19 February 2006

live 8 and africa aid

I read a lot of Africa blogs. Too many, probably. From one of them, I was connected to this article: The West Can't Save Africa, by a man who recently came to speak to one of my classes about law and development.

I have to admit that I look at all the Africa talk in the past year with some hesitation. I'm torn, because I want the world to know how amazing Africa is and hopefully eliminate some of the "You're coming from AFRICA? Aren't they all terrorists over there?" that I've gotten in the Detroit Airport many a time, but I can sometimes get a little possessive, in the manner of the long-term expatriate. The longer you live in a place, the more irritating it gets when a two-monther (or a two-weeker) makes blanket statements about that place. And I know that Africa is more than starvation and death.

Africa is a little girl taking my hand as I walk along the lake and holding it for nearly a mile before giggling and running back in the other direction.

Africa is a boy holding the horns of a cow in the water as the herd swims from an island to the mainland and when he sees me taking one hand off the horn to wave and shout to me.

Africa is waking in the night to darkness so complete that I cannot see my hand when I wave it before my face, but still feeling safe.

Africa is spending an hour trying to find the glow of the volcano with the binoculars, only to discover that we were looking in the wrong place.

Africa is sitting outside at the Auberge Beausejour thinking, "This is the temperature at which life was meant to be lived."

Africa is slip-sliding up a hill for an hour to sit with an old man and his grandchildren waiting for the rain to stop, being fed roasted corn and given a basket full of glowing red fruit like giant rubies, and then slip-sliding back down.

Africa is looking around every day and thinking, "I have never been in a more beautiful place."

Africa is going to the market every Friday with a bunch of small bills (100 francs Rwandaise = ~20 cents) and passing them out to young boys with instructions on what to buy and having every product brought to you at a fair price except the ones that result in "Maracuja - non" (with a waggling finger) and the money handed back intact.

Africa is trying to remember that there are abnormally, insanely huge speedbumps in every Ugandan town before you hit them at 80 Km per hour while driving to Kampala.

Africa is a crowded dalla-dalla in which you have four bags on your lap and then someone passes you her baby as she tries to squeeze onto the ledge of the open sliding door, clinging to the roof.

I've never managed to believe that I could save Africa, or even a small part of it. I am too awed by too many people I know in Africa to think that I could make the difference. The truth is that after twelve years there and fourteen here, I am happier in Africa. The US bores me a lot of the time, although somehow I manage to continue boring all of you on this blog with the details of life in NYC. You know how I complained that I never learned to drive until Rwanda? I feel that way about a lot of things. And yes, that is a privileged way to live. It is a great luxury to feel that you learn life better in a place not your own and to be able to go to the other place and live there. But there it is.

As an African friend of mine once said to another friend, "Of course you'll be back. This is a brilliant continent."

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