Some may have known this blog a while back. At the time, the idea was to try to keep contact with all these people I could feel fading away as I left for Australia. But I soon realized that spending hours alone facing a screen to keep a blog alive was not the best way to maintain a healthy social lifestyle... surprisingly?! So I forgot all about it... But now things are a bit different…
A long awaited dream is about to come true. Four great friends and I are off to the East Coast of Africa. The type of dream you discuss sitting on the steps of a house at a party after a good few glasses of whisky. You start dreaming, imagining how CRAZY this trip could be... a bit of "we could even sail down the Somalian coast man!", or "I'll bring you trout fishing in the Zambezi River in Zimbabwe!". But that's if you did go, because deeply inside, as much as you know that THIS IS WHAT YOU WANT TO DO!!, well it's pretty unlikely really, you're just talking drunken gibberish and all you are really likely to get is a good hangover the next morning. Because people keep on hammering in your head that it’s time you stop dreaming and face reality for a change, ‘we live in a cruel world’ type of speech! HAHAHA!!! These people are funny!!
So yep, we did really sit on those steps more than a year ago in Hailey's house in Brisbane with Tom, dreaming away for quite a while and decided we'd do it! We're landing in Addis Ababa in Ethiopia on May 9th and heading south towards Capetown. And that's pretty much all we know!
We met all five in Brisbane, lived together in the wild and wonderful Blue House with a bunch of other sweet people. Shannon is an emerging Brisbane artist from Zimbabwe – one of her main motivations for this trip is to spend time with artists of the regions we will be travelling through. Tom, (from Zim also), Paul and Steve (both Australian) all studied a bunch of obscure social subjects like peace and conflict resolution studies, politics of development, aboriginal studies… and I just finished my degree in natural resource management. I think we all realized that there’s only so much you can learn in an air-conditioned room sitting on a comfy seat in front of a powerpoint presentation especially when learning about topics like ‘poverty alleviation through conservation in Namibia’ type of thing. So this should really hopefully be the applied side of our degree! And I reckon it’ll look quite different from the new perspective!
What I would like to do is to get involved with community-based conservation organizations. Community-based conservation is an approach I have been quite passionate about for a while now. In a nutshell, the idea is to protect the environment and enable the local people to directly benefit from these conservation efforts. In this approach, all decision making power and staff is handled by local communities, and tourism is often what finances these organizations. The problem with all other forms of tourism in Africa these days is that a ridiculously small amount of the money spent by tourists actually benefits the local communities they visit. If anything, a bit of the money goes to the country’s capital, but the greatest part goes back to the European/American tour operators. Theoretically, not only does this enable local communities to dedicate their time to the conservation of their surrounding environment, but the latter receive a direct financial benefit derived from tourism. This money can then be spent on local schools, health services etc… depending on what locals judge necessary. Now, of course, even with this type of approach, things can turn out completely wrong with tourism destroying local cultures and locals being used like animals in a zoo to please the tourists’ curiosity. But I believe it has a huge potential for places like the East coast of Africa where the environment is still relatively untouched and where the initiatives to alleviate poverty other than just international aid are desperately needed. If interested, here is a trailer of a film called ‘Milking the Rhino’ which reveals the pros and cons of this approach: http://milkingtherhino.org/film.php.
So we’re a bunch of proud idealists I guess. We’ll be starting in Ethiopia and heading south, probably through Kenya, Tanzania, Malawi, Mozambique, Zimbabwe, Lesotho, Swaziland and South Africa, but I’ve heard great things about Uganda and Namibia so hopefully around there too. I’ll try to keep this blog updated from time to time depending on how much time we get to spend around computers - I have a feeling it won’t be every day! If you're interested in receiving some news from time to time, there’s a little Newsletter thing on the top right of the page where you can put your email address and will then receive updates every time that happens! Don’t hesitate to write to me directly otherwise if you want: firstname.lastname@example.org.
I hope you’re all smiling and full of dreams!
See you soon.