I have just watched this video, as part of a Ted‐talk‐binge, and it moved me. Chimamanda Ngozi Adichie, whose books I have not read yet, but am definitely going to now, is saying that we tend to misunderstand other people and cultures when we are offered only one view of them. She gives various examples, some of them funny and some touching, and I felt that I could both relate to her feeling of her identity being flattened out, and feel guilty of doing the same.
As an Israeli woman, I have, from time to time, come across people who view Israel only as a place of war, which is basically very untrue. Yes, there have been a lot of wars here, yes, the area is troubled, yes ‐ people I have known died, and I spent a couple of weeks in a shelter at one point. But mostly, our lives aren’t any different from the lives of any other person in the western world.
But this video touched me even more when I think of my trip to Kenya a couple of months ago. It was amazing, but at the same time I felt very uneasy a lot of the time. I didn’t always know how to take everything in, and I am sure that I have been guilty of seeing only one story, which is very easy when you visit a country focusing only on one aspect of it ‐ the wildlife, it makes the whole variety of human life in that country take a back sit. So I have only seen the people on the sides of the road as we were traveling from one game park to another, the hotel workers in the lodges, and our guide.
Thinking back though, I did TRY to get a wider perspective, I was feeling curious about the people of this country, whom I could only glimpse briefly through the car windows. I did so by getting friendlier with our guide, and asking him questions about his life, and family, his career path, and about life in Kenya in general. There was also one memorable evening, when I was still in the lodge when a guy came in for turn‐down service. I don’t know how, but we just started talking. He was around my age, in his twenties, and came from a tribal village. We talked for an hour, this was my first experience actually TALKING to a Kenyan, not just watching the display the villages put up for tourists (which I hated, because it made me feel so uncomfortable, and fake, and patronizing). He told me about his village, and how his family reacted when he left to work at a hotel, and how the language system works in a country that has a gazillion of them. The naming system, coming of age ceremonies and going to school. We covered a lot in that hour, and I think it belongs in the list of the most special things I have experienced in Kenya, together with our car being charged by a rhino, and a monkey stealing cookies out of my tray on the porch at six o’clock in the morning.
I think it was very important to me to get another view of life in Kenya, not just the game drives, the other tourists, and the people gardening on the sides of the roads. It is still not enough to get a real, rounded picture of Kenya, and is not even close to enough to getting a picture of the whole of Africa, which is why I brought back a few books that have Africa, or certain countries in Africa, as their main theme. It is something that I would like to educate myself more about, because I think that we (non‐Africaners) have no idea how diverse Africa is, and I would like to be less ignorant.