Tuesday, March 06, 2007

Thoughts on the rights of people

What follows is from an e-mail message I sent to a friend in the U.S. He has been living a life of awareness since he was young. I'm just a beginner by comparison.

When I see the results of what British Colonization did to generations after generations of wonderful people, I get sad. And by being a person who stands out in Africa because I'm white, I begin to feel in just a very small way what black people, Mexicans and other "outsiders" must have felt for a lifetime -- and still feel. I came to a frightening realization the other day. For a while, I was feeling a bit proud that the, in the U.S., we don't have the great-grandchildren of the original inhabitants calling white people "Master." But then I realized why that's not the case.

In what would become the U.S., the white man either killed or isolated the natives so that there are very few reminders of their proud existance. Giving them their "own" separate nations was just a nice name for locking them up and locking them out.

In Malawi, I realized that the city of Blantyre was never an African village -- it was built by the British for the British. And the local population was there only to serve. What's sad to me is that decades after the British pretty much cleared out of what was once a colony, the old (and new) buildings and businesses are in the hands of foreigners. In downtown Blantyre, the poor people tell me that they wish that they could own businesses, but the businesses all belong to the Indians (the South Asian Indians), to people from the Middle East and to Eurapeans.

Indeed, the Malawians have the legal right to prosper. They are a democracy. But much of their democracy relies on the international support from a variety of nations and non-government organizations. Yes, the trick is to empower the Malawians and other Africans to prosper in the light of self-sufficiency.

But that's a slow process.

And in the meantime, the people on the streets still refer to me as "boss" or "mahsah".

And I hate it.

Don Ray

Thursday, March 01, 2007

The road not taken

And to think, I went to school to become a journalist.
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It's great to have friends.

Everyone at the Mt. Soche Hotel refers to my friend Beston as Tebulo. Apparently, there's no word in the local Chichiwe language for the word "table", so they used a variation of the English word. But it came out "tebulo." I'm not quite sure why everyone there calls him "Table", but I add the words "my brother" to the name. So I call him Achimwene Tebulo.
Yesterday when I was walking back to my hotel, I noticed Achimwene Tebula bounding out of the Ryalls Hotel restaurant. He and my good friend Debra, the chef in Mt. Soche's restaurant (pictured with the rose), had come to their competing hotel to look for me.
I got to know Tebulo when he helped me in my quest to get on the roof of the Mt. Soche Hotel so that I could look for the Southern Cross. He ended up taking me out on a ledge outside the 5th-floor restaurant. In the course of things, Debra came out to find out what the heck we were doing there.
By the time she was able to go back inside, she had had to listen to my long-winded story about my time in Vietnam and how the Southern Cross became my friend.
She became so intrigued that she stayed outside with us for about 20 minutes.
Two nights earlier, I had invited Achimwene Tebulo, his wife and their son Raymond to dinner. Tebulo wanted to make sure how much they all appreciated the experience.
Debra was working a split shift and had come along during her break to find me. When I returned to Blantyre las week, I had visited Mt. Soche to apologize to all of my friends there for not staying at their hotel this time. Debra wasn't around -- hence, her journey to say "hello" yesterday.

While we sat -- not eating dinner -- I realized that I had invited my friend Bernard to the hotel to get a status report on his quest to help school students and orphans learn how to plant trees and raise rabbits (see my earlier blog). Some of the employees found him at the front desk, so they sent him over. Bottom line -- I found myself sitting with four wonderful friends -- friends I'm sure I will see again. The cool thing is that Tebulo and Debra became intrigued with Bernard's big little dream and vowed to help him.
It's always wonderful when one can introduce friends to other friends. Posted by Picasa