In Africa, I am clearly an outsider. I may be my face, clothing, or the fact that I don’t understand the simplest things. It is clear that I am from somewhere else.
A FaceBook friend of my age told me I was crazy to be here. He was apparently shot here when in the military. I admit. This is just one of many things that gives me pause on this trip.
In some ways, being an outsider is an advantage. People don’t bother to check my ID at the door. I just go right inside. The two immigration check points barely looked at my passport.
At other times, the double takes, and sullen glances can be unnerving. I must admit, I don’t know what the elderly woman was yelling at me from her wheel chair but it sure entertained her grandson. I also worry a little when people are SO happy to sell me bread for 1000 shillings (about 45 cents).
Still, people are people and their true nature comes out near their home. My resort hotel is right in the middle of several rural villages. I try to go for a walk every day. Clearly, some wonder why I am there. The vast majority are happy to see me. As I pass through, I hear “jambo” or in English “Hello.” People try to greet you even after you pass. Children, encouraged by their parents smile and wave. The second most common word is “welcome” used like aloha as is “welcome here” or “your welcome” in response to a “thank-you” they never bother worry about.
Currently, I am helping business leaders, external funding agencies, and the Office of the Chief Government Statistician to understand each other
and their needs. It is not an adversarial relationship. Sometimes, people just need a connection and a voice that can be understood by the other party. It feels very strange to be that outside “expert” to help but I am blessed with that opportunity.