8 Lessons from Traveling in Africa

I made it back to Kenya!  The more I travel around Africa the more I appreciate this place.  I’ve been traveling around Rwanda, Burundi and Tanzania for the last month and a half doing focus groups and surveys on improved cook-stoves.  It has been a long, challenging trip that has taught me many lessons about myself and life in another world.  Here are just a few.

  1. Be flexible.  Africans don’t work on the same time schedule as we do.  Everything is later than expected so adjust before you become frustrated.  One time my 7:00 AM bus left at 9:30 and we were right on time.
  2. Internet and electricity are privileges, not rights.  Be thankful for the comforts and access they provide but remember that they’re not the most important aspects of life and you can actually survive without them!
  3. People are going to point, stare, laugh, cry, yell, jump, and gasp because you’re white.  Get used to it and learn to have fun with people.
  4. Africans food gets old quickly.  On multiple occasions I had to escape to the nearest Indian restaurant to avoid the sheer monotony of rice, beans, meat and potatoes.
  5. In Africa everyone wants something from you.  Whether it’s a handout, a gift, a visa to the U.S, or for you to adopt their children (I’ve been asked all of these), everyone wants something.  Try to understand where they’re coming from and avoid becoming disillusioned.  Wouldn’t you do anything you could to improve your life in their situation?
  6. Some things are the way they are and you can’t change them.  Inefficiencies are everywhere but arguing with people about how to make them better won’t help (I tried).
  7. Appreciate where you’re from because working in America is many people’s biggest dream.  College graduates told me they would clean toilets and sweep floors just to be there.  And everyone loves Obama.
  8. Despite its challenges, discomforts, extreme poverty and inefficiencies, African people, culture, landscapes and wildlife are beautiful.  The problems can’t detract from its God-given beauty.  The challenge is building something constructive out of all the desperation and making it a beautiful place where people thrive.

5 thoughts on “8 Lessons from Traveling in Africa

  1. #8- I’m so glad you’ve fallen in love with that amazing continent 🙂 Now I just can’t wait until God takes me back to it!!!!!

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