Tuesday, February 23, 2010
Oh, Those Poor Africans....
Partial picture of Nairobi - picture lifted from http://www.nairaland.com/nigeria/topic-51356.0.html.
Addis Ababa, Ethiopia through the eyes of most adoptive parents of Ethiopian kids – wonderful and descriptive descriptions of heavily laden donkeys on the city streets, beggars everywhere happily taking candy handed out by the adoptive parents, the colors of the famous gates of the various orphanages and transitional houses, the wonderful nannies at the orphanages, the dogs barking at all hours of the night, the beautiful children left behind that the adoptive parents just want to scoop up and bring home, those poor people at the leper colony, the obligatory coffee ceremony and of course the beautiful people of Ethiopia. All of which forever changes the describer of these travels.
Kigali, Rwanda, the newest destination for International Adoptions – wonderful descriptions of the green country, the land of a thousand hills, the nice hotel with the beautiful gardens, the wonderful POAs, the traditional dancers, learning how to strap a child on the back Rwandan style and of course the genocide memorial.
Nairobi, Kenya – transit point for a lot of adoptive parents of Rwandan children: pictures of a day safari, perhaps some pictures of the kids feeding giraffes at the giraffe centre, pictures outside the clinic where you have to wait for hours for the U.S. Embassy required medical exams needed for the children’s visas and oh sometimes a description of the traffic nightmare that is downtown Nairobi.
Perspective: most parents stay in five star hotels – most in a lot nicer hotels than I have stayed in the U.S (at least true for vast majority of the five star hotels that dot Nairobi, Kenya), the opportunity to be chauffeur driven and have the driver be at your beck and call all day (when was the last time you had a taxi driver in the U.S that was at your beck and call), access to clean bottled water, excellent customer service (shhh, don’t tell anyone, but Americans around the world are thought to be some of the most generous tippers – the British – not so much, hence Americans generally get preferential treatment). On inconvenient facts that may destroy some of the stereotype of Africa? Deafening silence. I mean, how much can you appreciate my sacrifice if I tell you of the fact that there are cities in Africa have modern buildings, modern amenities, some world class hotels and restaurant, and yes, even paved streets? I mean, I have to keep with the American stereotype of the perpetually malnourished African child, with the runny nose, huge belly, ribs sticking out with flies all over their body. And the African woman who has had 10 children too many, with a child strapped to their back begging in the streets of Addis Ababa and grateful for candy from the American philanthropist who is guilty they did not bring more candy. The ramshackle kiosks where those desperately poor men are trying to eke out a living? Now these are the perfect backdrops for good pictures to show back home. Because really, could you really appreciate that I have been to Africa without these? Never mind that there are a million images in the western world that perpetuate these stereotypes, thank you very much. And the fact that it annoys most Africans to be thus depicted – as the objects of our pity, instead of someone, anyone telling of the progress made towards westernization? We never get to know that they get offended, because seriously, after numerous squeezes of the hand sanitizer after an African shakes our hands, and as we take these obligatory pictures, it never leaves room for real relationships with the citizens of these countries to really ever know. And this, my friends is the lopsided perspective we give our children adopted from Africa of their countries of origin. Because even if we tell them the reality of their countries of origin, they will still be surrounded by our families and friends who still fondly hold on to these stereotypes (thanks to those countless pictures we took).