18 November 2011

Africa: Last impressions.

Africa. Before we traveled to Ghana and Togo, I thought of it as a large dark continent, full of unknowns, unknowns that could be dangerous. Now I can put a name on the dangers, like unsafe transportation, diseases, poor health care support, poisonous snakes and ants, but I also know that west Africa is peopled with kind, helpful, hardworking, and fun-loving people. The interesting people we met made the travel worthwhile. In general, the people are laid-back and friendly, and have a nice slow pace to life, similar to other cultures in tropical climates, such as Hawaii. We never felt threatened, we did not find the locals to be angry or mad or violent. Quite the contrary.

We just scratched the surface of learning about the culture of west Africans, and we liked it. I am so proud of my daughter for immersing her life amongst theirs, learning so much about their ways, and sharing with them some American ways, and helping them learn methods to improve their lives.

I could delve into the issue of the abject poverty that we saw. Are they happy living in the conditions? Yes, mostly, it seems; at least they were not angry. But they have few opportunities to change how they live. Could they, should they? We have such a wealth of ways in which we can spend our days, spend our lives. If we get sick, we can get medical attention. We have freedom of choice and lots of choices. We may get angry at our government, but at least it is not corrupt at every level. I don't necessarily wish on the rich African culture the hectic, busy, consumer-goods-obsessed ways of Americans, but to me, never to have had the chance to study science, nor have a plethora of foods to choose from, nor be able to travel, nor have a daughter who can devote her life to whatever she chooses, nor have my son cured of cancer . . . I know where my heart is.

I used to think it would be easy to help pull Africa out of poverty. Just start opening factories there, why not? There are a lot of people there who need work. Well, the infrastructure is just not there. Roads, power, stable governments, sewage and trash systems; the issues are mindboggling. When we first got back from our trip, people asked us what we thought of Africa, and John and I both said "It's complicated."

And to those who say "the US is becoming a third world country" we say "uh uh, no way near it". If that's what you think, travel to one, and you will know.

We are glad we traveled to one, and especially that we traveled to west Africa. Our lives are a lot richer for the experience.


First post in the African trip series.


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