BY: Maya Kitchens
I have just gotten back from a two-week trip to Africa. It was very eye-opening. I have been to Africa before. I have been to Ghana, Namibia, South Africa, Zimbabwe, Tanzania, and now on this most recent trip Zanzibar (an island but still part of Tanzania), Kenya, Zambia, Botswana, and South Africa again. I do travel a lot. Everywhere that I have traveled to has been different. For example, India is different than Ghana, which is different than France, which is different from Brazil. It is common knowledge that America is different from these other countries, but how different really is it?
The cultures/mannerisms are completely different. Kids are running in the streets at 10 or 11 pm. Traveling is very eye-opening. People sit out on the streets waiting for you to come into their shops. In some parts of Africa, an elephant or a hippopotamus is your next-door neighbor. Where we stayed in Botswana, you had to have an escort walk you back to your tent because there could be elephants or lions on the trail. We are not used to that. I talked to someone who worked at the camp. He grew up in “the bush,” which in Africa is known as the wild. He moved to London as a twenty-one-year-old for college but dropped out and moved back to Botswana because of the culture shock.
While in Nairobi, Kenya, we visited the largest slum in Africa, Kibera, which has about one million people living there. Our guide, who lived in the slum, said “Kibera is a city within a city.” I saw so many little kids who had very little but had huge smiles on their faces. The roads were filthy with trash everywhere. I honestly did not know what I was stepping in. There were community bathrooms that you had to pay to use that were open from 9:30 am to 6 pm. If you did not have the money, you could not use the facilities. At the highest point in the small part of the slum we were in, you could see the skyline of Nairobi. It was beautiful however, it was hard to enjoy because these people living in Kibera were living so poorly. After being back for a week, I realized that I was only at Kibera for two hours and then left to go back to our nice hotel, fly home, and go back to my normal life. Those people do not leave. Those people’s normal is the possibility of not taking a shower or not having food to put on the table or not having clean water.
My final thought to share is this: no matter how bad you think your life is, someone is worse off than you.