According to many books, Westerners* who visit Africa often fall in love with it. It’s probably because of how different and closer to nature it is than in the West.

But it isn’t really like that where I am. Sure enough, if you walk 20 minutes from my house, you’ll find people living in mud huts, dressed in traditional clothing and that speak only the local dialect, but even there it’s not really wild. Even among them you’ll find things they bought in one of the local towns like silverware, lanterns, or other goods you may find in a campsite in the US.

The wildness that westerners fell in love with comes from the books written in the 1800’s and early 1900’s, when man and animal were part of each other’s ecosystem. When I walk into small, father out villages, there are many people for whom I am the first ‘white man’ or ‘le blanc’ that they have ever seen. But this is mostly just the younger kids, most adults have seen a pale version of an African somewhere in the larger villages.

I can imagine being in one of those expeditions like Livingstone or whatever explorers were out here back then, walking in total wildness, and stumbling into hippo’s, buffalo, and animals that had never been seen by a westerner. During the early 1900’s, there was a lot of tourism, and hunting safari’s that would go out into the wilderness and hunt down an elephant, rhino, lion or zebra and bring it back to proudly display in your living room. It’s illegal now, but I can definitely see its appeal.

I wish it was still wild, all of Africa. This ‘development work’ thing is just a way of making Africans just more like us. The spread of Capitalism, religion, or whatever way of life we think these people should be living. Maybe Africa, the dark continent, was better off before all the colonization. There are some great things to be said for the simple way of life of those hunting tribes which are but now, like many animals from the African wild, extinct or nearly extinct.

Unfortunately, there’s no going back now. Africa is now developing, and the shiny computers and western goods we bring have their appeal and Africa is addicted. What’s left now is this weird hybrid of ‘I wish I had all that stuff, but we’re too poor’ that most people here won’t let go of. As a development worker I am left with the lesser of two evils, of helping them adapt, rather than letting them starve.

*Maybe Orientals as well, but who reads those books? Maybe Hot Wing knows.