Africans living in the USA quickly learn some interesting things about what Americans think about Africa. In general, many Americans think that Africa is just a big jungle. They imagine my African life to be like this: I wake up at dawn; I use twigs and leaves to make a fire; I go down to the river to fetch some water, being careful to avoid the lions. After having breakfast – herbal tea and rodent, I go climbing trees and perhaps pick up some tribal fights. After that, I go hunting, and only return as it gets dark. I then roast some of the hunting bounty on the fire, eat, tell stories and go to sleep while loud howls are heard in the distance.Oh, and I make another baby that night.
I mostly see these kinds of things in movies.
I grew up in a house with piped water and electricity. I went to school in a city – by bus. My city has skyscrapers, tarred roads, electricity, and dressed-up people. I have never seen a lion, or a zebra, or an elephant, or a giraffe in my life. Not even at a zoo. As you can see, I kind of did not grow up in the jungle.
But that is not my point.
As a city kid, I still loved life away from the city. Many other kids did. They all couldn’t wait for the school holidays, which were thankfully one month long. When these holidays came, the city kids left their urban homes to go to the rural areas. Although the rural areas were not exactly quite the jungle, they were close enough. And what adventures we had there! We left everything in the city – satchels full of books, video games, the television. We didn’t need the distractions…
We had many exciting things to do in the ‘rurals.’ Herding cattle was usually the best experience for boys. I enjoyed it, especially once I discovered that cows were scared of even little kids like me. I felt invincible! I should have known that male goats were not as scared though. I learned the hard way one day as I jumped over a fence with a goat behind me in full pursuit. And trust me, being chased by a goat is a thousand times more exhilarating than reaching the next level on FIFA 12 (sorry FIFA fans).
This is all to say this: even as I loathe the perception that many Americans have of Africa, I am not altogether saying we don’t want to be associated with the jungle. The ‘jungle’ has so much to offer, and many Africans love to retreat to it (if they’re not already there). And I don’t think we’re alone on that one. Who likes to take photos with lions, cheetahs and zebras? Who likes to go on ‘safari?’ Who likes to ‘leave my laptop, my phone and electricity at home?’ That is the magic of the ‘jungle’: it beckons to everyone. And lucky are those closest to it.
Did I tell you about the time I milked a cow directly into my mouth? Imagine warm, raw milk….