A Journey's End

May 17, 2009 - Saffron Walden, United Kingdom

It's been nearly two weeks now, since I returned to England. None of the culture shock, I was expecting to envelop me in similar shares of regret, for bringing my travels to an abrupt end and finding my feet in a country I'd not lived in for nearly a year, ever materialised. I'm back living with my parents, while I take hold of a life I'd left behind eleven months ago, as I search for jobs so I can begin to pay off my travelling debt.
     Having family and familiar faces around me, after being on my own for so long, brings both warmth and a little claustrophobia to a world I'm not quite ready to settle back into. Although I'm certainly happy to be putting my travels on hold and enjoying a little structure in my life again, I think being tethered after so much freedom will take some getting used to.
     Seeing my nephews and nieces after so long away, their height a little taller, their hair a little longer, and their characters becoming a little more independent and mature. I wonder if my character shows such noticeable changes.
     So many people have asked me to comment on my experience. Asking me to sum up a journey that was always of unimaginable size to me, not just physically but emotionally. How can I make judgement on something so immense. Finding words to explain the joy, excitement, pain, misery, anxiety and regret of eleven months in a world that rewards the dreamless and crushes the dreams of those that dare dream. So I just say it was 'hard work' quickly changing the subject to avoid deeper questions. Maybe I'm not ready to make judgement, or maybe I'm a little scared to look in on myself and see really what the experience has done to my character, just in-case this is as disappointing as the life changing dream, where Africa was meant to tell me what my future holds.
     There is no dealt I will carry memories with me for a very long time. Children's faces in Burundi, as they stair at me, seeing a white man for the first time, not sure whether they should run in terror or approach the pale face. Gorilla trekking in the volcanic mountains in Rwanda, standing among these truly amazing animals in their own environment. Walking along a desolate beach in Somalia, one of the few places left on our planet that hasn't been turned over to tourism. Viewing the amazing rock horn churches at Lalibela, their structures defying belief and the many amazing cultures and people I have been fortunate to meet, are just a few of the things I will hold close to my heart.
It is very difficult to discuss Africa in anyway without including politics, and no matter how hard I tried to keep my journal entries free from such things, it quickly became apparent this would be impossible.
     The dark continent will always invoke emotions to those that feel strongly towards their fellow mankind. Whether its famine, malaria or Aids, appalling living conditions or seeing pictures of children in rags, politics is normally closely interwoven. I have tried to understand the corruption, greed and dishonesty I witnessed on a daily basis, but the more I tried to get my head around it, the more confused and disillusioned I became.
     Before reaching Africa I had believed the problems that third world countries faced was a straight cut issue of insufficient funding reaching Africa and our governments in the first world not doing enough to fix developing countries. And therefore a straight cut solution was their for the finding. The reality is that lots of factors contribute to the failing of developing countries. Sanctions imposed by first world governments, corruption of African governments, poor spending of aid monies due to inadequate management and aid not reaching the correct people, are just some of the problems developing countries face.
     When I first reached Cape Town at the start of my journey, a local Zimbabwean had said something to me, that stayed in my mind for the rest of my time in Africa. He said "The problem with Africa is that governments have made a business from poverty." At the time I hadn't completely understood what he had meant, but he assured me I would by the time I left Africa. He was correct. I think its very easy to blame western governments or colonialism for the failings of Africa but I think this is an unfair assumption that is mainly applied by goody goodies who have very narrow minded ideas and beliefs. I will not deny governments around the world have made mistakes, and that colonialism did have some very ugly sides to it, but good has come from both too. We forget that much of the infrastructure in place in Africa is as a result of colonialism. And first world governments, such as Norway, continue to encourage investment in some of Africa's poorest countries.
     Many local black people in Kenya for instance, wish their country was still run my the British, preferring inequality to the black man over equality of all black people being treated equal and everyone having jobs, something that no-longer exists in modern day Kenya.
     It has become very easy for corrupt governments in Africa to use colonialism as an excuse for their greed and inability to run a country without corruption. Many times choosing to keep a country poor in order to get more aid money from the IMF and World Bank. As a result society becomes corrupt and a way of life.
     Traveling through these countries where corruption is rampant in all levels of society, it is very easy to see the negative effect aid is having. Making people greedy for easy western money and producing an aid dependant society where trust among it's people is lost because everyone is after the same thing.
     If you think I have an answer, I'm sorry I do not. I understand a lot of the problems facing these countries, but I do not believe there are any real solutions until third world governments start to take responsibility of there country, instead of relying on first world countries for money and solutions.
     There are some success stories that I hope one day will show the rest of Africa how to act. Botswana is a truly amazing place, with equally amazing people living their. The country has been independent for over 50 years and has always stayed corruption free. The government lives modest lives, choosing to spend money on it's population rather than themselves and it really shows. I saw very few homeless people and everyone has access to running water and medican. These sound like pretty simple things, but many countries in Africa find even the most basic of facilities impossible to supply.
     Because Somaliland has not been recognised as independent from the rest of Somalia, by the international community, aid is not reaching this little country, so the governments on it's own. In a very short space of time they've set-up a democratic government, introduced their own currency and got children back into school. As a result they are seeing some investors taking notice.
"So would you go back?" is another common question people have asked me, and to be honest I don't know. If you'd asked me while I was still in Africa my answer would defiantly be no. However since being home and having chance to reflect on my time, I can't rule out the possibility.
     The things that I expected to be very difficult, such as transport and finding accommodation were relatively easy. What I found difficult was the continues conning from locals, beggers targeting white people and only ever being able to fully trust fellow travelers. Many people have tried telling me these things should be expected as these people are very poor. I'm sorry I can't completely go along with this. Most conners for instant are not poor because they are continually ripping off tourists and actually live fairly modest lives.
     The real shame of the matter is the experience has left me resenting many black Africans. Something that will take a long time to overcome.
I hope you have enjoyed reading my travel journal as much as I have enjoyed writing it.


Kevin Doe:
May 25, 2009

If you get this drop me a mail, would love to hear from you mate.

Well done in acheiving the 'dream' I hope it has settled you in mind and body.Would be great to catch up with you some time.......

Alex Graham:
May 27, 2009
Well done on writing the final chapter to your epic journey. The whole thing has been great to read and has given a true insight into an area most know very little about.

You probably know that a book called "dead aid" written by Dambisa Moyo. It's apparently having quite a big impact in how things are done with the Rwandan president having already met her. Given her decent and very impressive educational background, it'll probably be a very interesting read. Review is here

Caroline Mikhail:
June 12, 2009
Hi I guess as its not that long since your return you'll still be looking at your blog so thought I'd just add a comment. It was great reading about your everyday adventures in Arusha, Dodoma Dar and Kigoma. I hope to browse more of your advrentures later. I am heading for Kigoma in August we want to sail down to get to Katvi and hopfully do some walking there. So getting glimpses of some of the places really brings it to life. Also liked your Idea of Cape to Cairo. Many Years ago we did Sri lanks to Nepal and have only just stated venturing into Africa . Your writng and thoughts are a great inspiration. Thanks
June 23, 2009
Well done Kelvin , best regards Doric
Fuzzy Travel · Next »
Create blog · Login