Places That Made Me Go Hmm Part Deux

Hi readers! I hope you don’t mind if I continue my travel tales from the last blog. The last piece triggered additional memories. In this blog, I talk about other interesting stories from the Gambia, Lesotho (again), Rwanda and Mozambique. The beauty and diversity on this continent are awe inspiring and our people are just the icing on the cake. We have common challenges including our painful colonial history which continues to haunt us but we also have unique challenges like the story I tell from Lesotho.

The Gambia

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My first and only visit to date to Banjul, the Gambia, did not disappoint. It was extremely hot and humid but staying in a hotel right on the beach definitely made up for it. I would definitely rank it high on my list as an ideal holiday destination especially for the peace and quiet, white sands and the warm inviting ocean. My colleague and I were dining on the beach after a long day of conferencing when a Gambian guy we met, proceeded to tell us something that made our jaws drop! He told us that Gambia is the destination of choice for single women who want to have a baby. And he didn’t mean adoption. Huh? We were ready to dismiss this garbage but he insisted that its true and that a lot of older women from Europe who have decided to have kids late in life visit Gambia for this purpose. I am yet to find another Gambian to confirm this story. BUT if there is indeed a cottage industry of Mandingo warriors out there repopulating Europe, lets be inclusive about it and share these valuable resources with the continent :). That is all I have to say.

Rwanda

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The don’t call Kigali a city on a thousand hills for nothing. The capital of Rwanda is breathtakingly beautiful. Everyone talks about the cleanliness of the city. I was lucky to spend 3 weeks traveling around the country back in 2006 – it was for work, but it didn’t feel like it. There are lots of impressive things about Rwanda. Their umuganda practice requires everyone (including the President) to take part in a community service every last saturday of the month. The country is also known for its performance contracts, called Imihigo, that government agencies sign with the President. And who in their right mind wants to disappoint President Kagame? In fact, one official told me, “you leave the public sector to join the private sector when you want to retire/take things easy”. Traveling outside the capital was exciting and I thought it was hilarious how people kept warning me (jokingly, I think), that up North, there’s a practice of bride-kidnap. Basically, you can be a young lady walking around and before you know it a guy grabs you and throws you over his shoulder and ta-da, you are married. They told me, women especially with my body type would be the perfect catch. Ha! I’m sorry to report that my visit was uneventful.

Kingdom of Lesotho

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I wrote about Lesotho in my last blog… basically about how I stared death in the eyes and death said, ima getchu and i said, oh no you wont. Later on, I remembered another intriguing story – not death defying but intriguing nonetheless. In the development world, we are often concerned with unequal opportunities for girls, be it in education, politics, income etc. In Lesotho, it is the other way round where gender disparities favour females. I learned that there were far more females in secondary schools and universities than males. The reason being that men tend to migrate to South Africa to work in the mines. I also observed that during the many meetings we had with government officials, the vast majority were women. I don’t know how much things have changed since my visit in 2009 but this trend totally caught me off guard.

Mozambique

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If you are ever in Maputo, please sign up for the Mafalala walking tour. It was a one of a kind experience and one that I cherish. I was only in Maputo for a few days and yes, the city lived up to its delicious seafood, especially prawns and the famous capoeira (a sort of martial arts dance). BUT, the highlight was a walking tour of a fascinating neighbourhood called, Mafalala that housed famous Mozambican thinkers, poets, activists, writers, etc. We walked past homes of people like Samora Machel. The tour was also a very real way to get some sense of Mozambique’s colonial history. Mafalala is located on the line that the Portuguese drew to demarcate the white part of the city and the black part of the city. In the black part of the city, which remains underdeveloped, Africans were not even allowed to build proper brick homes. There is a painful history there but there is also a sense of pride in that favela – reminded me a bit of Soweto.

I love this continent. I’ve been to 24 countries so far and eager to explore further. So much to see, so much to learn, so much to experience…What are your hmm stories that caught you off guard?

Peace and Love!

Photo credits: wandermuch.com, goafrica.com, pinterest.com, Dennis Wehrman, AFK Travel.

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