I am on a plane headed for the Middle East from Africa. I got a window seat and I love window seats on a new flight path. I look out the window and I see the people and the houses on take off and I wonder, what are their lives like? When I joined the Navy in the early 80s I left home very young and flew from Pittsburgh to San Diego. I had a window seat and as we dropped in to San Diego out the window I saw an orange glow in every hill, they had sodium lights which was unfamiliar to me. The lights outlined streets and hills and a world completely new to me.
The plane landed and I was immediately thrust in to boot camp mode where they start to try and break down your individuality to be part of a team. It was a real shock for me. The naval base was right next to the airport though and because of that I kept my fascination for travel and seeing new things. As the jets would take off right over my head at the naval base I would wonder where those people were going. What was their destination? Why were they going? What exciting places would they see?
Today I come back from the Democratic Republic of the Congo and I hope some of those people in those planes were coming here. This place is beyond a definition. It’s full of people that are happy and kind and they are good to one another and to their community. I met a group of men and women who are trying to show the kids in their community and the world that their city is a great place to call home. Mugabo, Victor, Christian, Le Paq and so many more who were so happy to have people come to their home and open the door and tell me why everyone should come. They see their city and country as a place that is a treasure that all should see – and I’m with them on this.
When you are out in the city as a “Muzungo” (white person) you are noticed because you are there and you are different. What you do is noticed even more. If you ask questions and show respect and manners they will tell you so much about their lives. They will take you to great local places. They will make sure that anyone that approaches you is told you are a friend. They will make sure you are safe even though their city is very safe.
My friend and adventure companion Amy Scarth is setting a one woman crusade to have everyone come see Africa through the eyes of local people. She has started several NGOs and shifted those to others while she focuses on getting people to see the Africa she loves and knows. To put aside the news stories that say disparaging things about Africa and come see the loving kind Africa that she knows. It’s a spectacular place with adventure and new lessons and things around every corner. I am mentioning Amy because she is a role model for me. Because of her I’ve seen so many wonderful things.
I will write a lot more about this trip because I learned so much about what to do when trying to help Africa – and so much more about what not to do, because so many good intentions are going wrong. More on that later.
I will leave you with a picture from Mugabo Beritegera who self published this book below and is trying to change the way people see his city.