Tuesday, February 10, 2009

Don't Know Much About Africa

A few years ago, in a delightful Cosmopolitan haze, I announced to those at the dinner table that I wanted to go to Africa. Most of them laughed and tried to grab the cocktail glass from my hand. Not because of what Africa is but because I am the most unlikely person to go to Africa. But I decided I wanted to know more about the area in the hopes that I might make it there someday. My first effort was to buy the book "Bottom Billion" in the summer of 2007 and read it on vacation. I got about a third of the way into it and realized there was a reason I never studied much economics. Someday I will go back to the book and apparently there is a much more accessible Paul Theroux book on Africa that I was encouraged to read this weekend by our out of town guest. I have also acquired a Teaching Company course on Africa but it is still in the queue of things to put in my brain. And my husband is likely going to Morocco next month so I have been trying to get him to take me with him. Unfortunately our travel fund, like our window replacement fund and our carpet replacement fund, is going to Uncle Sam instead. After all, we should pay our taxes in case someone shows up at our door offering a cabinet or other high level position in the administration. We wouldn't want our dreams "daschled" (groan).

Our guest this past weekend is a diplomat and most of his postings have been in Africa. So I got a chance again to get some nuggets of info about Africa even if I cannot get there. Here are some quick bulletpoints:

  • China is investing heavily in Africa's infrastructure. They are building roads, skyscrapers etc. In return, they get a mine here and a farm there. The China beast is hungry for resources. Good luck next week Hillary (Yes, I found her)

  • Liberia does not have much to do. Unfortunately it has been in the throes of a civil war for 14 years. Old guard vs. new guard.

  • South Africa is very dangerous. People get killed there for little reason (this is something I believe I have heard before). American travelers get robbed a lot. However Capetown is apparently one of the most beautiful places on earth.

  • Zimbabwe is a mess. (This I also already knew) The currency has dramatically devalued and cholera is rampant even though it is a treatable disease.

  • If you take a canoe trip on the Zambezi, you need to tap on the side of the canoe regularly. Otherwise the hippos in the river will be attracted by the movement of the water and surface near you, either upending you or crushing you.
These are the few superficial things I know and I imagine I am not alone is being largely ignorant of Africa. (Someone of my daughter's friends recently identified Africa as a country rather than a continent.) Given, bulletpoint one above, we should all heed the desire, whether fueled by vodka or not, to learn more about Africa.

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