Sunday, February 21, 2010

First Impressions of Africa


I am getting ahead of myself, I know, in posting my first impressions of Africa when the period from Christmas to now remains silent, but we are here, now, and I want to share this before the sensation fades. And at first, Africa is just that – a sensation. A feeling of being somewhere else, somewhere new. It feels different when I breathe.

Africa is closer to the earth, I think, than other places I have been. Unprocessed. At least it feels so to me. But I do not know how long that will last. First in Johannesburg (known here as ‘Joburg’), where we spent a night prior to flying on to Maseru, and in Maseru itself, our new home town, the push to development seems obvious and inexorable. At first glance, both look like any city in the US (substantial for Joburg, small for Maseru), especially a city in the throes of growth. Flying overhead, and indeed flying into both, I saw little to distinguish them from any of the places on this planet I have already seen. The exception to this ordinariness was the landscape on approach to Maseru, where the depth of the land varied in patterns that resembled a half-finished puzzle of a sweeping rural landscape painted in deep rust reds, soft browns and faded, misty greens.

More differences began to appear as our perspective became earth-bound. In Maseru, in particular, the growth appears to be taking place in a context of far less development infrastructure than I am accustomed to witnessing in the States. The full equipment, design and management of construction and other development-related activities seem relatively sparse or absent. But still the growth is going on… and (perhaps like a typical Westerner) I suspect that with it is going something deep, something sacred, a connection to our world that gets anesthetized as the full infection of economic development sets in.
I must say, though, that the people here have been uniformly gracious and kind – locals and expats alike. Through them, through us, perhaps, connections between the sacred and the profane are maintained. And the land is still beautiful, still only touched here and there with the concrete, cables and contamination of capitalism’s cruel commerce. And I suspect that because of these – the people and the land – my wife and I are going to love living here, and that such joys as we find in our living will nourish the love we hold for each other.

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