A big pet peeve of mine is when someone means to refer to a specific country or part of Africa but instead just says Africa. It’s exotic and exciting and forbidding all at once but also overwhelmingly insulting to a continent that dwarfs North America in size and diversity. When I was in South Africa I had to watch DVD lectures by pastors and repeatedly they would list all the countries they had been to : Japan, China, India, Russia, Brazil and then invariably finish with: AFRICA. Morons. So you might be surprised that I titled my blog entry with the single word that normally infuriates me when others say it. Simply put I love Africa. The whole thing, from Tunisia in the north to South Africa in the, well you get the idea. When I say AFRICA, I mean the continent.
Given the title of my blog and how many people ask me what I’m going to teach when I tell them I am studying to be a teacher I figured this would be a good topic to write about. I would love to be the “Africa” teacher at a high school. I would offer a broad survey course of Africa covering the history of the continent generally over the course of a year. I would also love to if possible teach a more specific course on modern Africa from independence in the 50s and 60s to today.
So why Africa? I am honestly not sure. It’s one of those things that I can’t explain and I am willing to say simply that “God put it there.” I never use language like that so it really is a big deal. I love the place and have ever since I can remember. I remember in 6th grade I flipped ahead to one of the chapters in my social studies book my class had no chance of getting to. I started reading about this strange country I had never heard of called Burkina Faso. Alas its capital was even more intimidating. Ouagadougou. My first impulse was that I would never pronounce such a crazy name. It was quickly overwhelmed by a desire that I must master it. To my relief a few quick practice runs with the phonetic spelling revealed it was not that difficult and pretty fun to boot. (To those who are curious you say it like this “Wa-ga-du-gu.”) And so a love for a continent was born.
Africa is not a headline to me. It is not a disaster zone or a charity case. It is a living, vibrant, fascinating place bursting with potential. I remember flying over Namibia on my to South Africa, to AFRICA, for the first time in 2008. I looked out the airplane window and I saw glimpses of the land I had only read about in books and newspapers for years. I quickly ripped out a notebook and wrote out a prayer of some sort as I tried not to burst into tears. I suppose you could say it was love at first sight.
Regardless of how many cheeseball things I can say about the place I would love nothing more than to study this amazing continent and share what limited knowledge I have with young people for my career. I don’t really have a witty or thoughtful way to end this so I’ll just say this: AFRICA IS A WHOLE CONTINENT, NOT A COUNTRY. Please respect. Thanks much.