Visiting Africa changes you……..

african child closeup, beautiful, uganda, rwanda, east africaIt changed me for the better and although not everyone would agree, I see that as their problem not mine.

After all, I cannot expect other people to feel the way I do, as they have not seen exactly what I have seen, experienced exactly what I have experienced. All I can do is try to explain.

OK, so how did it change me?

  • It forced me to grow up quite a bit and I learned to look after myself.
  • It educated me about another part of the world and showed me a completely different way of life.
  • I realized that my ‘normal’ upbringing was actually very privileged.
  • I learned to appreciate how free I was to make choices about my life.
  • I was reminded how many people don’t have food security or proper health care in the world.
  • I realized that my home town was only the center of my little universe, not everyone else’s!
  • I learned that many people live lives that are neither fair or easy.
  • I learned that many people die young and often for the most pointless reasons.
  • I learned that a great deal of my ‘proud’ history was in fact quite shameful.

OK, you might think that this is all very obvious and that I must have been very naive……well, you would be right, I was naive and shallow and self centered and selfish and ignorant. What a great education I had huh!

Well, the beauty of education is that it can start at any point in your life and continue for as long as you want.  I learned that a person does not have to stay ignorant, that a person can learn to make a difference, even if it is for just a single person. Does it really matter you might argue? I argue that it matters to the single person that you helped.

Sure, it would be easy to dismiss the plight of Africans as being nothing to do with me, sure its sad an’ all but hey…..I put my money in the bucket when it comes round don’t I?

But rationally,  because I have lived there and seen it first hand I somehow feel that I have more responsibility than normal to inform other people, although I now realize that it is almost impossible. Lots of peoples minds just can’t take it in; as they say, one death is a tragedy, a million is a statistic.

I guess that if Africa was a terrible wasteland it would be easier to write it off as a poor place to ‘choose’ to live. But, since Africa itself is fine, I can’t dismiss it. An old boy once told me on market day (when men sit around and discuss ‘important’ business),  that:-

Africa is not poor……Africans are poor, but Africa itself is rich.

The next question is why? Many better brains than mine have been trying to answer this question for decades and indeed many blame the Africans themselves. My view is that there is ‘blame’ on both sides. There is no doubt that rampant tribalism has held back social development, but then carving up the continent with a bloody pencil and ruler can’t have helped matters either!

The irony of todays uber respect and lip service paid to minority groups,  makes me smile, looking back at ‘our’ behaviour in history. Guilty conscience………very possibly?!

In the end……

Africa had a deep and meaningful affect on me and I yearn to return. For me, even with its bloody and terrible past it seems ‘real’ to me because:-

  • Respect is everywhere and not just towards the ‘big’ men.
  • People are humble and helpful, even if they have nothing.
  • People endure incredible hardships with hardly a murmur of complaint.
  • Sharing is a way of life, even if you have almost nothing to share.
  • You would never cook just for the house because you never know when a visitor will call.
  • You don’t need to ‘call’ in advance, to pay someone a visit.
  • You are always welcomed and you would never be an ‘inconvenience’, just join in!
  • Status is measured more personally; what you do and how you do it, matters more.
  • How much money you have and what you spend it on, is somehow separate from status.
  • A smile and laughter is never far away…………….

We would do well to learn a lot from the African way of life, hardships and tribalism apart, for true happiness shouldn’t be something that we have to search for…….it should be the norm. Because for some people, life really is too short.

Stay well

p.s. I found this post most difficult to write and I am not convinced that I have made my point anywhere near how I wanted it to sound! Oh well…..

About Ian

Handyman, humanitarian, inventor, blogger and finally a house husband looking after Cecilia, Julia, William near Hvalstrand in Asker, Norway.
This entry was posted in africa, inspiration, life and tagged , , , , , , , , , , . Bookmark the permalink.

11 Responses to Visiting Africa changes you……..

  1. Ian says:

    Like Pandora’s box isn’t it Kevin! Once you have see it you just can’t ignore it and pretend its not happening.

    Life changing stuff indeed. I think that it is important that we don’t forget the lessons learned and keep on doing our bit to counter the negative stereotyping that the media love so much.

    Thanks for making the effort to comment Kevin and I hope that you call in again soon, I am adding to my ‘development’ stuff when I can, but life kinda gets in the way a little bit, of getting really serious with this blog *smiling*
    Stay well

  2. Kevin says:

    I just returned from Tanzania and can totally relate to what you are saying. It really does put our lives into perspective over here, many of the things we complain about are so trivial and really have no importance.
    It is very difficult to describe to others what its like there, but your post is spot on.


  3. Ian says:

    Thanks to you too Margo,
    We are also still reflective about Africa. Even more so after watching “shooting dogs” a couple of nights ago (seemed somehow appropriate to watch a real horror move on Halloween!).
    Africa is as they say a life affirming experience. Please just find a way to keep the feeling in your every day life and keep informing people about the realities of life in Africa.

    So many people get hung up on irrelevant details like having no shoes and completely miss the most important issues like health and education.

    Say well Margo, thanks for stopping by,

  4. Margo Pfleger says:

    Thanks, Ian. Your post strikes a chord with me at a time when I am feeling very reflective about Africa. I appreciate your writing and sensitive questions. Best, Margo
    PS I just returned from one month of travel, visiting Namibia and South Africa. Beautiful yet difficult experience….

  5. Ian says:


    Bit strange, I just added to to my Google reader and it worked fine. Are you using ” ” as the address?


  6. ?????? says:

    Hi guys, tried loading this blog through Google RSS reader and got a strange error message, any ideas what could be the issue?

  7. Ian says:


    I can be emailed by following the email links on either the “about” or “Bio” pages.

    Thanks for taking the time to comment!

  8. Good read. Where is your contact details though?

  9. hello! Nice post. There is some lag with RSS- it seems there is some problems with encodings.

  10. Ian says:

    Couldn’t agree more Walter. We (from the ‘west’) have little to grumble about really. I guess that we need to keep reminding ourselves of that.
    Welcome to my little blog, I hope that you find some of the stuff here interesting!
    Stay well and catch you later Walter

  11. Walter says:

    Most of the time, we take for granted our blessing in life. However, if we encounter those who are less fortunate, then we will realize how ungrateful we are.

    Whatever we have in life we should be thankful, because there are many people in this world who struggle at the things we have luxury of wasting. 🙂

I'd love to know what you think...