By Marisa Notier
The Notier Notes
Our Sunday Scoop
Since today is Valentine's day, I've decided to focus on my favorite emotion - love. And because we're here in Africa, I'd like to talk about some things that I love about this continent.
All too often, Africa gets a lot of negative press. You hear about wars and corruption and poverty, but you rarely ever hear about the incredible things that Africa has to offer, and what make this continent magnificent.
The following are my top 5 things that I love about Africa.
# 1 - Africans Always Find a Way to Smile
Being the world's poorest continent, Africans are no strangers to hardship. And yet, they seem to always find a way to stay positive, make the best of it, and smile.
Some of this optimism may come from their tight-knit families and close communities. Oftentimes, several generations will live in a single house. And they don't seem to get annoyed with each other, but instead, they always have a joke ready for whatever life may throw at them.
The proof of this is in their music. You never hear a sad sub-Saharan African song. They may sing about their struggles or their worries, but the song itself is always upbeat, in a major key, and will make you want to dance. The music of Africa brings people together, and everyone's always ready to bust out their dance moves, never ashamed of what people might think of them. Just letting the melodies and rhythms of the music flow through them.
It's certainly inspiring.
# 2 - Africans Are Resourceful
You never hear someone in Africa say, "It can't be done". Whenever they see a problem, they don't think, "Oh, why me?!" but instead see it as a challenge to overcome. And they may not have the right tool, or the right part, but they always seem to be able to figure it out with what they do have.
Case in point, we've broken down quite a few times while riding our motorcycle in Africa, and every time people seem to just come out of the woodwork and want to help. And they never dwell on the disaster in front of them, but just get right to work with coming up with solutions. When our radiator blew in South Africa, or the electrical system short-circuited in Tanzania, or even when our monoshock broke in Namibia, somebody with a great attitude was always there to help.
Now this is not to say that once it's fixed, the final product is of any quality. In fact, most things here are built on a foundation of string and duct tape (and the cheap Chinese version at that). But in the end it will work. Our friend Braden had a problem with the starter on his bike, and so some guy with a jig saw cut the part to pieces, which worked. But from then on the only way for Braden to start his bike was with a screw driver instead of a key. Still, it got him across the continent!
# 3 - Africa is Vibrant
Africa is a youthful, colorful land full of energy, passion, and sunshine. The parrots in the trees are as vivid as the fruits of the market stalls. The patterns of the kitenge cloths the women wear dazzle. The foods are bursting with flavor, and the smells of the spices prick at your nose.
It's hard to be sad here. Every morning you hear people sweeping their yards and sidewalks, humming and singing as if they're happy to bring on the new day. The church bells chime, the call to prayer fills the streets, and the children are everywhere, laughing and playing.
This year has been hard on us all. And there was a time early on in the pandemic where I felt depressed about the state of the world. The dismal news, the constant checking of case numbers, it all upset me to my core. But I credit this incredible place for bringing me out of that funk. Because Africans know better than anyone that no matter what happens, life goes on. The children will play, the birds will sing, and that music and dancing will never end.
# 4 - Africa is an Adventure
Tim and I are adventure motorcyclists who ride an adventure bike. And it's true that you can have an amazing journey just about anywhere, but you don't have to look too far for an exciting or unusual experience in Africa. It comes to you.
"Don't go to the water's edge, there could be hippos or crocodiles," people tell us. Or, "Don't wear bright colors. A tsetse fly might bite you and you'll get the sleeping sickness." Or how about, "Don't drive at night, because it's amazing how well an elephant can blend into the darkness."
It just feels like Africa has upped the stakes with everything, and I love it.
Not to mention, there are few places on earth with lands that are as untamed as Africa's. In fact, when it comes to wild animals, you can't get better than the height of the giraffe, the size of the elephant, the prehistoric look of the rhino, or the sheer numbers of migrating wildebeest and zebra. And these animals could be anywhere. You just never know what you'll find around the next curve in the road.
# 5 - Africa Has Brought Tim and I Closer Than Ever Before
The pandemic has changed all of our lives, but for a couple who used to spend every day traveling, it has flipped our routine completely. Now we're 'stuck', we're sedentary, we don't go anywhere. Now our motorcycle mostly just sits in a garage collecting dust (ok, that's not entirely true since we do take it out on occasion, but it is usually in a sad state of disuse and the battery has died twice from just sitting there).
But we've been very fortunate. Because if the pandemic had happened while we were on any other continent, I'm not sure we would have been able to financially survive so long while living so well. Also, many regions around the world have closed their borders, tightened their visa policies, but not Africa. Here the people are forgiving and understanding. They've opened their borders to all those who test negative. They've allowed us to stay, and have welcomed us into their home with open arms. And for that we are forever thankful.
We're not the same people we were a year ago, but in some ways, we're even better. And we understand each other better. While traveling together, Tim and I have always been close, but now that I've been cut off from most other social interactions, I appreciate Tim more than ever. He's been my steady rock, the person who I can always turn to with my problems, the person who makes me laugh everyday. He's been right there with me through the thick and thin, and I wouldn't have ever made it this far without him.
I love you Tim!
Happy Valentine's Day to everyone!
If you missed last week's post on A Day in the Life in Kenya, you can check it out here.
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