A Hymn to Africa

People ask me
Why do you love Africa so much?
What keeps you going there?
Why don’t you travel somewhere else?

I once heard someone saying that
Africa is like a magnet-
once you go there,
you always want to come back.

I can only confirm.
But why’s that?

So much energy.
Africa is overwhelming…in a good way. So many interactions. So much activity. So much going on. Traders, hustlers, traffic, cars, motorbikes, goats, donkeys, chicken, children, yams, mangoes, rice, noise, laughter, arguments, greetings, beautiful dresses, colours…all together creating a source of an ever lasting buzz.
In one minute the children want to take a photo with you, in another you are being ripped off, the next minute you sit in a car with 6 other people, squeezing with another person on the front seat and laughing about it, during the 2 hour journey you change the car 5 times, repair 3 flat tyres, whenever you stop the crowds of food sellers scream at you offering you sandwiches, apples, bananas, yams, tomatoes and cookies.
It takes your energy away but at the same time gives you loads of it back.
Everyday is an adventure.

So genuine.
Everything in Africa is unbelievably frank and unapologetic, with no mask, no side intentions. Simply 100% genuine. The smiles, the joy, the curiosity, the laughter, when people ask “how are you?”, when people say “thank you”, even when someone tries to rip you off. Everything is pretty straightforward. Which is…quite refreshing.
You know, I’m not a big fan of this western/american culture of saying things just “because people say it” without actually meaning it. Like “yeah, we should hang out soon”(when I have no intention to meet you) or “oh, that’s really interesting” (when it’s not), fake laughter and all…I really hate that. Some people might have a different opinion, but I believe that you don’t get this in Africa. People laugh only when they actually think it is funny, so the laughter is real. When they ask you a question, you feel the actual interest in your person (and you feel it often when you’re white, heh). I mean, that’s how it should be, right?
Why do we laugh at things that are not even funny? Why do we fake all these emotions? Well, that’s for another post I guess.
With people being so real, I always feel like I am in some utopian society that is not faking emotions, doesn’t have empty conversations and is straightforward and honest. And believe me, it is so nice for a European like me.

Negativism aside.
No complaining. No doubts. No worries.
Africa is tough. The life in Africa is tough. Really tough. Enormous heat, burning sun, killing humidity, sometimes everything combined. Heavy rains in the rainy season. Bad, bad roads. Giant potholes. Sometimes no roads at all. Mosquitoes. Malaria. Other diseases. Few or no jobs. Corruption at its best.
And yet, you hardly ever hear someone complaining. People get by with what they have without making any fuss about it. They live with what they were given and try to enjoy their life like that. There’s no space for complaining. No space for worries. Because why? It’s not gonna make you life any better…
Here we have an okay weather, good infrastructure, good transport, good housing, welfare state giving you social security and yet, it sometimes feels like we were born to complain. I know, life can always be better, but come on, you live, you have a roof above your head, you eat, drink…ça va quoi!

No stupid questions asked.
It feels like there’s no space for stupid questions neither. Let me give you an example (this is a true story btw).
In Africa: “We want to cross the whole country from the north to the south in one day.” – “Oh, wow, that’s gonna be long my friend, good luck and bon voyage!”
In Europe: “We want to cross the whole country from the north to the south in one day.” – “What?” Are you crazy? When will you arrive? Isn’t it gonna be late? Where will you sleep? Do you have enough food? Where will you buy food? Is that good for your legs? Who’s driving? Is the road safe?… … ….”
Blah blah.
Isn’t the first way better? I mean, doubts and questions are sometimes useful… but very tiring, too.

Its’ an escape.
Although it might not seem so, I do like being European and living in Europe (Czech Republic). I love my life. I love the comfort that I have, the public transport, the highways, the shopping malls, the hipster cafés, the fact that I can walk in the middle of the night not worrying for my life. I love it all and appreciate it very much.
But in order to fully appreciate my comfort, I like to go somewhere where I don’t have it. To change my habitat. Leave everything behind. Get used to a new rhythm, new conditions, new rules. Learn. Get to know new cultures. Get to know yourself. It is refreshing. Enriching. And to me, necessary.

I am traveling again next week, this time to Nigeria, Cameroon and Gabon. I hope that Africa won’t disappoint me after writing this praising piece.

Bon voyage to us and stay tuned!

2 thoughts on “A Hymn to Africa

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