Sunday, 22 January 2012

I grew up with Africa

I've startted to make a few friends here, it's taken a year, I've volunteered and generally put myself out there.

In many conversations the question about snow is always asked, by friends, in cafes, in shops. 'What is the snow like?'

I'm also asked what the UK thinks of Africa. How do the media portray it?

When we arrived here on 19th January 2011, I had done little research. I was working right up till the 15th December, had decorators in, had estate agents and tennents looking at the house. Had banks, utilities etc to organise and put 100% faith in the HR over here to sort us out as promised. (Pah! big mistake) My only research was to watch Invictus the night before we flew out.

So I thought about what I knew about Africa before moving here. My first awareness of Africa was 1985 and Live Aid...I was 14. We had a sleep over at my friends house and Mandy and I managed to stay up till about 4am.
Images of starving and dying children, women walking for miles to get water and families leaving their homes to seek medical attention. The there was 'Free Nelson Mandela' campaigns. I never really knew why he was in prison on Robben Island for 27 years, but I bought a badge and a poster, like everyone else. Finally there was the World Cup 2010 and the Gautrain and I remember seeing people on the TV with coats and hats on in July wondering's always hot in Africa..isn't it? (we had burst water pipes here in July when the temp dropped to -5c)

So what did I do for Africa? We made and sold cakes at school, we bought Red noses for Comic relief day, we joined in with the Shoebox appeal (don't laugh, I used to put hat, scarf and gloves in, not knowing it was the middle of summer in December) took our clothes to Oxfam.

But what about the violence, where did that knowledge come from? Of course it was from the Media. Prior to us moving out a woman was killed after her taxi was hijacked in Cape Town on her honeymoon, we know the full story now, but I remember the media portraying stories of this as being common place, ritual tyre burnings, the horror of Rwanda and many other atrocities in Africa. More recently in Zimbabwe.

I didn't know the capital of South Africa was Pretoria, I thought it was Johannesburg. My knowledge of anything else in Africa was all gained from the media...send money/food/clothing...and I'm still not sure why all of this goes on and what I can do to make a change.

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