The one phrase you should not use after you return from Africa

David shared this with me. A welcoming take on poverty, stereotypes and the irritating trope of the “starving African.”

A certain category of people in the “first world” are so unused to adversity and so used to material wealth that they don’t know how they could get on without it. But human beings are tougher than you give them credit for, and they’ll find ways to live, love, laugh and enjoy each other’s company. Kids play in refugee camps, in immigrant detention centres, in Gaza and Syria and the Central African Republic. I saw kids on street corners in Burundi, who might not have eaten in days, kicking around a soccer ball and teaching each other kung fu. Couples fell in love in 1990s Bosnia and occupied France. Read any “home front” account of either of the World Wars if you think I’m lying…we as a human race are stronger than we give ourselves credit for, even under adversity. That has nothing to do with the continent we’re on or the material possessions we have. That should make us happy to know each other…but it shouldn’t surprise us!

“They are poor but everyone seemed so happy”. I am sure you have heard this statement one too many times.The tourists, study abroad students or visitors to the African continent often come back with great news. “The kids were all smiles” they continue. Over the years – about seven to be precise, majority of the people I know that have gone to volunteer overseas comes back with this same message. The seemingly innocent message often catches my ear as it comes with a tone that implies relief and surprise. Who knew the poor could be that happy!


Major nonprofits spend loads of money on television airtime to make you feel sorry for the hungry across the world. So you can donate more. African kids with flies all over their faces often does the trick. Eventually this image gives the impression that whoever isn’t materially endowed as we are…

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About msmarguerite

Young Quebec City-based freelance journalist. once and future nomad. I blog about life, about travel, about things I notice and every so often about work. I enjoy language learning, singing, swing dancing, skating and...other stuff, sometimes. My heart is somewhere in East Africa, Haiti or Eastern Europe. English, français, русский, malo slovensko, un poco de espanol, um pouco de português ndiga ikirundi, mwen ap aprann kreyòl...
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