After taking a roller coaster ride in Africa, a new one awaited again in my own continent. It’s always a challenge to adjust quickly again, but also to understand the differences you’ve just seen and experienced. Usually the first two days I’m more or less lost, but most of all amazed. I’m always amazed at what I see back home. Everything seems so well organised and coordinated, it’s frightening and ridiculous at the same time. I often try to imagine how I (or my fellow countrywomen and men) would respond if some of the things that happened to me in Africa, that you often just brush off as T.I.A: This Is Africa, would happen to them in our country.
Simple example: At home, when I would order a taxi and the taxi wouldn’t come, I would of course complain. I would most likely explode when the taxi driver would still show up with another taxi driver to pick me up and let the taxi driver, drive us to a gas station, pick up extra gas and then go to the place where his car is parked, as he ran out of gas on his way to my home. After filling up the tank he would take me to my required destination.
To stay with transport. I love traveling by train. The train is late…okay that can happen anywhere. However this train is late and has several compartments. Some are quite empty, others are already really full. Besides the fact that the doors are already closing and people have to push the doors still open so you don’t get stuck while getting in – normally you would go to the compartment that is relatively empty to find a comfortable seat. This time you head for the compartment that is already overcrowded and try to push yourself in. No way (!) will you go in the empty one as you might get robbed or raped. Not really sure if I love traveling by train still then.
Another one, you would call an ambulance because of an accident. The ambulance comes, they are willing to take you, but can you please pay for the gas so they can actually take you?
You go to the doctor with your son. He is running a high fever and is really not doing well. The doctor says he just has a flue – nothing to worry about. You go back home. Next day he deteriorates, you go back to the hospital. Another doctor, he makes a totally different conclusion: your son has meningitis (as the other doctor just wasn’t properly trained to recognise the symptoms). Fortunately he recovers – as it can be fatal, but because they started the treatment too late, he remains deaf. My brother had meningitis when he was four. He received treatment on time and had no permanent loss of his hearing. He was actually able to become a really good guitar player and still is.
I could go on for a while, and just say T.I.A., but for the people that come to my training this is the reality they face in their work, or even more part of their own day to day lives. Actually this is often the reality of the friends I have on this continent. Every day. And they really hit home when I actually am home again. Including all the (so called) little things that you all of a sudden notice; perfect pavement, working water tap, hot water for a shower, constant electricity, health insurance, safe train rides, quality health care, three kinds of tomatoes to choose from and all the other things you take for granted. And in my particular case, this time a new kitchen as part of my new home, where the only thing not even close to T.I.A. is the fact that they ordered the wrong gas stove. And yes, they will replace it. For free. Can I just simply say I’m more than grateful and still a bit lost?