An audio and video podcast of my trip hitchhiking around the world by sea.
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The Friendliest People on Earth

Ah so much to write about, such little Internet access… One of the great challenges of travel blogging is narrowing. To which you would sarcastically reply, “We know, we’ve seen the length of your blogs!” To which I would reply, “One, stop shouting. And two, I know… it’s a problem but we all have problems.” And now I’ve noticed in my attempts to be witty, I have added yet another unnecessary paragraph for you to read. I’ll move on.

The list of things to report about goes on and on. The lifestyle. The people. Cultural and human observations. Personal struggles. Humanitarian works. Etcetera. From the moment you step off the plane you notice things are different. Mostly you. I have never been such the minority. Perhaps in China, but even then, you put a hat on, sunglasses, and walk on your knees to account for that extra 12 inches of height and you might blend in.

Not in Africa. No you are different here and there’s no hiding it. But that’s ok. I think it’s good for a person to be completely removed from their comfort zone. To stick out on occasion. To be the minority. It will help a person recognize when they are not outstanding, those around who may be. Unfortunately, in Africa being “the white guy” carries with it certain stereotypes. Mostly, having money. Which when compared to a culture where a person often makes on average a dollar a day, is basically true. Still when stereotyped and standing out, it’s good to be prepared, to be approached, harassed and ready to barter for reasonable prices.

Mandi and I first arrived Nairobi in the evening. Our introduction to Africa was from the back of a minibus taxi. The streets were slightly less hectic the chaotic streets in India. Similar though minus cows and scooters. They are lined with people. Some walking with bikes loaded with supplies like scrap metal, wood, charcoal. Those not fortunate enough to have a bike use their heads, carefully balancing similar supplies. Meanwhile man, woman and child file between cars. Each offering similar products. Each hoping by some fate to be chosen over the others.

We only stayed one night in Nairobi. The sleep was restless. It was just warm enough to be uncomfortable and all night the mosquitoes serenaded with subtle songs that hinted of malaria. Early the next morning we rose and caught the same overpriced taxi to the airport, where we stood by the ticket counter of Air Malawi until 30 minutes before the only flight to Blantyre waiting for someone to figure out how to sell us a ticket. We were escorted with bags to the door of the plane. Then we were off to Malawi.

I am often asked, “In all of your travels, who is the friendliest people?” That’s tough as you’d imagine, in every culture there are some really wonderful people. However, there are a few groups that stand out.

Two weeks ago, I would have answered the Thai. Known as “the smiling people”, I found them extremely pleasant. But after some time in Malawi, Africa… I might have to change my answer. Brilliant smiles offer broken greetings everywhere you go. Even walking down the street, a simple “Muli Bwangi (Malawi greeting-spelt phonetically)” will draw out a beautiful white smile and an almost bubbling response. They are lovely.

After several days of traveling, I was tired, but anxious. Anxious to meet these friendly people. Anxious for culture. Anxious for Africa.

1 comment

1 Leia { 10.28.08 at 4:13 pm }

Keep up the good work.

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