18 May 2006

plotting and planning

I've been doing a lot of talking (between exams) to the other people who are going to Liberia this summer and who ask me things like, "Should I start taking birth control because of the risk of assault?" To which I have this to say: WHY ARE SO MANY PEOPLE DEAD SET ON MAKING AFRICA SOUND SCARY? Because whoever told her this was trying to do exactly that. And they need to stop, because they have no idea what they are talking about.

I've written here before about what Africa is to me (no link, sorry, check February), and it involves a lot of little kids holding my hand as we walk through the mountains and people helping me get where I need to go when I get lost somewhere in Uganda near Congo with no map (stupid Lonely Planet map was awfully sketchy) and had to navigate by the setting sun. I have very rarely felt unsafe in Africa, much more rarely than I feel unsafe walking around in New York at night.

And in the wise (?) words of my friend Lulu: "At least that baby would be beautiful, instead of the ugly one you might have here if that happened."

No, but really. Last summer in Tanzania, the work people said, "NEVER take a dalladalla [minibus]. NEVER walk around on the streets, even in daylight, and ABSOLUTELY NEVER at night. NEVER go to a market. NEVER go anywhere alone." But the best moments of the summer were bargaining in the market and buying corn on the corner at sunset and standing on the side of the road in the dark hoping a dalladalla would come and crowding into one so full of people that babies and packages got passed around to whomever had lap space.

I'm hoping for the same in Liberia: to live in a place with greenery and neighbors, to live happily but not too wealthily. And not to pay $2800 a month to live in a compound in the city (are you kidding me? why not put a sign on your back that says, "I'm too rich to be in this country, please come take my computer, because I don't deserve it anyway if I'm willing to squander money like this in the 12th most failed state on earth where no one makes even a dollar a day."). And not to live somewhere from which we can never venture out into real (by which I mean non-urban) Africa.

This, people, is Africa:

And yes, the sun was starting to go down and it was about to get dark. And yes, I was alone on the peninsula in Kibuye, Rwanda. And no, I was not in danger, or even concerned.

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