Thursday, 8 November 2012

Double facepalm

We are quite seriously considering trying to visit friends in an African country next year. Not a trivial undertaking, but not too bad either, and with flights available from Birmingham (1 change in Amsterdam) the journey should not be too arduous.

And then I started search for information on visas.

Now, we're not entering this blind in that we understand the country is not run like a European country, but searching for visa information, and particularly landing on what appeared to be an official site, resulted in the above image seeming entirely appropriate.

I'm normally pretty good when it comes to sifting truth from lie and spammer from government web site, but on this occasion I'm going to have to speak to people, I think, to be sure of what's fact and what's fiction. The site that *appeared* to be the official embassy visa page is full of spam, and trying to follow a link to specific information takes one through to an endless stream of adverts. Now if this were a different nation I'd just assume that I'd found a spam link and move on, but other sites seemed to be pointing toward this place and then there's the stories one hears of corruption and greed.....

I have very mixed feelings.

It would be good to see our friends, but I have very little desire to see Africa - possibly even less than I have to see the United States again. That may be unfair of me, but a country and a culture are intimately linked, and everything I see of African culture (and the imported European culture too) makes me want to run a mile.

But I loved India, regardless of the utter poverty, the squalour, the smells, un-varying food, the need to watch where you put your feet, and I would go back - not in a heartbeat, because it would need planning - very readily. So maybe I'll come home after Africa and already find myself wishing to return, instead of breathing a sigh of relief that we're still in one piece and have retained most of our property.

I love to travel, and to a degree I feel we should do this for our friends as much as anything. But the picture that has been painted for me is pretty darn ugly, and no amount of wildlife, sunshine and lakes can plaster over the cracks.


I'm still trying to understand what it is that has produced such a strong antipathy in me toward Africa. Several things are at work, not least of which was me feeling pressured and unwell at the same time. Some also is that I have listened to how the Africans I know have talked about their own country, and some of their feelings have come out of fear, hurt, loss and anger. Words we speak have power, including the ability to affect others quite deeply, possibly subconsciously. 

And there's a small matter of obedience too.

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