Africa on Six Wheels: A Semester on Safari by Betty Levitov

By Betty Levitov

“I imagine i am getting it,” Betty Levitov’s youngest pupil acknowledged, sitting on a porch in Harare, Zimbabwe. “You’ve had a very likely deadly illness, and confronted dying, and now you’ll do exactly approximately anything.” the scholar used to be attempting to fathom why a instructor might take 13 children from a small midwestern liberal arts collage on a three-month trek throughout Africa.
The solution, a studying adventure like no different, unfolds in Levitov’s completely attractive account of her life-changing stint as a mwalimu (“teacher” in Swahili) with an Australian bus motive force and 13 university young ones from Nebraska in tow. The group’s wanderings take them—and us—through seven international locations. via dhow journeys and donkey rides at the Swahili island of Lamu, scuba diving and spice excursions in Zanzibar, tenting within the Namib wilderness, and swimming at the fringe of a cataract at Victoria Falls, we come upon notable humans, new customs, and exciting arts (along with malaria, flat tires, a motorcycle coincidence, and a hostage crisis). because the scholars apprentice themselves to African chefs, fishermen, carvers, and batik artists, we find with them a refined and intricate connection between humans commonly worlds apart.

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That’s the mystery of Gavin—he doesn’t give out personal stuff, and when he does, it might be fabrication. The ’98 students became obsessed with finding out even the most basic biographical information. He might be proof that truth is crazier than fiction, if I knew what to believe. In the close quarters of our rental van, Gavin’s only mechanism for personal space was maintaining secrecy. I still don’t even know his age. I had met Gavin in Zimbabwe on the Lonely Planet circuit (the route for backpackers using the popular guidebooks) in 1998.

Every day in Egypt she was greeted and admired, singled out of our group of twenty as a great beauty. She enjoyed every moment in Africa, but especially Egypt, where her dark skin gave her celebrity and distinction among the group of otherwise white American travelers. We enjoyed her status and were proud to be in the same group as she. Our connection to her reached a new depth, carrying the complicated weight of historical racism in America. Was this because we were isolated and together in Africa?

In Africa today, with dominant single-party systems and obscenely rich and cruel dictators, Nyerere’s Leadership Code, banning politicians from accumulating personal wealth, sounds like an impossible dream. Mr. Mushi admires Nyerere, but he qualifies his praise. He says, “Nyerere educated and unified the people. By building up Swahili as the common language, he brought 125 ethnic groups together. ” Mushi sees this as a bad thing. Mushi tells us that Nyerere’s early teachers were Roman Catholic missionaries, that his African socialism was really Marxist, and though he studied at Makerere University in Kampala, Uganda, his education at the University of Edinburgh (he was the first Tanzanian to study at a British university) was the most influential.

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