Monday, 12 October 2009

An introduction to Africa…my first three insights!

Generators: the functionality of a generator dictates almost every aspect of life in Africa. Last orders at the bar are when someone decides to switch the generator off. If the generator dies then only cold foods or soup are available on a restaurant menu. If you get up before a generator kicks in (my schoolgirl error on the first day) you will inevitably have a glacial shower. If you use the internet and it is run off a generator, expect to pay more than stated on the price list. If you intend to dry your hair with a hairdryer, expect to blow the fuse of a generator (as experienced by Jolie and Jenny). And if you hear a generator, always have a head torch to hand as there is no saying when it will be switched off for no obvious reason.

Infinite optimism: something you pick up very quickly when you arrive in Africa is that no one wants to be the bearer of bad news or worse still, no news at all. Ask a question to an African and they’ll give you an answer…not necessarily because they know the answer but because they feel like they ought to give you one regardless. Ask someone for a price and they’ll give you a figure but it may bear no resemblance to what you actually end up paying. Ask for directions and they’ll point somewhere whether that is the place you wish to go or not. Ask whether something is available on a menu and they’ll say yes and then let you wait for an hour or so before delivering the bad news. It’s great to meet such positive people but sometimes it can make life more complex than you’d planned

T.I.S (This Is Africa): nothing happens very quickly or as you’d expect in Africa. Order a hot chocolate and you may easily wait an hour for it. Hand over even a small note and the person on the other side of the counter may spend a good 15 minutes trying to find change. One day you can have boiling hot water running from a tap; the next, no water at all. A canoe trip that cost 2 dollars yesterday will cost you 4 today. A road trip that once took 4 hours may take 10 hours for no apparent reason. Come across any such case and the best thing you can do is shrug and think ‘never mind… T.I.S’.

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