What do you want to know about Africa?

August 4, 2009

At a family reunion this weekend, I was peppered with questions about Africa. I didn’t mind. Conversations about my travels often serve as writing prompts, reminding me of details to include in my book.

That’s why I’m asking you: What would you like to know about Africa?

Are you curious about what people there eat? Whether kids really run around barefoot? What toilets are like? How much it costs for a bar of soap? Whether people even use soap? What languages sound like? How the air smells when you step off the plane for the first time?

If you were having coffee with me right now and were free to pick my brain about Africa, what would you ask?

Your questions will help me add interesting details to my travel memoir. (And I’ll answer the best ones in a future post.)

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    0 Replies to “What do you want to know about Africa?”

    • My husband’s sister and brother-in-law live in Nairobi….here are some of the questions I’ve asked them in the past:

      How do you get safe water? Do you always have to boil it or does it come out of the tap safely?

      How reliable are your utilities?

      What kind of weather do you get there? How are the seasons different?

      Is your local police corrupt? How do you handle that?

      Mystery Writing is Murder

    • Karen Walker says:

      I am interested in spirituality, so I would want to know about tribal customs, rituals, ritual dance, ceremonies. What kinds of rites of passages rituals are done? Do women and men celebrate separately, as they do in Native American culture?

    • From my own travels, I most fascinated by people. So I guess my question would be what was the most common bond and the greatest divider between you and the Africans you interfaced with?

    • Jennifer says:

      I am a cultural anthropologist at heart. I have a great friend who has lived in Africa several summers and she comes back with all sorts of fascinating tales. I’d love to hear about their food and their myths. What types of mythology do the different tribes have and are there similarities between tribal religions and customs? What foods do they eat, what plants do they grow?


    • Our senses are so important…I would love to hear about the what you smell, see, touch/feel, hear, and taste…what does the earth and air there smell like? What sounds stand out in your mind, what is your favorite food indigious of Africa? I’m sure it’s breathtakingly beautiful, but what is the most important thing you would want peaple to see? What do the fabrics and crafts feel like? I think hearing about things small are the most interesting. Thank you for allowing me to ask. 🙂 Be well!

    • Wow, Africa is one mighty big place. I guess I’d be interested in all of those subjects mentioned above, but also the politics. The countries are so diverse, some cultures violent and others relatively benign, so in the countries you visited, how did in-country and across-borders politics and culture clashes impact your stay?

    • Peggy says:

      Wow those are all really great replies with such varied points of view. I’d want to know about the daily way of life and how it compares to ours. I love comparisons. And, okay this isn’t very deep but I can’t think of Africa without thinking of lions, elephants, etc so I’d want to know what animals you saw and interacted with.

    • Alexis Grant says:

      These are all such great ideas — Thanks! Keep ’em coming!

    • Did you see any giraffes??

    • Enid Wilson says:

      I actually want to know what they (African people) think of us (people from the western world).

      Bargain with the Devil

    • Kathryn says:

      I know that some of your blog posts already talked abt this, but I think it’s really interesting to hear abt how you were treated as a young, white, american female in africa. and knowing your personality, how some of those situations made you feel. did you feel degraded? frustrated? proud? have to adjust your sense of self? etc. Still anxiously awaiting the final product!! Keep up the good work!!

    • jessiecarty says:

      i like the ones you suggested and the ones that have been posted here. i am always looking for connections with people so i’d like to see things that would surprise you on how similar we are, games kids play, things that make them laugh etc 🙂

    • Ami says:

      I’d love to hear about your impressions of Africa and the people you encountered. How did your experiences differ from (or meet) your expectations? Generally when people travel to foreign places they latch on to a routine that makes them feel “at home” no matter where they are. Did you have a routine like that? Was there something you did often no matter where you were?

      I also think I’d like to know about people, how they reacted to you, how they acted in different situations and how those actions would compare to what you might expect in the States.

      Hope that helps!

    • Joanna Penn says:

      Hi Alexis,

      Great idea to ask people what they want to know!
      I lived in Malawi and went to school there in the 80s – I’m sure its changed a lot! I’d like to know:
      * Is there a real Muslim / Christian divide in sub-Saharn africa – and is extremist religion as pervasive as it is elsewhere?
      * What is the real usage of mobile phones? Are they used for business and literacy? How do people use the internet and how can we help people with digital publishing on mobiles etc

      Thanks, Joanna

    • Africa says:

      I live in South Africa, and I have to say, regarding the mobile phone question, South Africa is actually further ahead than the USA in mobile technology. Text messaging (known as sms in RSA) has been going for years and years and years, while other countries its popular now, text messaging technology, reception technology, mms, bluetooth etc etc is far ahead of most of the world!

    • Carolyn Yalin says:

      Late to game, sorry. Here are my questions –

      1. Why did you choose Africa? I had a friend go solo to India to “find herself”, and actually did. She was directionless, unhappy, and just broke up with her boyfriend of 5 years.
      Did you find what you were looking for? What was it?

      2. Was Africa what you expected? Did you go with some preconceived notions/ideas? Were they right? Did they change?

      3. Why did you travel alone? I find this interesting because I’d be too scared to. Were there situations that made you afraid? As women, we have more to think about… we can’t just stand up, turn around and pee like a guy…+ we have mother nature visit – maybe TMI but a touch of sticky situations would be interesting. I know one friend who did the pill back to back to avoid having her period. Did you go out at night?

      Stories like the mail excerpt are interesting, I’d include others like that. Africa is not a place I’d visit but I’d love to read about it, and how the systems “work” there.

      4. Were there festivals? What religion?

      5. What did the Africans you met know about the US? The world? Did they like Americans?

      6. Any food stories?

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