Rwanda - Africa OK?
I was dropped at the National Park guesthouse inconveniently located 18km beyond the park reception but delightfully appointed in well-kept gardens. Still high in the mountains it felt quite cool; I dug out my fleece for the first time since Cape Town, checked in and ordered a beer. Before long I seemed to be surrounded by westerners. Two Danish ladies (Camilla and mother Lotte) were asking if it was worth going chimpanzee tracking for US$20 (they'd already "done" the gorillas). Of course I didn't know, but as it would be easier to organise for a group of us I said I'd be interested. An American called Jeff from "up state New York" had done his Peace Corps 10 years before and had now returned to Africa as a volunteer before studying wildlife back at college. His girlfriend was in Uganda so he accepted a year's assignment with the National Park. Finally there was the group I'd met earlier at the museum. Claire, celebrating her 39th birthday, is a bouncy marketing person from the London office of an African aid-charity. Sandy, her partner, "dresses men and women for a living" apparently a fashion designer but looking rather unkempt I thought (sort of Jarvis Cocker 20 years on). Lisa was born and brought up in Namibia, had been living elsewhere for the past 28 years and was now "catching up" with Africa. Finally, Eric was their tour-leader from Kampala, a pleasant levelheaded Frenchman.
After a few beers and glasses of birthday champagne ("oh Sandy you're so sweet"), and as the evening wore on we had quite an involved discussion about what was "wrong" with Africa and what should be done. Annoyingly it was far more emotional than logical and sadly didn't come to any useful conclusion. Are all aid-charity workers underpaid? ("Charities don't pay market rates for the expertise needed") or overpaid? ("Just look at how they're living compared with local professionals"). Volunteers: "they're only here because of their middle class guilt that they've never really suffered"; and of course they can be educated but not experienced. "They come here and learn on the job, they bring nothing" one of the Ugandan drivers explained.
Rwanda - Africa OK?