cynicism from a jaded summer

I have been away from writing for a while and this is my attempt to convince myself that is it still important to share what I think. I have been doing a load of thinking since my summer travels. Upon returning from Ghana I started work back at my blue collar job full of racist, sexist, mostly ignorant co-workers, using the term ‘rednecks’ would be too clique, but I just did. At any rate they started off the extreme of the comments that I knew I would receive. Why would I go to Africa? Did I get a number of different diseases? Did I get AIDS? Many co-workers noted that they wouldn’t have even stepped foot off of the plane onto the African soil and I must be either very brave or stupid. These and other questions are starting to not even phase me. They still bother me, but not as much as they once did. The most common question with a hint of no interest behind it is, “How was Africa?” Well if I could easily sum it all up in the few short sentences that will hold your interest for more than two minutes, then I might try and let you know. Sadly the majority of people really do not know how Africa is or have the slightest inkling to discover. This is again not new territory for me and I am not surprised. This is what most worries me. Am I becoming jaded and cynical to a degree? I like to pride myself in working to not become jaded and to always be an optimist, however – people make that difficult, as much as they make it easy. There are just so many interesting things taking place on the African continent and so many thoughts and reflections that tag along that I cannot possibly focus an entry on just one instance – and that is the idea of this blog – to create a place for the contents of my mind that need to spill.

Since returning I have been doing a lot of work with my organization, S.C.O.U.T. B.A.N.A.N.A. We are launching our Year of Water Project in Michigan to fund community wells in 8 different African countries with an organization called Charity:Water. Chapter Action Boxes are being sent out to all 18 North American chapters. The ‘Handbook to Making a Difference’ is almost complete and now we are just waiting on the button order. I have found that applying myself in action has helped to combat the negativity of all the questions asked after returning from Ghana. I have stayed away from reading too much of the news of Africa, kept to the simple ways of a small city life, and have attempted to relax a bit. Now I can do so for no longer. There is too much happening on the African continent, there is too much to do here to raise awareness and there to save lives, there is too much to remain idle for too long. And so I am back at it. There is a wealth of issue I am set to cover, so there may be a large influx in entries over the next few days.

I didn’t have much time to do any great reading from my long ‘List of Good Books to Read,’ but there was one in particular that I enjoyed a lot. I would like add a brief review of a book that I finished this summer. The Power of One by Bryce Courtenay was a book that I had difficulty putting down. It is based in the time period before World War II (1939) and follows the life of a young british boy from his difficult days as a child at a Afrikaaner boarding school, to his climb to intellectual superiority in a new town, and later to his days as an accomplished teenager. All the while the boy is growing in his educational, spiritual, and professional capabilities – and working dedicatedly to one day becoming the boxing welterweight champion of the world. It is called a classic novel of South Africa and I think this tag fits because the book follows the development of South African society. The boy has no difficulty in accepting a person for who they are and often works diligently to assist the oppressed African people. The boy becomes respected by both Africans, for his language abilities and assistance, and white settler descendants, for his academic skills and athletic accomplishments, alike. Definitely a story that was spearheading for the future and one that gives an exciting story of adventure, accomplishment, and Africa.

Index of blog post series on Ghana.

today in africa

As you may have heard Sudan has accepted a ‘hybrid’ UN peacekeeping force to help in the conflict torn Darfur region. Secretary General of the UN, Kofi Annan, is awaiting a letter from Sudan and his top aide is warning of an ‘abyss’ of suffering if something doesn’t happen soon. Currently there is a mini-summit of African leaders happening in Libya to discuss Darfur. Also in the Eastern/ Central region, Uganda has taken great steps closer to peace. More is needed to make this peace successful. The Lord’s Resistance Army (LRA) has signed an agreement with the Ugandan Government to cease hostilities and release non-combatants, but more is needed to encourage regular face to face talks because the rebel leadership is still cautious. In the Democratic Republic of the Congo (DRC) the election has been finished and Joseph Kabila, son of Laurent Kabila, has been declared winner with a majority of votes coming from the Eastern region of the DRC. The opposition party has not taken the lose very well and there has been rioting and clashes with police in the DRC capitol of Kinshasa. Kabila has set an ultimatum for when UN peacekeeping forces can remove the rival soldiers from Kinshasa. The droughts in the Horn of Africa (namely Somalia, Ethiopia) and Kenya have ended, but now there has been flooding. It is estimated over 100 have died in the flooding. In France, arrest warrants were issued for nine aides to Rwandan President Kagame. They are accused of involvement in shooting down the plane of the former Rwandan president, one of the events leading to the genocide. Illegal immigration into Europe is worrying many EU leaders as the issue grows with the numbers of Africans seeking a better life in Europe. The HIV/ AIDS epidemic “is getting worse” and African baby deaths are “preventable.”

I know all this news may be a lot to take all at once, but this is what some people live with everyday, every single day of their lives is full of turmoil and strife. However, it is imperative to note that even as crisises grow and troubles spark – Africans love life and enjoying sharing their love with everyone. I can tell you first hand from my experience in Africa never had I seen such poverty and pain, never had I seen such joy and happiness. This news may seem all ‘bad’ news, but what I see is progress. African organizations are working to build stronger relationships, peace is closer than ever in many areas, drought is ending, and people are being held accountable for terrible pasts. I encourage you all to read the news from around the world from many sources and develop a global perspective.