Beauty, Lessons, Challenges and Repair
I wasn’t sure what to expect when I landed in the Rwandan capital city of Kigali. I was visiting East Africa as part of Africa Development Promise’s program to support women-owned farming cooperatives.
I had done my fair share of reading about various parts of Africa over the years and certainly didn’t have a monolithic view of the continent. But you can’t grow up in a western country without having at least some unconscious bias about the continent being “backwards.” It’s not like I thought of countries as “shitholes” or anything, but I still approached my trip with a combination of excitement and apprehension.
A forty-something-year-old man sitting next to me on the last leg of my plane ride back to the U.S. asked where I had traveled to.
“Africa. Rwanda, Uganda and Ethiopia,” I responded.
“Oh! You were in the jungle,” he followed up without blinking an eye. He wasn’t joking.
These kinds of questions are a bit irritating to me, but I get it, those are the main images we’ve been fed about Africa since our early childhood.
“Why, have you been?” I couldn’t resist some slight sarcasm, still with a smile, knowing he had not.
“No,” he said, unsurprisingly.
“Have you read a lot about those countries?”
I didn’t wait for an answer to my rhetorical question and instead showed him my pictures, starting with a few modern buildings.
I then decided to let him in on a secret. Seventy-five percent of Africa isn’t a jungle.
Over an eleven-day period I spent a decent amount of time in the Rwandan capital Kigali, as well as time in the mountains and rural areas of the country. In Uganda, I visited Entebbe, Kampala, Jinja and a few rural areas. Then a bonus day in Ethiopia’s capital, Addis Ababa, on the way home. Here’s what I observed and learned about, and how I’ve reflected on, these experiences.