Bad experiences accumulate: another friend gets violently robbed. It’s hard to resist the negative feeling that causes, especially when they talk about giving up and going home.
But the good Tanzania is also a bit contagious – the little sparks of inspiration here and there that remind me I’m not done here yet, only just beginning to get to the good stuff.
There’s actually no shortage of media setting out to change the negative images we have, to tell more good stories out of Africa. By now they too seem to be becoming a bit clichéd.
Even better is encountering the positive stuff directly.
In no particular order, then, some of the people I’ve met recently who aint put off by what can be an unforgiving climate to actually make things happen: the young team behind ANZA, the first East African architecture magazine; a single-minded (and single) friend who adopted two Zambian street kids when she was just 21; the tech-brains behind what could be Africa’s first city-wide open-source map; the musician and activist behind this tune, who grew up on the streets; the young computer engineering lecturer who set up an “ICT incubator” to help students get their start-up ideas off the ground; the two women who are quietly raising orphaned or abandoned kids in a normal house on a normal street; the people behind some potentially exciting new innovation hubs, TANZICT and KINUvation; the woman who set up a youth organisation whose magazines are now read by 10 million people. There are more on my list to be tracked down, and then there are all the stories of the people who you wouldn’t think of, like one of the askaris at my building who wants to be a rap star, or my Burundian colleague who came to Tanzania as a refugee over twenty years ago, or the elderly woman I met the other day who studied in Northern Ireland just before the Troubles broke out.
In yer face, thieves and bandits.