Friday, May 15, 2009


It’s hard to avoid clichés when you write about being a westerner traveling in Africa. Sitting in front of my laptop, I can’t avoid running through the checklist of scenic things to write home about… giant palm trees, brilliant shorelines, and the fail-safe mustard-colored sunset. It’s easy to get lost in the bright and shiny world of island resorts and tourist plazas, and while I hate to undermine the hardships of third world society, I’ve always been inclined to stick to polite, PG-imagery, and reserve the disheartening realities for more intimate conversations.

But I read a lot about the ways the west has misunderstood this continent, and it seems hypocritical to count myself part of the informed public while simultaneously glossing over the more difficult truths in these journals. I’m sure these crisis of conscience moments plague most people who travel from first-class society to shoeless hamlets where people have never heard of i-pods or Obama. It’s a dilemma that won’t be resolved with a tirade about radically unsuccessful interventions and global apathy, but be warned, surviving Dar is a much dirtier business than the colorful snapshots make it out to be.

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