Lessons Learned In Africa

If you followed along with the journal of my travels to Mozambique and Zambia in 2009, you may remember that I identified ‘lessons learned’ along the way. I decided that it would be interesting to put all of those lessons into one page. (and an extra learning is that I can’t count!)

Lesson 1: Winter in South Africa is much colder than expected.
Lesson 2: Airport porters (in Africa) can be aggressive.
Lesson 2:
(Yes I know. I goofed): When someone says, “Hello, how are you?” they mean it.
Lesson 3: Never leave anything unattended, even in a locked vehicle.
Lesson 4
: Washing hands before —and after—a meal is an essential part of the culture.
Lesson 5:
Officially, cars drive on the left, like in much of Europe. However, lanes become irrelevant when the driver’s main preoccupation is avoiding potholes.
Lesson 6
: Lunch – the whole experience of food
Lesson 7
: AIDS education isn’t just a lot of work, it’s a HUGE uphill struggle.
Lesson 8: The bucket bath
Lesson 9: We in the West often hold the African culture in high regard as one that is very community-oriented… Well, there is a down side to that community culture too.
Lesson 10: The African way is to simply talk it out until there is consensus.
Lesson 11: North American clothing from charity  pickups and donations is sent in bales to be re-sold in poor nations. This has virtually wiped out the African textile industry.
Lesson 12: Sending our castoffs is not helpful and can, in fact, be damaging.
Lesson 13: Walking the tightrope with humanitarian compassion on one side and dependence on aid on the other is a difficult balancing act.
Lesson 13 (Oops again): This is the meaning of personal sacrifice: We met the volunteer home care workers at the local BIC church.

Lesson 13 (Ahem!): Zambia is beautiful and I love it.
Lesson 14
: a new definition of courage: doing the best you can with nothing, because you can’t bear to do nothing at all.

On reflection I could add a lot more to this list.