Encountering Africa

Today is not only my fourth full day in Africa but also the first day that I have managed to the get eeePC online for a significant length of time.

This is my first time here on this continent and while my thoughts are still forming on my opinion I must say that in many ways it feels very familiar, like India and yet in some crucial ways it feels very different. One of the biggest differences between here and India, is that while you may be in a long line of poor people or in a large crowded place, you are not really bumped or jostled. People are gentler and politer in general. In a government office this morning I never heard a raised voice or even some speak to someone in a harsh manner. This would be very common in India especially if you’re poor and not well dressed or a menial of some sort.

Women are also fundamentally respected – its not in the ‘manners’ of door opening and chair pulling which is all ritual anyway but in the manner that is seen in the eyes, the demeanor and approach – no ‘eve teasing’ like india and till now I’ve not felt myself uncomfortable standing somewhere where there are many men loitering. In India this would be extremely uncomfortable for any woman because of the way men look at you.

Another thing I noticed was  that poverty is not the same here as it is in India. I mean that in an intangible experiential way – the poor are not poor because of their caste or class, there isn’t any. There is none of that sense of fatalistic acceptance of one’s lot in life – I’m generalizing broadly to be sure but this facet, that one wasn’t ‘born’ into this life due to karma , can often be the biggest barrier to moving up. The black african is hungry for knowledge. Opportunity. Education. Not just food, shelter and worries about the next day. No matter how poor he or she may be. They don’t take it as a given or their slot in this life. This indefinable sense can be felt as an extremely powerful motivating factor in their life.

More as I think about it.

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