What I did not find while in Africa


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Growing up the media has embedded in my mind that even though Africa is known to be the cradle of mankind, its current state is nothing more than a disease stricken, impoverished land.

Contrary to their reports, I saw something on the opposite end of the spectrum on my recent trip to Dar es Salaam, Tanzania.

Last week, I was afforded the wonderful opportunity to travel  to the lands of my ancestors.  

Serving as an official student representative, I along with four other Aggies were part of the African Presidential Roundtable 2010: Leadership Solutions to Land Reform in Africa.

Throughout this prestigious conference hosted by the African Presidential Archives and Research Center at Boston University, I got a greater insight on the problems of land reform and property rights that still linger in these nations that were once dominated by European powers

Along with a greater knowledge of this important issue as well as an opportunity to meet seven former presidents of several African countries, I also got to form an opinion, first hand, of the land in which not only the media, but also the education system deemed a land of sorrow.

From the moment I stepped off the plane, the preconceived notion of an impoverished land was immediately stricken from my mind.

From the modernized airport, to the communication between the Tanzanians and my group, those notions were proved wrong.

As we traveled from the airport to our hotel I was interested to see what the city was like.

No where did I see random lions, tigers, or elephants roaming the streets like pop culture has shown us.

No where did I see babies with swollen bellies and a plethora of gnats around them like the commercials on television have taught us.

No where did I see barbarism amongst its people in which many educational institutions have discussed with us.

Instead, what I did see were immaculate hotels that resembled many of the 5-star ones back in the states. I saw a beautiful  and proud people who did not resemble the barbarians many textbooks have shown us. I saw modernized infrastructure and ways of life.

Throughout my stay, I grappled with the question of how these notions could have come about of a continent with so much beauty.

It has led me to believe that not only has the media instigated this terrible stigma, but it also seems our educational system has virtually done nothing to disprove these allegations.

I remember when I was in the second grade at my all white elementary school, we had a to do a narrative project on something that was important to us.

I chose to do my piece on Africa, and explain that was the place where I originated, for that was what my parents taught me.

I explained in my project about how my people were kings and queens, and lived on a beautiful piece of land.

I took much pride in my project, and when it was my turn to present, instead of oohs and aahhs that I was expecting, I was met with pointing and laughing from my peers, and even a muffled laugh from my teacher.

They told me that Africa never had kings and queens or pretty lands.

They said all Africa had was animals and ‘crazy’ people. I find a problem with this.

More reporting on the positives of countries like Tanzania need to be done.

An in-depth look should be done on its natural beauty for it is a country that sits on the coast of the Indian Ocean.

Reports on its advances should be covered just as much as it regressions.

In 2003 during a speech in Sweden, former president George W. Bush said, “

“We spent a lot of time talking about Africa, as we should. Africa is a nation that suffers from incredible disease.”

Just like any nation and country, there are the developed parts and the not so developed areas.

What makes places like Tanzania different?

I’m sure that there were places not as nice as where I was staying in Dar es Salaam,; however, I feel that the negative parts over shine the positive parts of the lands.  

Overall, I was pleasantly surprised with my stay in Dar es Salaam.

I enjoyed every moment of it, and strongly suggest that before you judge a place your big toe has never stepped on, go to that place and witness it first-hand.

 

  • Kelcie McCrae