The Conclusion: Part 1 of 2 - TIA/The Ingredients
Trip Start Jun 16, 2007
25Trip End Aug 11, 2007
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On the first night we arrived at the volunteer home in Dar es Salaam, Blair and I, both new volunteers, met the current ones. After light conversations of whos, hows, and whys, we asked them about our orientation the next day. Instantly, a loud burst of laughter bellowed in unison, as Blair and I looked at each other confused.
"What orientation?" one member says, "This is your orientation."
"T.I.A. my friend," another volunteer blurts out, "This is Africa."
Soon our conversation gets interesting as each one jockeys for airtime to get their own African-experiences out to us as if it was a way to validate what they had gone through. It takes a while to sink in but the stories would soon become all too familiar.
For weeks I've been trying to understand my experience traveling in Africa. From my first night in Jo'burg to my last in Addis, my mind has been traveling on its own trying to understand the crime, the poverty, and the hakuna matata way of life.
Easily manufactured and abundant in supply, crime in most African countries seems so commonplace that maybe it should be included in their GDP. The locals seemed to be so used to it, but not I.
For myself, there was no need for six degrees of separation to experience crime first hand in Africa. For example, a portion of the school supplies I had planned to donate to an orphanage was stolen during my flight to Windhoek. Two volunteers at our school were mugged at knifepoint while jogging on the beach early in the morning. And on my way up to visit an orphanage in Nairobi, some visitors on their way home were hijacked a half-hour before I had arrived. They were eventually released. But who knows, it could have easily been me.
To some Africans, resorting to crime has become a way of life. A way to survive in a world where government officials seem more concerned about embellishing in Western luxuries than taking care of their own. Corruption amongst officials and politicians seems to be the norm. And for all the Idi Amins and Robert Mugabes of Africa, it has almost become a cliché for great leaders to turn into neurotic rulers murdering anyone that challenges their authority. And so the cycle continues...
However, to understand crime one must look at its root cause, poverty.
Years ago, I used to believe that there was something beautiful about poverty. That somehow by living a destitute life meant that one gained spirituality from it. That scrounging through garbage bins or enduring cold winters built character. However, there is nothing spiritual about begging for spare change. Just as there is nothing heavenly about cruising in a Lexus.
Far from spirituality, poverty is responsible for Africa's malnutrition. Unfortunately it is also a main staple of the African diet. Ingredients include: 2 teaspoons of Muggings and Murders, 3 tablespoons of Poor Infrastructure, 1/2 cup of Corruption, 4 ounces of Political Instability, 6 lbs. of Poorly Funded Schools and 1 head of a Neurotic Ruler chopped into small pieces of greed and gluttony.
But there is one more ingredient that I have left out, one that may surprise you. I will tell you this ingredient in my last and final entry.