Sunday, July 31, 2016

What Sets a Non-Western Expat's Relationship with Africans Apart from That of the Western Expat?

The reaction of the customers sitting around sipping their beers could not have been any different.  Just moments before, when the author entered the little roadside cafe on his way back from the local museum visit, the six half-drunken old men could not contain their excitement upon seeing a Chinese guy walking into their usual hangout spot.  But now, after asking where the author is from and receiving "America" as the answer, the crowd quickly grew tame and quiet.  The enthusiasm to strike up further conversation dissipated, and they left the author mostly to wait for his meal in silence.

Sunday, July 24, 2016

Is a Museum Meaningful if All It Contains is Political Correctness?

"This is a place of stories...tales of how the town came about through different influences..." the introduction to the newly opened Regional Museum at Iringa cheerfully outlines what the visitor should expect from its collections.  Housed in the Boma, a distinctive architecture of Swahili and European influence constructed during the German colonial era, the museum certainly provides a promising cultural venue, something that had been distinctly lacking in a town that is more marked by cultural isolation than anything else.  Unfortunately though, the rather small collection brought more boredom than fulfillment of that promise.

Friday, July 15, 2016

When the Border between Physical and Virtual Ceases to Exist

The author, despite continued ridicule from friends and suffering ofttimes hardships in the most inconvenient times, have for the past years resisted purchasing a smartphone despite the device being more and more commonplace across even the poorer parts of the world.  The desire to remain disconnected from barrage of messages that always seem to require immediate response may be the most compelling reason he can put up to what is increasingly perceived an irrational, eccentric behavior.  But perhaps, in the recent days, there is one more powerful reason to resist smartphone adoption.

Saturday, July 9, 2016

Are "Our" Problems Caused by "Them"?

The Livingstone Museum, in downtown Livingstone, Zambia, has an interesting way of chronologically displaying the area's history.  It starts with the natural exhibits of the land, so famously shaped by Victoria Falls and the Zambezi River, move on to the local ethnography, and finally to the more recent history of the town itself.  In this chronology, there is an interesting section that display a model of the pre-modern African village, with its semi-naked residents and thatched huts, immediately followed by the town of Livingstone at the turn of the century, with cars, shops, and a multiracial population.

Wednesday, July 6, 2016

ANC and Racial Relations: a Story of Political Hijacking for an Increasing Incompetent Party

On the touristy Vilakazi street of Soweto, right across the street from Nelson Mandela's old house, was a distinctively colored car.  With large black, yellow, and green stripes visibly painted to the back and the side, the car's origin is only too obvious to anyone who knows anything about South African politics: it is a car belonging to the African National Congress (ANC), the formerly undergrad political organization started in opposition to apartheid government's unequal treatment of blacks and their political disenfranchisement and have led the national government ever since multiracial elections were introduced in 1994.

Tuesday, July 5, 2016

Homey Feel of an Inner City American Ghetto

For those who do not know, the author first landed in the US at age 12, in a neighborhood called Roxbury in Boston, MA.  Any Bostonian would timidly tell you that this is one of the city's roughest neighborhoods, a classic inner city African-American area with high crime rate, poverty, and plenty of dilapidation in a formerly industrial neighborhood.  Despite being almost directly south of the city's downtown areas, the 'hood that is Roxbury sees little sign of gentrification that has made restored the historical glory of the downtown, only helping to accentuate its continued obviously rundown nature through contrast.

Monday, July 4, 2016

Can Some Residents of a Modern Society Stay Permanently outside of Modernity?

From looks the main urban areas of Cape Town is no different from anywhere in the developed world.  Coming from Tanzania, where paved roads and street lights are luxury even in the main city of Dar es Salaam, the immaculately maintained main streets of the city, flanked by vibrant shops, hotels, and malls,, is, by no exaggeration, the envy of sub-Saharan Africa.  The suburbs immediately surrounding the city center and hugging the Atlantic coastlines are home to first-class expressways and homes with modernistic architectural designs that are not out of place in the most moneyed American residential areas.