My welcome to Africa
In these last four weeks I have been grabbed, pinched, touched, warmly greeted, in two cases slowly stroked, the target of a thrown rock, of countless jeers, comments, hellos, smiles, giggles, frowns and what I am sure were dirty comments from groups of young men based on the sniggering that followed.
While walking the streets of a major cities and small towns alike, I have stepped in dog poop, horse poop, cow poop, donkey poop, chicken poop, camel poop and I am guessing human poop which I did not identify at the time.
I have used every kind of bathroom imaginable and some I never even imagined existed from the fanciest marble at a five star hotel to the rankest outdoor hole, mud walled outhouse, bucket, concrete slab and a corn field. I could never have imagined the quality differences of commode available to someone in such a short period of time.
In Ethiopia I saw someone who appeared to be in agony covered in what look liked enoromus smallpox boils covering the entirety of their body while hundreds of people stepped around him on the streets of Addis Ababa. That same week I saw a woman attempting to breastfeed what I am pretty sure was a dead baby. I have seen children working exhausting menial jobs when they should be in school. I have seen kids get sent home from school because their parents can’t pay their school fees and kids trying to pickpocket my coworkers on the streets. In both Kenya and Ethiopia I have seen more children with distended bellies and tattered filthy clothes than I could ever hope to count.
I have seen dogs kicked and beaten by children and adults alike and levels of environmental degradation that I didn’t even begin to comprehend before I saw them with my own eyes while inhaling more dust and smog than I think my lungs have any chance of recovering from – this is coming from someone who used to live in Tirana, a city not known for it’s air quality.
So far in Africa I have seen horrors that I can’t get out of my mind – only three weeks! How does this exist on this planet? I firmly believe hell is on earth, I can’t imagine a more vicious place. At the same time the little I have seen of the continent so far has incredible beauty and amazing sites and I know things are just getting started.
I visited a secondary school for girls that was taking in orphans from the community and giving them a home and a great education. I have witnessed a intense perseverance in people and their work to change lives for the better which gives me hope and stamina to keep going. I am keeping an open mind, trying to process the hard stuff and continue to focus on what I can contribute to make a difference.
It is the small things like interacting with my wonderful co-workers and doing things like helping to build a second chicken shed to expand the market for egg sales for NURU Social Enterprises that are going to keep me on track.
Despite all of things that have happened this week, it is pretty hard to stay serious with co-workers like Wilson…