrey, who shared stories while we shared our meal with him. I will miss David and Nixon, our tour guides to the Masai Mara. David, who spoke to me in slowed-down Swahili so I could practice, and who made great fun of me when I mispronounced "ten" as "private parts". Nixon, who spoke to me in Japanese and eminent coiner of the phrase "Do not hit me. If you hit me, I will cry for one minute". I will miss the gruff older man in the corner shop in Zanzibar, who had been everywhere and who carried on the most marvelous conversation with us.

There are some places I have more curiosity about. I would like to know why the inhabitants of Mbarara in Uganda seemed to be much more relaxed about us being there, not swarming us or even really staring. I would like to see nicer parts of Kampala, since we went through a lot of industrial areas to avoid traffic, and saw hints of nice places in passing. I would like to maybe see more of the city of Nakuru in Kenya, which had bizarrely modern grocery stores with people most gratified with attempts to speak Swahili. I would like to see if there are nice parts in Nairobi apart from Karen.

I miss seeing some of the wildlife. Watching the warthogs and their lawnmower imitations, walking close to giraffes, watching kingfishers swoop up and then dart straight down into the water, watching the oddly-proportioned gnus leap around and grunt. Neat stuff.

I'd like to see the greenhouse farms that they grow flowers in to ship elsewhere. I'd like to have managed to get to see the Chimpanzee reservation. I'd like to meet some more non-African natives, or those of non-African descent, to hear their stories. I'd love to have or maybe just hang around a place like the hobbit-hole-esque campsite near Eldoret.

If you are ever going to Africa, and want to see the most kinds of wildlife in one go, you need go only to two places, really: Lake Nakuru and the Masai Mara. If you want gorillas in there, that adds in quite a lot more time. You might want to start in Uganda to do that instead.

I'm not entirely sure what the future will hold for Africa. I am worried about South Africa, where the health minister seems to be suspect of modern medicine. I am upbeat about Uganda, though there are a lot of generational attitudes that do harm the country's progress. Kenya's corruption is taking its toll. Tanzania seems so be doing reasonably well, and seems the most modern. Rwanda could do better for itself; they almost need a PR campaign to espouse what they have accomplished in healing the rifts from genocide.

East Africa seems to be on the rise, in general, though. As long as they do not devolve into superstition, war, or declare birth control illegal, I would give them about 30-40 years to turn into fledgling developed-world countries, and that would be a very nice thing to see.

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