How not to visit Africa

Posted by on September 2, 2014

“In and Out of Africa”  or “How not to visit Africa.”

You can visit Africa- but never be in touch with the Real Africa

People often do one of those quick in and out Gorilla Safaris –  Safaris that remind of the President George W. Bush’s visit to Uganda some meet-the-real-africa-its-people.jpgyears back – he had a four hour mini visit to Uganda – never even driving to Kampala – just a quick stop at Entebbe – he hardly got to meet any real Ugandans – reality is that President George W. Bush missed out.

President Clinton once ventured into Uganda – stayed in a  local hotel and during his time here ventured down to buy some souvenirs in the hotel lobby.  At least a small contact with a Ugandan who sold him the arts & crafts – at least it was better than his very short tarmac visit to Kanombe airport at Kigali where he gave his “I did not know (apology speech) to Rwanda for not acting on the genocide.

Many tourists come to Africa – but are never in touch with Africa – the only Africans they meet are the ones at hotels, lodges and of course their driver guides – they have more contact with the gorillas, chimpanzees and wildlife than they do with the real Africa – its People.

Angelique Kidjo, the vibrant singer from Benin, has a wonderful song that speaks of “Welcome to my House.”  In it she talks about “my house is your house.”  That is the essence of the spirit of Africa, Welcome, stay awhile, eat, meet, share heartfelt conversation, physical presence and in Uganda we say “You’re most Welcome.”

In the West we have short meetings,  get to the point and move on, leaving abruptly, but in the African culture, time is meaningless, people are what is important and the relationships between them.  You stay and talk and eventually what is really important will come out and be resolved and sometimes not, but it is time with one another and growing closer in our understanding of one another.

Africa – Uganda – has a lot more to offer than Safaris, than wildlife, gorillas, chimpanzees and incredible scenery it has incredible people with incredible stories to tell – my personal experience has been simply being with people – chewing the beef (Nyama Choma) having a piece of chicken and sharing stories – sharing cultures – forming lasting friendships – getting to know the real Africa – its people.

If President Bush, President Clinton or any other Visitor wanted to know what Africa was like – understand the real Africa , they would have gone where Africans live, their homes.  There is a real power, a dynamic in sharing a meal and in Uganda President Bush could have made a real impact if he had sat down in a nearby restaurant, surrounded by Ugandans, ordered some Posho, Matooke, ground nut sauce, some greens, and lots of roasted chicken, beef, (Beef just like in Crawford Texas, but the horns are longer than the Texas Longhorns, but then, Texas is not the biggest in everything). He could have visited an African ranch – President Museveni owns one big enough and petted a few of the Ankole Cows – I think he would have enjoyed a Ugandan steak – lowest cholesterol level in the world – and had a good conversation – one rancher to another and while eating – try some of the Ugandan pineapple – a far cry from Hawaiian pineapple – sweeter – you can even eat the center – there is no better dessert.

You can fly to Uganda on a three day mini express Gorilla Safari and fly out and never even get a glimpse of the real Uganda – President Bush came and went – he like many visitors to Uganda had a few Kodak moments – but missed the real Africa – the real Uganda – its cultures – its people…If you are visiting Africa – don’t miss its essence – its people…from Kampala… jon

“If I have ever seen magic, it has been in Africa.” John Hemingway, African Journeys