Friday, July 6, 2012

Road Babe Dispatch From Ghana Africa

When most people think of Africa, they think of animals. This is strange, for there aren’t as many as you’d expect, at least not in Ghana. Certainly there are the proverbial oases, like the holy monkey village Tafi Atome, but these only exist because people have built their civilizations around the animals. I now realize how silly and naïve my conception of Africa was. I imagined vast expanses of unoccupied land where animals roamed free. I envisioned little villages in need of foreign aid. This wasn’t what I found.

No matter the size of the village, they were generally self-sufficient and I ended up being the one who benefited. I knew nothing about survival, though I’d read a slew of books on the subject. The funniest part was that I thought I was there to do the teaching. Moreover, it was the western influences like plastic food wrappers and water bottles that were tarnishing their art of survival. They didn’t have an infrastructure to deal with all these disposable things. Their view of life encouraged avoiding waste and using everything to its full potential. For example, there are twenty-five uses for a palm tree. A lady once told me, when I asked about gathering eggs to cook, “For every gift taken, a gift must be returned.” This isn't a disposable culture.

However, I can’t deify them either. Many modern historians worship the Native American way of life, which was greatly destroyed by incoming Europeans. A similar situation occurred in Africa. Yet, no culture is or was perfect. We now know that Native Americans were responsible for much deforestation in the American southwest, which devastated their ecosystem and civilization. Further back, our early hominoid ancestors hunted many animal species to extinction. Supposedly, larger species survived in Africa because they co-evolved with humans, thus had an instinctual and/or learned fear of them, while humans migrating to other continents preyed on animals without such fear.

These are things I’ve learned in books and I trust them, but reading and experiencing are two different things. Now I know that even animals in Africa live with limited space and their habitat continues to diminish. Animals are being pushed onto land that no one wants with the least resources, that can’t support villages or cities. Resources were made for human consumption, or at least that’s how we often live. Animals have little place in resource planning.

Cities and villages aren’t just two different worlds; they’re two different galaxies. Cities are built on an all-pervasive corruption. It’s not just one bad man at the top pointing a directive finger. The rot trickles down to the everyday people in their everyday lives. In the city, corruption is an art of survival. Villages, with local trade and management more often conserve and respect resources. You may disagree with the stuff I’m saying. You may think I’m full of shit. Perhaps you somewhat agree, but find it all confusing. That’s the point. That’s the whole fucking point. When I went to Africa, I thought it was all black and white. It’s not. Africa is nothing but color.

Mittie Babette Roger is from Louisiana but lives in San Miguel de Allende, Mexico. She received an M.F.A. in Creative Writing from Naropa University and authored the book It's Better to Visit the Shaman Without Questions to Ask. She travels the world volunteering to help disadvantaged children and promoting Blue Iguana Tequila to empower serious drinkers.

1 comment:

  1. I think it requires a completely different mindset to even begin to appreciate the pace of life in that part of the world.

    Good post!