What Africa taught me

1. Walk slowly.
I’ve never been very good at walking slowly, I don’t rush but I do walk pretty fast. In Africa that seem to be a sin, and I was forced to learn to take one step… at… a… time… It was hard to start with, but now I believe I can win any slow walking competition.

2. Border crossings.
There will be a post only about the border crossings later on, because it can be a mission. And it can be easy. Anyway, I have really learnt how to cross a border by land.

3. Saying no.
I always used to try and say no politely, which most times is useless. I’ve learnt not to be afraid to be rude, saying “no, I don’t like.” is ok, many people don’t speak so good English and it’s better to be straight with what you mean and everyone will understand clearly. At one point I told a man who walked with me that I wanted to walk alone, he said “but I’m not finished talking to you.” I told him “I am finished talking to you. Thank you for the chat, good bye.” and he turned around without getting angry, but instead respected me a bit more.

4. Getting rid of proposers.
I’ve always found it very disturbing and mortifying when a stranger walks up and asks me to be his wife. During these months I have learnt to laugh and make a joke out of the whole thing. Wave with my hand and say “haha no man, are you serious? Never.” and either say “I don’t want to marry you,” or “not a chance, it would never work out.” and when they ask why not, just laugh it all off and ask him about something else.
I’m afraid I’ve become so good at it that when someone one day really asks me to marry him I will just laugh and say “no man, are you crazy?”

5. Eat with my hands.
I have always been pretty messy when eating and I have eaten alot with my hands even at home, but I’ve never learnt the trick. Now I know just how to roll the food into a ball in the palm and toss it into the mouth, and not being afraid of getting the hand really messy.

6. Stepping off buses.
It can be a mission with people pulling your arms and surrounding you, asking where they can take you. It’s probably nothing I have learnt, rather got used to. But the people doesn’t seem as stubborn as in the beginning, probably because they somehow can see it’s a person used to travelling, in the beginning I was less confident and that made a big difference. People used it to fool me.

7. My limits.
Or non-limits. We can do so much more than we think we can do, it’s just that we have to dare to try. Next time you think you can’t: do it anyway. I didn’t think I could get malaria, see where that brought me (ok bad example). I didn’t think I would dare to hitch-hike alone, but I did and it turned out to be some great experiences.

8. Catching a taxi.
In Sweden we don’t do this, and if you do it’s so expensive you often wish you didn’t. But in most African countries taxis are very cheap and you just put out a hand as they pass you and maybe wave a little. It’s that easy. It’s the same with the bikes in Malawi, but you have to negotiate hard.


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