A Colonial Mindset

I spent a week at Tiwi beach in Kenya, a nice less developed stretch of beach and sand. You have to take a taxi on a bumpy dirt road for 3km (2mi) to get there, though I suppose you could walk if you wanted but it’s too darn hot with a backpack.  It was nice to unwind, collect my thoughts and/or try to throw them by the wayside. It was the first time I arrived in a new place and didn’t immediately open my guidebook to see where I may go after. Planning is good but not when you just arrive in a place. Take it easy. relax. unwind. enjoy.

I was happy to have Elizabeth with me and within the day we met 4 other Dutch travelers. It was good. I started to feel better. Since leaving Lusoto, I began experiencing lots of ups and downs… but unfortunately mostly downs and questions of, “What am I doing here?” I’ve never felt this way before so it came as a surprise to me and something I really listened to. The beach calmed me and it was nice to escape the city. Being in a city, when you’re feeling rickety can really put me over the edge-smells, noise, mosque at odd hours, harassment from men, traffic, pollution etc.

I’ll listen to my heart and follow the wind, even if it’s not what I expected.

After a few days on the beach, I got to talking with Alec, a Dutch guy, who seemed to be impressed of my lack of travel plans and return ticket, though he questioned why I didn’t travel with someone. He also though it unsafe. Safe is relative. There has not been one day where I felt scared or unsafe traveling in Eastern Africa. I’m definitely cautious and always aware of my surroundings. I have to be as no one else is looking out for me.

He encouraged me to press on and at one point, I thought we’d travel together since he and his friend, Anne, had no plan. Within a few days, he quickly showed his true colors and his racist and discrimatory ideas.  The last night we hung out, he said, “Africans are lazy” and “Africans are stupid. They are the missing link between chimpanzees and us.” WHOA! Stunned. I didn’t really respond. He continued, “They’re have been scientists who have proved this. They’ve proven africans have a lower IQ.”

Africans lazy? I see them working harder than many would work at home! And they’re typical work day in a restaurant or hotel is 7am until 10 or 11pm. I doubt most of us in the West would tolerate those hours. Lazy is confused with slower. It’s a slower pace of life here. Pole pole (slowly slowly) and Hakuna matada (no problem) are often said. People are happy. They take the challenges in stride. The interation is different when you’re at a place on the beach and it’s only Muzungos (white people). Of course, they may be even slower… maybe have some weird feelings about them serving us. Who knows? I find being in touristy places frustrating sometimes. On the beach- the only restaurant only served typical western fare. No swahili food! I was sad. I didn’t come to Africa to eat Western food at almost Western prices but then again, the beach is a place you go on holiday. (and nope I wasn’t staying at a resort by any means, a little cottage that had 4 beds, within 2 days we Elizabeth and I shared with 2 other woman!)

I’m certain you can find any “scientific proof” you want. It all depends on the intentions of the scientists and what they’re trying to accomplish. I’m sure they’re have been plenty of scientists that have made the above claims as a way of suppressing Africans and supporting the abuse and anti-human treatment of Africans.  Critical thinking skills are important. IQ- what does it really prove or mean? IQ only means so much and its simply another form of labeling and suppressing people. It doesn’t take into consideration: creativity, culture, social interaction, spiritual ways and so on.  

 Can you see the Anthropologist within?

Ok. hmmm. Really. You’re in Africa and you making huge claims about an entire continent and yet you’ve only been in Kenya for a week. Sounds like your an expert, buddy! So I ask, “What’s the name of the scientists?” What books have you read? “I don’t read books.”

Well, he’s an intelligent Dutch guy.  Speaking like he knows what he’s talking about and proud to make these statements but clearly is as a stupid as they come. The sad part is, he’ll go home and share his sentiments and racist ideas with everyone he knows back home. So much for travel broadening his mind!

The more I thought about this, the more I realized this guy isn’t traveling with his eyes open. He’s traveling with a Western blindfold and has brought the Neatherlands with him. Everything that differs (almost everything) in Africa, he will judge, label, and criticize. He won’t understand why things are the way they are, influence of culture, religion, environment. He doesn’t want to. Who knows if he’s even aware of his actions and ideas?

What’s the purpose of traveling if you’re simply going to judge rather than try to observe and understand? Traveling in Africa requires throwing aside everything you know and having a clean mind. So many things are different from the West. It is what it is.  I’ve seen so many things that would frighten me or make me run the other way but I remain calm, I observe. I know I’m in Africa. Whose to say my way is better than they’re way? There’s a 1000 ways to reach the same point, idea, journey. In the West, we like to believe, that our way is the only way…

Interstingly enough, this guy had problems to pick as he began pointing out my flaws, my Americanness. I was curious, at first. I often think I don’t fit the typical American standard, but then again, what is the American standard.  He bashed the government and I agreed with him on most points. I appreciate everything that I have and all the opportunites available to me, even if I don’t agree with my government’s ways of doing things. At one point, he asked why I still live there? This guy just doesn’t get it. Better or worse part is: he’s spent time in the US. I say not enough because he clearly can’t differentiate people vs. gov’t.  Shoot, doesn’t make sense for people like me to stay in my country in hopes of making positive change. Americans who don’t like how the government is operating shouldn’t leave, they need to stay and vote for change.

Surprising or not, I’ve been more aware of the upcoming presidential election than I would have thought as the few travelers I’ve interacted with have asked me, which candidate I prefer. America affects the rest of the world, so Europeans are just as concerned and paying attention as us (or we should be).  The election terrifies me because we have 2 minority candidates running and I hope America is ready for change… and people in higher standing don’t tamper with election results!  I’m ready for some positive change. Hope everyone else is!

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3 thoughts on “A Colonial Mindset

  1. And IQ tests…. That’s puzzles, you need to have a way of thinking to solve those. I mean, a lot of people there didn’t have the same education as us. IQ tests don’t test how practical you are or how good at remembering things or how good at surviving, but just how good you are at solving a kind of puzzles in a mindset you can learn.
    ps a ‘lone’ above should have been a “clone” 🙂
    It seems that you are learning so much there and shaping your opinion, keep sharing, love to get an inside view on Africa too 🙂

  2. Hey!
    Interesting blog! Thanks!
    So weird, Alec seems to be a lone of the dutch guy that was on my trip in August, that guy lived in the US but saidhe didnt like americans and even didnt want to talk to them. He was so blase and biased, very cute but his temperamentmade him so revolting ugly! He was also from the netherlends but HEY! we son’t start generalising or we’re the same haha
    I love your USA Lauren, just as the entire world, everything is so fascinating, every country and every person has his own way in things. how cool that we can explore that, if we only open our eyes and mind…
    Wouldn’t it be an idea to look for a school or orphanage and help there a while, to get to know it even more from ‘within’, and you will give the kids a lifetime memory for sure…
    loveya! I’m so sure more is on your path, you’re in the valley now and that means the other thing is right in front of you! 😉

  3. Hi dear Lauren!

    So happy to be hearing from you again. Your reports are wonderfull as always!

    As for that thing the Dutch guy said about the IQ, I remember there was some small commotion in Belgium over it, too. Allthough there actually hasn’t really been paid too much attention to it, because the scientist had made some more racist-based statements and research before, so it was doubted allready and also, as you say, everything depends on what you want to see, proove, show anyway, and there seem to be so many kinds of researches these days, all proving things that contradict each other…

    Anyway girl, I prefer your truthfull, human point of vieuw highly over the scientific one!

    Love

    Marieke

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