Arthur ~ Bebeth ~ Courtney ~ Mark
As the saying goes…”do you want the good news or the bad news first?”
Good news you say? Then good news it is….we’re returning home and will be in NYC on December 30th and Seattle on January 4th!
The bad news….the impetus for the change in plans. Our friends, colleagues, and partners in crime, Sam and Miranda, had a string of bad luck recently. Apparently we were targeted as having good stuff because they were robbed twice in 72 hours. The first time occurred at 1 in the morning and the thief got away with a lot of stuff (computers, ipods, passports, etc). Fortunately no one was hurt, but it was very scary for them to wake up and find someone in the apartment (the thief ran out as they woke up so there was, thankfully, no confrontation!) The second time occurred 2 days later in the middle of the day with all 4 of us in the apartment working. Somehow they got in and out without noticing.
After all of this, Sam and Miranda decided it was really time to go home. The financial hit they took with all the stuff being stolen meant that going home was the smart move. Now, I know there are many people reading this who are thinking “I knew that Africa was unsafe!” Part of us didn’t want to post anything for fear of fueling those sorts of thoughts. The truth is that a) Africa is a large continent (not a country and you can’t generalize that easily, b) Cape Town is a big city like any other city in the world (NYC, LA, Washington DC, etc) where crime is a reality and c) this is just one group’s experience. Anyway, we’ll throw away the soap box for now, but we don’t want people to turn this into something its not.
As for us, with Sam and Miranda leaving, it was an easy decision for us. As many of you know, Mark and I have been itching to get home and see family and friends. Although we think Cape Town is one of the most beautiful cities we’ve ever been to, we love home even more! And unlimited internet and phone access won’t hurt too!
As for work, Mindful Interactive, will just be closing their Cape Town field office and opening back up in Seattle (Mark and Bebeth) and Santa Cruz (Sam and Miranda).
So…that’s our news.
Mark and Bebeth
Courtney posted a very poignant post on their blog about how misguided and often inappropriate our efforts are to “help” Africa are. I’m not talking about huge governmental organizations but I’m talking about us as individuals. Let’s see if this scenario sound at all familiar:
Someone at your church, work, or just someone who knocks on your doors says, “Hi we’re collecting things for poor people in Africa, do you have anything that you’d be willing to give away?” You sit there for a couple of seconds and you start thinking about all the things you’ve been meaning to get rid of: a box of books, some old clothes, some toys that the kids don’t play with anymore, some old computer parts, those weird Christmas presents that you got from some distance relative. After rummaging around your house you produce a couple grocery bags worth of stuff and you are now quite pleased with the results of your “purge”.
So now you’re wondering, ok so what’s your point? Let’s take a closer look at these imaginary items and frame them within the following question, How will these things help someone in Africa?
Books – Are your books appropriate for the people and culture you are giving them to? What type of books did you give away: fiction, cooking, gardening, religious, self help books? Do you know if the people that are receiving these books are even literate in English? Are the books appropriate for the climate, culture, predominant religions?
Clothes – Unless you know your organization is giving your old clothes directly to someone, your give-away clothes are being sorted and bundled into big bales and then sold at the local markets. BUT what sort of clothes did you give away? Skirts above the knee, tank tops, low cut shirts, women trousers, in Kenya all of those things would be inappropriate to wear in the village.
Computers – Technology changes at a very rapid pace. Hardware and software become outdated so quickly. In Kenya almost all of the computers we found were running XP. If you give away software that runs on Windows 95 or 98 will it a) even run and b) actually help them develop the skills they need?
So what’s my point, leaving out the whole issue of creating dependencies on donors, poor people in countries all over the world don’t just need our random things we don’t want anymore. Kids have very specific needs, paper, pencils, educational material appropriate to their age, culture, and language. Mothers need food, clothes that can withstand the harsh and highly “manual” lifestyle they lead. I don’t have a solution for you, but we can be more mindful about how we help, and I think that we should be holding organizations that we are giving to to a higher degree of responsibility, why should they waste our money shipping useless items overseas? I think organizations like http://www.kiva.org/ are steps in the right directions, highly targeted giving.
Anyway if you made it this for, or just skimmed past my rants, read this post, you’ll understand what I mean:
My birthday present from Bebeth was a day out with a local fly fishing guide. Due to traveling, work, and availability we hadn’t had a chance to do this till yesterday. We took off from Cape Town at 6am and headed out the N1 highway. After passing through the wine country and through the Huguenot Tunnel (which is 3.9km long) we emerged in a amazing narrow river valley. On either side of us the Du Toitskloof mountains jutted up out of the earth like something out of Lord of the Rings. Below is a picture of Bebeth waiting for our guide, behind are the mountains.
We met our guide, Phillip Meyer, who is the South African Fly Fishing champion, around 7:15. The Smalbaar river is a small freestone river maybe 40 – 60 feet wide at most. Crystal clear water called for long tippets and stealthy approaches. Most of the fishing was done kneeling or crouching behind boulders and at very short ranges, maybe 15 ft at most. The fishing was very difficult, we caught only three fish, saw a few more, and every fish required a lot of work. At one point I found three or four fish feeding, and I spent probably a good 45 minutes trying everyone’s patience switching flies (mostly the guide’s since he was the one tying on the flies for me) until I finally caught one. In the picture below I’m battling the fish, and if you look just next to my right shoulder you’ll see a white spot, that’s the fish airborne!
Here I am removing the hook and posing for a picture.
It was refreshing to be back on a river fishing. There’s nothing quite like it.