Sunday, April 10, 2011

Africa Teaches

Some thoughts between trips ...

A US teacher friend of mine suggested that my African friends might be better equipped for life (survival) than the rest of us who luxuriate here in the western world.  Interesting thought.  Any idea how well you'd do in similar circumstances?

For perhaps most people in the world, building a house is something they do themselves, maybe as a family project.  How many of us could do as well?

Here, dad oversees the construction project his daughter and new husband have undertaken; a simple house on the lot next to his.  They buy materials as they can afford them and hand-carry them to the site.

Simple chores like laundry are handled as needed; perhaps at the nearest river, if there is one.

Dishes and cooking utensils often travel the same route, or are washed at home with water they carried there for the purpose.  Here, the youngest sister has dish duty today.  She almost smiled for the camera.

Water may be available only in limited quantities.  Many have learned to get by with what they can carry from the nearest source.  Here, the kids carry water for their homes.

Children are part of the family labor pool.  It's not uncommon for a child to have a full day of chores most days, even while in school. Their calloused hands tell the story of how hard they work.  This brother and sister accepted a ride for the last mile to the laundry river; delightful pair.

Water in Africa has often been described as a woman's issue.  Women may spend most of their day in carrying water, something western culture probably wouldn't know how to handle.  These ladies in Lagos, Nigeria, draw water for cleaning chores.

Food often comes on a very short supply line, usually.  Perhaps from somewhere nearby like the family garden or via a neighborhood vendor like the ones shown here in Sao Tome & Principe.

Fishing is a direct method for feeding the family as well as for making a living.  It takes a certain amount of seamanship and skill to produce enough for a family's protein needs.  Plus, refrigeration is often not available as electricity is notoriously unreliable.

Salting and drying like in the photo (right) is an option for preservation.

Illegal fishing by huge factory fleets has decimated the fish population in many areas making it difficult for coastal families and communities to feed themselves.  Under-nutrition is a problem among the poor generally everywhere in Africa.

The less fortunate depend on aid distribution programs.   Some areas suffered drought more than a decade ago and have not recovered.  The picture is Djibouti, just a little way out into the desert; harsh world.

In the west, we're always just a couple of days from major food shortage in any geographical region, and depend on continuous resupply for homes and stores.

Transportation is simple and reliable in Africa; they walk or perhaps take the occasional taxi.  Here (left), barefoot kids gather and carry firewood for the kitchen fire.

Few of us in the west live within walking distance of anything important to our livelihood.  Even fewer perhaps could carry what they consider to be their necessities with them.

Some communities in Africa are extraordinary; folks working hard to watch over the children, work together, take care of one another.

Apart from churches perhaps, there are few such vital communities left in the western world.  Even our churches are made up of folks who don't live nearby either to the church building or each other.

So, how do you think you'd do?  Could you survive?  Could you do so joyfully?

Folks I've met in Africa are among the nicest people I've met in my travels.

Photos are from Nigeria, Djibouti, Sao Tome and Principe, and Kenya, all taken in the last several months.