Tuesday, August 21, 2012

Into Africa

Mom and Dad dropped me off at the airport. I’m pretty lucky to have a set of parents like them. The upbringing they gave me certainly laid the foundation for the upcoming adventure. We were raised to have the confidence to deal with anything thrown our way.

It took less time to cross the Atlantic than to go from Dakar to Johannesburg. This place is big, really big. Shades of brown out the window, very few straight lines to see below. The beginnings of mankind are down there but not much evidence of what mankind turned into.

Descent into Jo-burg reveals skyscrapers and slums, the dichotomy present in all developing economies. Mines with slag piles dot the landscape between the buildings, evidence of the search for minerals. Eight percent of the entire planet’s gold is thought to be underneath South Africa’s largest city.

The mines often dominate the news with stories of labor unrest. Thirty-four mine-workers were gunned down by police yesterday. The Fuzz had itchy trigger fingers because two of their own were killed by rioters in an uprising last week. The violence was black on black, which counts as lucky in this part of the world. If whites had killed 34 protesters, devastating violence would be sure to follow.

I got off the plane, gathered my bags, and headed for customs. I had a package full of cameras, computers, Ipads, etc. that I was bringing in for my co-workers. Most everything electronic is much cheaper in the U.S. I chose to walk through the “Nothing to Declare” line but it didn’t matter anyway because the customs room was completely devoid of workers.

Botswana has two million people and about the same landmass as Texas or France. Take that, Texas, you’re in the same category as France. Nearly half the population lives in the capital city of Gaborone. That means a vast majority of the country is populated only by critters.

History. This place was never colonized so racism where one does find it isn’t on the same level as the rest of Africa or even the neighboring countries. The Dutch and the Brits waged war over South Africa. The Brits came to Botswana and said ‘Hey we’ll protect your southern border just because we hate the thought of the Dutch taking anymore of Africa.’ Round about 1966, the Brits pulled out, Botswana already had a functioning democracy, they found some diamonds, and quickly grew into one of the wealthier countries on the continent.

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