Travel to Africa and learn what distances mean. Starting with the continent’s size, it’s mind-boggling.
I begin with this map because few people realize how big Africa is. Just flying north-south over the Sahara takes a good 3 hours!
Most known for safaris and wildlife, the continent was marked by the famous TARZAN pictures with all types of animals crowding the screen, and movies like The African Queen and Out of Africa. Though on our business trips we saw several wildlife parks and walked through jungles, our work led us mostly to colonial-built capitals to talk with governments and the private sector and visit development projects in towns and the vast interior. While we were often struck by poverty, financial mismanagement and corruption, tribal and religious wars, health issues, women’s suffering and child abuse, we could not escape the beauty and magnificence of Africa’s scenery, and the personal warmth of the many Africans we met in so many of its 55 countries, of which 43 below the Sahara.
In this blog, we only show pictures of Africa’s beauty and some of its people, leaving the ‘political and socio-economic issues’ aside.
Let’s start with RWANDA – The first African country I traveled to. It was quite an experience: I was allowed to witness the plane’s descent to Entebbe, Uganda in the cockpit, in the early morning hours, and was thrilled when I saw the tropical landscape appearing. Only to find out at the airport that my luggage was left in London and that my connecting plane to Rwanda was delayed by a day or two because of bad weather. I still wore my sweater from cold Washington D.C. Spending 24 hours or more in my ‘hot-costume’ in a simple hotel meant enduring the first hardship of World Bank travel.
But we arrived in Kigali, finally. Rwanda is a populous place because of its fertile soils, but very poor.
Flying in over northern Rwanda is a bit like looking at the Alps from afar: mountainous with volcanoes, sometimes active with disastrous results.
The Virunga mountains in northern Rwanda near Ruhengeri resemble almost the shape of the Mont Blanc from a distance. In this area live the mountain gorillas. In 1975, I saw a few of them in the early morning hours, led by a small team organized by Dian Fossey, the American primatologist who lived there and studied these gorillas. Her work was made into the movie Gorillas in the Mist in 1988, three years after she was mysteriously murdered.
Dian Fossey – Credit Liam White-Alamy, picture borrowed from a 2015 BBC report by feature writer Melissa Hoogeboom.
The Nyiragongo volcano near Goma-Gisenyi at the border of Rwanda and the Democratic Republic of the Congo taken in 1975. It had a two-kilometer-wide lava lake which fractured in 2002 and devastated a huge area of farmers and wildlife. Some 150 people got killed. The lava almost touched Goma. The volcano’s shape has changed as a new, lower level volcano arose near the old volcano. So, this picture is sort of a ‘relic.’ Nyira was also the name of the Rwandese Princess refugee I helped flee from Burundi later (see The Tutsi Queen in Some Women I Have Known – Kindle version: https://amzn.to/2L9U5rD).
Joy in Goma, on a “points trip” with me to Africa in 1979. World Bank professional staff were allowed to take their spouse on a business trip once they had spent 500 days (well, they said ‘nights’) away from home! Well-deserved. Dapper Joy had to take care of the 2 kids and drive through snow and ice while hubby was doing business in warm Africa.
Joy with me in Ethiopia near Addis Ababa in 1979.
Rwanda – reviewing progress of a tea-plantation project.
Rwanda – Getting stuck in a muddy earth road on our way to supervise works – 1975
Negotiating the price for help to get unstuck. My Italian teammate Melegari was good in negotiating with the villagers.
Rwanda – Construction of the Kigali-Gatuna road financed by the World Bank, which is part of the transit road to Mombasa, Kenya. I criticized the sharp angle of this part of the road which on the other side of the picture had a descent of at least 45 degrees. But the engineers shut me up because that was not ‘my business.’ The descent turned out a cemetery for African truck drivers, whose vehicles had often inadequate brake systems. But in the Bank, as a young officer, you don’t get medals for critique.
Rwanda – a local market in Kigali, the capital of Rwanda.
That’s it for now. Next time: Burundi, the Central African Republic, Cameroon and Côte d’Ivoire (Ivory Coast).
Books to read:
Kirkus Reviews recognized Francine’s perseverance and that of the miners she stands up for and gave the manuscript a resounding positive critique. https://www.kirkusreviews.com/book-reviews/john-schwartz/francine/.
Just one click takes you to a good read!
Audrey – A Cherished Memory: A personal story of how I met Audrey. Proceeds of this two-story booklet (at Amazon.com) go to the Audrey Hepburn Children’s Fund. https://amzn.to/2JOcjL4