Peace Corps Writers
Falling in Love with Africa (page 4)
Falling in Love with Africa
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The fondest of memories
Fortunately, another kind of initiation awaited us. What we came to love in Africa so much was: the beauty and generosity of the people; the mountains of the moon; the insect hum as we walked toward Bukavu; the boy rolling a hoop in front of a house that once belonged to a mercenary. What we remember most are the students I taught, and how they hated to let us go. “Do you leave us with joy, Madame?” asked Mutamba. Our time in Africa was the most vivid part of our lives, and we still go back to remember what it was like riding the fulla-fulla — passengers hanging on everywhere — or taking the 3rd class train from Harrar to Addis Ababa; Andrew caring for a man with cerebral malaria; I, teaching my quatrieme and troisieme students, convincing them that they wanted to hear a story of South Africa of how one man risked his life to sit on a bench. Andrew taking the College Boboto students to see the infirmary, hoping that some would become doctors. Or the two of us sitting around a mesob [a large basket with stand used to serve a meal] with Ethiopian friends in Addis Ababa and gulping the honey wine; or us on an expedition seeking out flamingoes in Lake Shala, or watching the black-robed Danaquil and their camels carry salt to the Harrar market. Most important were our friendships, the friendships with Africans. Mpoyi wrote to my sister, Georgeen, for a long time. Is he still alive? Did Mobutu kill some of those bright students? What happened to them? After the junta took over in Addis Ababa where did Astair live? Was Itifiwerk able to send Simon to school? So much we don’t know after all these years.
     Travel in Africa was not only being an interloper and witness to both horror and beauty, but also enjoying a feast for the senses, a world opening, a metamorphosis brought about by the taste of mangoes, working up a good sweat over a spicy chicken moambe, the pungence of markets everywhere, the warmth of greetings. Living in Africa was having a look at the heart of things.

One Final Word

DING,DONG, THE DICTATOR IS DONE

As you will notice, this is not an unbiased report on Idi Amin Dada. I’ve seen the brutal dictator, and I’m glad he’s buried in Saudi Arabia. I promise never to visit his grave, never to say a good word about him, always to hope for the end of dictators, mountebanks, and brutal killers on the African continent. This man called himself, “Lord of All Beasts of the Earth and Fishes of the Sea and Conqueror of the British Empire in Africa in General and Uganda in Particular.” Ugandans suffered terribly during the “Lord of All Beasts” monstrous reign.

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