Forget “Africa”

This blog entry about the events of Sunday, January 15, 2012 was originally posted on January 22, 2012.

DAYS 17-18: “Are you talking about Akabanga?” asked the man waiting in the queue for Business Class check-in at Kigali International Airport, next to where I was waiting for Economy. He noticed I was talking about a certain Rwandan hot sauce to Gearoid, a fellow former guest of the Hotel des Mille Collines that I had shared the complimentary airport taxi with. I was describing the size of the hot sauce’s small eye dropper bottle with my fingers.

“Yeah,” I answered the man in Business Class, smiling at our apparent shared appreciation of Akabanga. “You know it?”

“I have twelve [bottles],” he announced proudly.

I told him I had over two dozen myself, packed in my checked luggage bound for New York via Amsterdam.

I HAD SPENT TWELVE HOURS in Amsterdam, where I rented a bike to wander around with suggestions from Dutch traveler Lot (whom I met in Chiang Mai). I did a whirlwind day tour of the city: the Van Gogh museum, the Nordermarket, the Jordan district, Vondelpark, and yet another memorial to another genocide, Anne Frank’s house. After another KLM flight for eight hours, and I was back at New York’s JFK International Airport, where I had started.

“Where did you go?” inquired the immigration officer.

“Uganda, Rwanda, and a layover in the Netherlands,” I replied.

He was bewildered with amazement; most people were just coming from “Amsterdam” or some other European city.

“They’re actually two of the safest countries to travel in Africa,” I informed him.

“It just sounds dangerous,” he acknowledged.

“Eh, that was the 90s,” I told him.

My passport was stamped, and entered the U.S.A. — with a new perspective on “Africa.”

I’LL ADMIT I WAS A LITTLE WARY ABOUT MY TRIP to Uganda and Rwanda when I had booked it. For some reason, my initial ignorance about the two countries made me think they were more dangerous or sketchy than the other African nations I’d been to — although for me, that was part of the appeal to going there. What I had come to learn through research, and actually experiencing the two countries for a little over a couple of weeks, is that my initial perception of them were dead wrong. In fact, it’s quite the exact opposite.

I’m not kidding when I say I felt safer when traveling through the two countries, especially in Rwanda, which is perhaps why I let my guard down when I got kicked in the balls — although that random ball-kicking guy was quite possibly drunk and it could have happened anywhere in the world, and I won’t blame Rwanda. That incident aside, Uganda and Rwanda have proven to be friendly and almost hassle free; for the most part, you can just walk around anonymously like you can in America, without touts constantly approaching you for solicitations like in other developing nations (but if they do, they might end up being royalty). One theory as to why there aren’t many hustles is because of a lack of major Arab influence; Arab traders didn’t make it that far inland into the African continent. Not to point a finger at Arabs for being solicitors, but wheeling and dealing is ingrained in their culture, having been a major trading empire for millenia. But I digress.

Gearoid, the guy I met at the Hotel des Mille Collines (his name is pronounced “G’rode”), had been in Kigali for an international academic conference about post-conflict peacebuilding. (He was a Irish-American professor working for a small university in the Netherlands.) He hadn’t spent much time outside Kigali during his week there, but didn’t need to in order to realize how unique Rwanda is when compared to other African nations. In our conversations, he said he had spent time in the west African nation of Sierra Leone.

“Some [people in Sierra Leone] wish the British came back,” he told me. “They say Black people can’t do this, they can’t do that. But I wish the officials in Sierra Leone would come here [and see what they’ve done.]” He was enthralled by the infrastructure of Rwanda, its cleanliness, its beautification, and its relaxed vibe, just as much as I was.

Not every African nation is the same. This is a statement that seems like it would be a fact of common intuition, but it’s not. Most Americans bunch all the nations in sub-Saharan Africa and label them simply as “Africa,” without any regard to the distinctions within. When this habit will cease to be I don’t know, but it’s all spawned from ignorance, movies, and the media. Free thinkers I know in the States often bash American news media for sensationalizing foreign news (and local news too), and often turn to BBC News as an “unbiased” alternative. However, from Alice’s experience (the British lawyer I met on safari in Uganda), they’re not without exaggerations either. “Khartoum was [a little rough], but it wasn’t that bad,” she told me from her experience in Sudan’s capital. “[The BBC makes it sound like the end of the world.]”

I hope this latest travel blog at least provides some insight on two of Africa’s 54 nations; it’s been my goal to do that everywhere I’ve been on The Global Trip, to make “exotic” places seem more accessible to the average person. Uganda and Rwanda are great countries that I highly recommend, each with their own unique characteristics and histories (one more violent than the other). Uganda truly is the “Pearl of Africa,” with a big diversity of things to see in one country, from wild whitewater rafting, to big mammal safaris and big primates. (Kenya and Tanzania may have cornered the safari market, but they have no gorillas like Uganda does.) Rwanda, a small country with a destructive past, is now rebuilt as a model progressive country for the rest of the continent. Not only does it have a relaxed vibe in the cities, but in its Caribbean-like lake resort towns. And after reading this travel blog, you know that if there’s one thing that Rwandans really have, it’s a really good hot sauce.






Next entry: Full Disclosure of an African Boomerang

Previous entry: Securing Peace with Hot Sauce




Commenting is not available in this channel entry.

Comments for “Forget "Africa"”

  • if the entire world just came together at a pig roast with all different hot sauces, the world would be in peace.  enough said.

    Posted by .(JavaScript must be enabled to view this email address)  on  01/22  at  05:53 PM


  • Great insight into two countries I knew very little about!  Super jealous about the hot sauce.  That’s a great souvenier.

    Posted by sara  on  01/22  at  06:07 PM


  • Awesome trip blog as ALWAYS!!!!

    Posted by NIc  on  01/23  at  01:55 AM


back to top of page


SHARE THIS TRAVEL DISPATCH:


Follow The Global Trip on Twitter
Follow The Global Trip in Instagram
Become a TGT Fan on Facebook
Subscribe to the RSS Feed



This blog post is one of eighteen travel dispatches from the trip blog, "The Global Trip: Monkeying Around," which chronicled an eighteen-day journey through Uganda and Rwanda in eastern central Africa.

Next entry:
Full Disclosure of an African Boomerang

Previous entry:
Securing Peace with Hot Sauce




THE GLOBAL TRIP GLOSSARY

Confused at some of the jargon that's developed with this blog and its readers over the years? Here's what they mean:

BFFN: acronym for "Best Friend For Now"; a friend made on the road, who will share travel experiences for the time being, only to part ways and lose touch with

The Big Trip: the original sixteen month around-the-world trip that started it all, spanning 37 countries in 5 continents over 503 days (October 2003–March 2005)

NIZ: acronym for "No Internet Zone"; a place where there is little to no Internet access, thus preventing dispatches from being posted.

SBR: acronym for "Silent Blog Reader"; a person who has regularly followed The Global Trip blog for years without ever commenting or making his/her presence known to the rest of the reading community. (Breaking this silence by commenting is encouraged.)

Stupid o'clock: any time of the early morning that you have to wake up to catch a train, bus, plane, or tour. Usually any time before 6 a.m. is automatically “stupid o’clock.”

The Trinidad Show: a nickname of The Global Trip blog, used particularly by travelers that have been written about, who are self-aware that they have become "characters" in a long-running story — like characters in the Jim Carrey movie, The Truman Show.

WHMMR: acronym for "Western Hemisphere Monday Morning Rush"; an unofficial deadline to get new content up by a Monday morning, in time for readers in the western hemisphere (i.e. the majority North American audience) heading back to their computers.

1981ers: people born after 1981. Originally, this was to designate groups of young backpackers fresh out of school, many of which were loud, boorish and/or annoying. However, time has passed and 1981ers have matured and have been quite pleasant to travel with. The term still refers to young annoying backpackers, regardless of year — I guess you could call them "1991ers" in 2013 — young, entitled millennials on the road these days, essentially.




Spelling or grammar error? A picture not loading properly? Help keep this blog as good as it can be by reporting bugs.

The views and opinions written on The Global Trip blog are those of the author, and do not necessarily reflect the official views and opinions of the any affiliated publications.
All written and photographic content is copyright 2002-2014 by Erik R. Trinidad (unless otherwise noted). "The Global Trip" and "swirl ball" logos are service marks of Erik R. Trinidad.
TheGlobalTrip.com v.3.6 is powered by Expression Engine v2.8.1