The stereotypes of Africa.

naina14

Experience

I went to Africa. I am still in Africa, but I would like to share my
first impressions and my first experience. I had many goals with my
travel. I could not just stay where I was, I had to follow my dreams,
to see, to experience, to learn by doing. I cannot just watch how
things are happening, I had to go with it, go into it, deeply “put my
nose” into everything. I got one of the best choices of my life: I
chose an alternative teacher training college in Denmark, offering a 3
years long program including a travel to Africa and many other
experiences. In the first year we have to learn to travel and travel
to learn. This experience brings us close to reality, makes us talk to
people, hear about their lives and listen. Also a teacher needs to be
humble and trustworthy, you need to lean on each other as Africa can
be dangerous. All these features make you feel different, completely
out of your comfortzone, exactly where the learning process takes
place.

The stereotypes of Africa
As we first experienced something extraordinary my immediate reaction
was to compare and analyse the stereotypes I had about Africa. When we
talk about Africa we tend to see only the wild animals like lions and
zebras. We spent almost 5 days in a small community in Mozambique with
local students to find out more about the development projects in the
frames of One World University, the program called Figthing with the
Poor. In this time no lions or zebras appeared but we met numerous
bugs, flies, mosquitos, spiders, a scorpion, which was immediately
killed by the students and also saw the trace of a snake.
The most commonly mentioned expression in our highly developed
continent sounds like “dark like Africa”. The people have black skin
color but they are also smart, polite and humble. They are also
people, maybe even better or smarter people than you are. As you
arrive to the community they will be really interested in you. They do
not know you that is why they are a bit surprised but not afraid. They
will also do their duties, really humble and diligent, but politely
help you when you get stuck or need help. Just go to the well to get
water they are going to tell you to go first, they just sit on their
bucket and wait until you are done. Water is the fundamental part of
life. In our houses we just open the tap and drink the water, no need
to worry about bacteria or the amount. Here you need to walk for the
water, take your bucket, but take the right bucket, you actually start
to appreciate water. These green ones are for shower, those black ones
are for the kitchen, do not mix them up. As soon as there is not so
much water you have to go and get more, all day long you just use the
water, you really need it all the time. Hopefully you arrive right in
time to get water, or you can try the other well, lucky enough you
will have water. Do not forget to smile at people, they are still
happy when they carry those big barrels of water with a wheelbarrow or
just on their head. Women carry huge weights on their heads, learning
it with a young age to help the mother. You just put your small circle
shaped scarf on your head carefully position your heavy burden on it
and go, as far as you want. Many people will come and have a nice time
chatting or playing around, mostly women and children. Waiting is part
of the everyday life, you have to wait for many things. Maybe that is
the reason they are really patient. The feeling of time also
disappears. You do not need to measure the time, you do not need to
know what is the time, because there is time. Time is flowing away as
you will do the duties of the everyday. No need to hurry because noone
or nothing is going away. No need to worry, there is nothing to worry
about. The things are happening with or without you. It was a great
lecture for me. No need for the alarm clock, because as soon as you
need to get up you will hear all the noises from around you which make
you get up. And also when the heat starts to be too much it is better
to get up. In this already warm air it is a refreshing feeling to have
a cold shower from the bucket. With their great patience they will
tell you what to do in Portuguese, and make sure you understand
however you do not speak too much Portuguese. You are never going to
forget their faces, because their faces are different, it takes some
time until you can really see that there are major differences, they
are not the same. They have special features you will learn and start
to recognize that they have tribes with similar characteristics. But
the darkness of this continent comes after sunset. The sun sets early
for our European mentality, at 6 o`clock the light disappears. As the
cooking takes long time we eat almost at sunset, we go into the house
and when we come out there is no more light. There are no poles with
light or no stars, no moon, just the dark sky and the darkness
covering the whole area. Of course there are exceptions when the sky
gets beautiful colors and you can see the moon and the stars. Never
leave without a light, you can find yourself in a bad situation
somewhere in this dark, got lost, there is no way you get out of it.
The students who hosted us told us to take our lamps and also took
good care of us. Warned us about all the dangers you can meet in the
dark. They were just as scared as us, the snakes and scorpions are not
friendly, the “casa de banho” , (bathroom at the end of the yard) is
not safe after the sunset. They were concerned about our safety with
all the stories and experiences, what they saw or heard from others.
To have proper food you need to light a fire, you need to get coal or
firewood, you need to know how to start a fire, after rain or without
paper. The start of the fire is not good for cooking. If you want to
cook you are the master of your household. You need to learn so many
things, that hard to list them. You need to wait until the smoke is
gone, no one wants to eat smoky food. Use only salt and some garlic,
the taste will be magical. Delicious food comes from the pot they take
in their hands. Their hands function as they want, it has the biggest
role in the household. Being the cook is not easy and it takes a lot
of time to prepare. You only have some tools, not like a professional
kitchen somewhere in the west. Not to mention that the food comes from
the market. These places filled with vegetables and fruit are distant
from our small house. We need to take a taxi or bus, which gives a
unique experience. To sit in the back of a truck for an hour to get to
the closest bigger city on the sun, covers everything and everyone
with dust. Going to the market is a special occasion, you need to
prepare, have a shower, dress up and look good. Many people will go
the same way as you as it is the only food market nearby, maybe you
will be close to others. The bus does not go until it is full, I mean
the truck. Nice people sitting with food on the street, little shops
(rarely seen) offer a vast variety of goods. Find the best price and
find the best quality. Walk around there are many to check out. To
take care of our money we need to write receipts, the question of
writing makes them unsecure. But they write with their neat or messy
letters.

The shopping takes time, you have to walk, take your things,
growing number of plastic bags and also get back to your kitchen
bordered with some planks. Hours of cooking will get you the result of
this easy but tasty food. It would not take long in your kitchen but
here it is an all day long process to make it ready.
I am looking forward to live with locals and hear what they say. Soon
we take our backpacks and go on with the next country to compare, to
see, to participate, to feel and taste.

Gummy Traveler

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