We’ve had several opportunities recently to reflect on our visits to Africa, and our friends’ visits to America. Between the BT’15 conference, its associated mini-conferences, training, and staff meetings, we hosted a number of African friends. Then I went off to Africa to visit some of our friends who have hosted me. It has allowed me to consider the contrasts.
Confession: my wife tells me that I am a world-class man-splainer. She says that if you ask me a yes/no question, I will write a Wikipedia article about it, and still not answer the question.
We took a visiting Executive Director to the Dallas Museum of Art. I had to keep reminding myself, “This guy is working on his third Masters and his PhD simultaneously from two different schools. If he wants to know what the brass plaque next to the painting says, he can read it himself in at least three different languages.”
The one time that I saw him puzzled was when he returned from the restroom at a locally-owned burger bar, “Who is Chuck Norris, and why does Jesus walk on water but Chuck Norris swims through land?”
There were a couple of times when I just wanted to melt into a puddle of embarrassment at our riches. The first was when a couple that we have worked with in Africa came to our house for dinner. Africa is rapidly catching up in vehicles, long surpassed us in phones, but still lags on housing. They clearly thought we had a huge kitchen. “Is this your living area, as well?” Uh, no. Keep going and you’ll find an even bigger living room further back. This is just what we use for breakfasts.
Another was when we were chauffeuring a visiting friend around and he saw workers out mowing the side of the highway. “Where are they going to use that hay,” he wondered? Oh, they just mulch it and leave it in the field.
Conversely, I’m back in one of my favorite haunts. This morning, someone asked me how much I paid for a Ke-ke to our other facility. “Oh, many of the other staff pay two-fifty or even four-hundred Naira, but I usually pay about one-fifty.”
They laughed, “The trip should only cost about forty Naira.”
So often here, I get special privileges or assumptions simply because I am a westerner. There was a bit of disagreeableness at the MTN office when they suddenly cut off all unregistered SIMs because of a government mandate. I was the one the employees took care of, and that they made sure got out of the crowds. (In my defense, my SIM was properly registered and I had a much simpler request.)
This is a wonderful place, but I will always be a visitor. I hope that we were as gracious and open-hearted with our visiting friends as they are with me.