Archive for the ‘Making Poverty History?’ Category

The Sustenance of Faith?

December 28, 2007

Yesterday my girls and I, along with mum who is with us from England, visited a home in the Outpost run by Mother Theresa’s order, the Missionaries of Charity.

I had seen a couple of the Sisters in town, their blue and white robes trademark of their founder. And I had wondered about their work here.

Baptised a Roman Catholic, my faith is potholed. And selective inasmuch as I don’t believe spirituality has to equate with regular attendance of Mass. Lapsed perhaps. Even lazy. But it does not render me incapable of appreciating the Faith of others. No matter where – or who – they worship.

So we went and said hello to the Sisters, two tiny Indian ladies. One chuckled endlessly and told us she had been in the Outpost on and off since 1972, ”with the odd rest back in India”, she said, giggling. The other was beady eyed and fired a volley of questions:

where was I from?

Here, I said. She looked doubtful.  Really, I continued, I’ve been in Tanzania for nearly twenty years.

But originally, she pressed, where are you from originally.

I was born in Kenya, I tell her, like my dad and my mum (gesturing towards mum) was born in India.

Her interest piqued. Where? she demanded,

 ”Bombay” said Mum.

Do you speak Hindi? she wanted to know.

Mum apologised that alas she did not; she had left when she was just six.

Nor do we anymore, said both Sisters sadly, we have been here so long we have forgotten our own language.

We were given a guided tour of their home and said hello to forty orphans and almost 100 OAPs. The children, the tiniest barely a month, were about to have their supper, mugs of uji. The bigger amongst them, just four or five, laughed uproariously at their funny visitors. The older residents, some snowy haired and bent with age, greeted us cheerfully and ululated as we walked their dormitory which had been decorated for Christmas with a crib and lights which repeated tinny renditions of We Wish You a Merry Christmas.

We left, feeling humbled. And lucky. But no more than I might feel encountering a beggar in the market, or a street child. Being up close and personal with abject poverty – the disadvantaged, the hungry, the abandoned, the despairing – is par for the course in Africa. You can drive by with tinted windows up, the air con blowing icily and your iTunes obliterating the sounds from outside, but poverty will stick out a leg and trip you up eventually, or hold out a hand, pleadingly.

So whilst the poverty wasn’t a new experience, meeting women like the Indian Sisters was. There was no piety in their demeanour, no holier than thou on account of their Good Works. They asked for nothing. They just asked questions. Are they always like this, I wondered, or does the hopelessness of the plight of so many Africans ever get them down? Perhaps when it does they are dispatched home for a ”rest”. They receive no assistance from the Government. And are reluctant to accept donations of cash. They’d rather, I am told, receive gifts in kind.  They regard their work as serious, without taking themselves too seriously. They demonstrate none of the sanctimoniousness that is sometimes found in those working to improve the lives of those less fortunate than themselves. They aren’t going to make poverty history either, but they’re certainly going to push misery into the past, if only briefly, for those whose lives they touch. Because they strung up a few balloons, set up a crib and strung it with lights that emitted tuneless Christmas Carols.

I have told Hat I will wait until one of the orange trees delivers a harvest and then I can go with fruit for the children, which will provide me with an excuse to know the Sisters a little better, to talk to them about who they are. Not what they do. Hat said she would come too. And that evening she donned a sparkly skirt, stuck a bindi to her forehead and danced like an Indian with armfuls of bangles jangling.

I suspect that would have made the Sisters laugh too.

Insanity

December 9, 2007

I heard a story this week about a Dutch doctor who practices in a clinic in Lindi which is on the coast of southern Tanzania near Mozambique.

Three years into her experience in health care here she was beginning to feel heartily disillusioned and was about ready to pack it all in to go home.

One of her greatest disappointments was watching women bear child after child that they could not afford to feed, clothe or educate. The injectable contraceptives the clinic were using were cheap – and clearly ineffective – imports from Asia and they didn’t work. It is estimated that 30% of the drugs dumped in Africa are at best useless, at worst, downright dangerous.

Added to this, the Americans, on account of President Bush’s fundamentalist Christian approach to life, will not fund anything that consitutes birth control: no contraceptive pills, no condoms.

Instead women keep having babies or die at the hands of back-street abortionists.

I don’t blame the doctor. Her vocation in life is about improving that of others. How can she when the Tanzanian government and the super powers conspire to make it even worse.

It’s not that I’m off Africa this week – she’s the essence of my very self, coursing through my veins – it’s just that I’m especially off all the frustrations that continue to hamper her.

It’s corruption that’s the problem, not poverty

December 9, 2007

The officials at the immigration department here have requested an audience with my husband. Not because he is working here illegally; he’s not. It’s something, they hint ominously, to do with your last job.

The one where we were shafted by the American boss and finally gave up after working without a salary for nine months. The one where despite my husband’s best efforts, the workforce remained similarly unpaid, The one where my husband was dragged through the local courts as scapegoat for elusive US shareholders. The one where a colleauge and fellow Englishman made threats on our lives then sold company assets for almost a quarter of a million bucks and fled.

The job which we resigned from twelve months ago but which, by virtue of the fact we’re still here, could cost us in bribes – chai as it’s euphemistically referred to here. Especially around christmas; nobody wants to spend time in jail over Christmas. Immigration know that: they know that we know that protesting our innocence of whatever charge might be levelled at us is futile; only cash will get us off whatever hook it is they’ve invented.

And it’s not because we’re white, not because we ‘aliens’, not even because it’s assumed we can afford to pay a bribe. It’s because we live here and if you live here, no matter how hard you try to side step the system, corruption is going to trip you up in the end. 

The wheels of Africa’s economies are lubricated by the oil that is corruption as much as it bleeds her dry.

I watched a television program last night. And witnessed a poor woman in Kenya being forced to pay a bribe in the local clinic before a doctor would agree to see her sick baby. I witnessed men hungry for work – any work – being thwarted in their efforts because they didn’t have the necessary to bribe their way onto a job. I witnessed aid agencies being bribed to set up bogus charities.

Ten days ago, whilst in Kenya, I had a conversation with a cab driver in the capital, Nairobi. I asked him what he thought of the country’s imminent elections.  Who would he vote for, I asked?  

”Oh what does it matter”, he responded glumly, ”no matter who gets in, nothing’s going to change: they don’t care about the people. They just care about making money for themselves”.

I asked him what he thought ought to be done about that.

”we need European governance”, he said, ”like the settlers: look – this road we are driving on? Built by the settlers, and our independent governments have done nothing to maintain it in fifty years. Why should I pay my taxes if I do not benefit?”

What? No benefit at all – but what about government hospitals and schools? I pressed

Hah! scoffed the cab driver: ”government schools teach our children nothing and in the hospitals women are having their babies stolen”.

Stolen?!

Yes, he says, ”if a woman has a daughter and wants a son, her family will pay the doctors or nurses to steal her a new baby boy”.

Such exhortation is at every level. It’s endemic, and like a perpeutally evolving and lethal virus it’s impossible to avoid infection.

If those who talk about making poverty history are serious, they’d better implement a cure for corruption first.

Only in Africa …

December 6, 2007

Husband – along with several dozen others including a handful of earnest Japanese who are here to plant trees and simultaneously save Africa – spent yesterday in company of Minister for Environment . 

How was your day I enquired politely as I poured him a beer – in manner of dutiful 1950’s wife – when he got home (I’d have got his slippers too were living in the Outpost not reminiscent of residing inside at kiln at present).

Crap, he said.

Oh.

It started late because we all had to wait for the Minister to finish eating his breakfast, then we piled into about 23 Land Cruisers and tore across the bush – so much for the Environment – and then one idiot, driving much too fast in his shiny new 4×4, rolled which slowed up the proceedings all over again.

Oh gosh, I say, was anybody hurt?

No, but there were a few dazed, confused and dusty Japanese rubbing their heads.

How to make Money

October 5, 2007

With Christmas trotting towards us at unseemly pace (even in Muslim dominated, far from anywhere, Outpost we notice this: thanks to satellite television and the calendar counting of a ten year old).

Hat works up to her point with enormous grace and subtly. At first.

”I love Christmas Mum”.

”Do you? I do too’.

”Why do you love it?”

”Because the people I love most in the world are at home”.

”That’s nice”, she acknowledges, with a smile, ”I love it more than my birthday, even”.

”More than your birthday, why’s that?”

”Because on my birthday only I get presents, at Christmas everybody does”.

”That’s nice, Hat”. (I’m a bit distracted, I’m driving to the market and trying to avoid the bicycles that straggle untidyly and dangerous along the road)

”I like giving presents, Mum”.

”Me too”

”But I’m not sure if my pocket money is going to be enough to get presents for all the people I want to buy for” (I empathize – especially given that her list is about four times longer than mine will be).

”You’ll have to save hard”.

”Could I work, do you think? Do chores?” 

”If you promise to leave less of your rubbish scattered around the house, I may up your pocket money”.

She’s not impressed; she’s talking big bucks here. And grand schemes. Grander certainly than picking up her own dirty socks.

”Why don’t I go to work in Kaidi’s shop?”

Kaidi is the Arab who runs the local duka (we arrive armed with ambitious shopping list and leave with 40 loo rolls and a Bounty to make us feel better). Hat would barely be able to see above his counter far less get at stuff on shelves. She might attract business though; nobody’s ever seen a white child serving in a shop in this part of the world. Ever.

”You can’t do that”.

”Why not? I’ve seen Indian and African children working in shops here”.

”Yes, I know, but they’re Tanzanians, you can’t work here because you’re not”.

”How does dad work here, then?”

(This conversation is going waaaaaaay off track).

”He has a work permit”.

”Can’t I get a work permit?”

”No Hat, you can’t. Let’s think of some other way you can make some money”.

Hat does. That evening she invites me into her bedroom. Once again it’s decorated with candles, much like it was when we visited Madame Marcia.  Hat, however, looks a bit different this time; she has donned something resembling a multi-coloured wig made of that glitzy ribbon smarter people than I use to knot elaborately around gifts.

”Who are you?” I ask (I know better than to assume she’s still Hat).

”Medusa”.

(We have learned about Medusa as part of our History of Art course in school; Hat has drawn a picture of her which now glowers down at me from schoolroom walls).

”You seem quite friendly to be Medusa”, I observe

She grins and proceeds with business like haste, no time for small talk, Medusa, clearly.

”Now listen”, she instructs bossily, ”I have alot of useful things here for you to buy”.

Ah.

She proffers a host of small dishes and bowls which as far as I can tell in the dim light thrown by two flickering candles contain the likes of soy sauce, coriander seeds, cinnammon bark and a mixture of unpopped popcorn and lentils.

”This”, says Medusa, motioning to the soy sauce, ”is dragon’s blood. It will protect you against snakes, but will attract bats. It is 50/- a portion” (Clever, clever girl; she knows I hate snakes but don’t mind bats).

”These”, she continues, indicating the coriander seeds, ”are memories, their smell is more than enough to knock a knight from his steed. If you manage to take a sniff without dying (I do – sniff – and I don’t – expire), your memory will become 100% better” (another clever obervation about her mother on my daughter’s part: I spend my life hunting for car keys because I can’t remember where I put them, whilst simultaneously swearing – I used to say pardon my French until Hat said ”I’m learning French now, you know, and that’s not French”).

”They’re also 50/-”.

Medusa/Hat proceeds, ”these are crushed dragon bones. They are brilliant in rabbit stew and if you eat them like that, you’ll be able to jump twice as high as you can now” (that’d be handy) although dragons won’t like you much (oh dear).

The cinnamon bark is snake skin, I am told, harvested from her own tresses/gift tie and will render me ”Medusa’s new sister”.

The small glass of what looks like apple juice is – apparently – pig’s urine which will quench my thirst for ten hours but then I will always have to drink it or I shall always be thirsty. Or something like that. Which will, of course, oblige me to keep buying the stuff … a very clever marketing ploy I felt?

Hat tallies up what I’ve bought – or rather she counts up the cost of the seven ingredients she has thrust upon me presuming I have a need of all of them. She looks crestfallen.

”That’s only 350/-” she says, but then she brightens,” oh that’s far too cheap, I’ve made a mistake: everything is 100/- each: 700/- please.  You can drop it at the door as you leave”.

I do. In fact I pay her double (which only amounts to about a dollar); the entertainment alone was worth ten times that.

Why Smoking is good for Africa

October 1, 2007

There is a story in the national paper that suggests ”alternative marketable crops” ought to replace tobacco; Tanzania is one of Africa’s biggest tobacco growing regions now. It generates millions of dollars in foreign exchange. It provides an income for thousands; we are engaged with 55,000 farmers, each supporting families and their income contributes hugely to the local economy: during the tobacco sales the population of the Outpost swells threefold because everybody’s got money to spend. And the Outpost represents only a tiny percentage of the growing region.

The story, prompted by the view of a holier than thou NGO – naturally, describes how local tobacco farmers – peasant farmers in the case of Tanzania, not commercial farmers – need to be mindful of environmental and personal health. Tobacco growing – says the journalist – can be harmful to the farmers’ health. Yes, it can be. If he isn’t vigilent about protection during insecticide application (as every farmer must be, regardless of crop) or if he handles the tobacco whilst wet (something which he would not be likely to do since harvesting occurs during the dry season).

The NGO who argues that tobacco growers must seek alternative cash crops needs to get out more (I think that’s what the shiny 4×4 is for love?) and learn something about tobacco first.

1. tobacco grows in marginal land – hot, dry, sandy areas – which would not, for example, despite what NGO suggests, be suitable for the growing of export vegetables which are thirsty and fussy and like rich soils in temperate climes, indeed such country battles to support local crops like maize;

2. tobacco growing, despite what the NGO says, is not solely responsible for the devastation of forests. No – that would largely be the result of unsupported subsistence farming which has not had the benefit of education and exposure to Good Agricultural Practices.

3. tobacco growers’ conditions, because they are growing for large international buyers, are monitored stringently by international growers’ bodies. Did you know, for example, that tobacco farmers uses signifcantly less chemicals than the farmers who plant the mangetout that end up on the shelves of Sainsbury do?

4. tobacco farmers make much more money than the farmers who grow crops advocated by the NGO: export veg sells at about 50cents a kilo, and the export veg market (monopolised by the likes of Tesco) is an ugly, competitive, wasteful business; paprika retails at very much less (in the journalist’s piece a 100kg bag which the poor farmer carted half way across the country to sell went for less than $6 – do the math, it’s not much per kilo). Tobacco farmers can sell their crop at upwards of a dollar a kilo; the price rising in accordance with quality. There is little waste and no obligation on the farmers’ part to move their crop; buyers do that for them. Just as they provide finance to get them going and technical know-how.

I’m going to be shot down in flames now but the reality is hundreds of thousands of people still smoke. It’s a free world; if they choose to despite knowing the risks, why can’t they. And if Africa has the space and manpower and the climate to produce the necessary and make more for peasant farmers than organic vegetables, why can’t she?

It’s unlikely the British government is ever going to promote a grow-local venture in the case of baccy. Besides, Britain doesn’t have the sunshine.

Yes, yes, I know I’m biased.  But the thing is: if the tobacco industry here imploded tomorrow, we – my husband and I – have the wherewithal, the education, the experience to do something else.

The 55,000 tobacco farmers don’t. Despite what silly NGO thinks.

How Can you Make Poverty History if you haven’t seen the Poverty?

September 27, 2007

Well I got a response. Just the one. To the several dozen letters I wrote to all those who aspire to Make Poverty History. I won’t reveal precisely who wrote – not Bono or Damon or Mr Brown – a mere minion, but he was – at least – kind enough to take the time to write.

Thanks for taking the time to write a letter so well rooted in your deep experience and love of Africa.  My name is x and I’m the director of y,  Thanks for the advice contained in your message.  I think many people around the world have begun to realize the many failures of “western aid” to Africa.   I would like to think that our project will improve the lives of particularly women and children, while also allowing people to be healthy enough to engage in the sorts of work that it sounds like you and your husband are providing for people

Alot of placatory blah, blah, really.

But it was the writer’s post script that I thought most telling:

I’ve never had the pleasure of spending time in your part of the world, but have always wanted to. 

Hmmm. Perhaps – given what he does – he ought to.

The Future of Africa’s Forests

September 17, 2007

Driving from the Outpost to camp in the Middle of Nowhere made for welcome escape.  Getting away from it all was how His Nibs put it. What the All is – exactly – is tricky to articulate when one lives in an Outpost such as this: certainly not the traffic. Or the hurlyburly 9 to 5 existence the rest of world is obliged to live. Or – more’s the pity – a social life. But it offered a welcome opportunity to get away from something.

And – much less welcome – bitter, bitter reminder of what may become of Africa unless something is done soon. Of what may already have become of her.

Our 100 mile drive took us through beautiful Miombo woodland and indigenous forest, just beginning to show new lacy green ahead of the rain (how does Mother Nature know when it’s going to rain; for she does: all the signs of imminent showers are here).

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But then – quite suddenly, as we rounded a bend – huge swathes, huge ugly holes in the forest, where the trees have been slashed and the scrub burned. Each new, hopeful glimpse of trees still standing was shattered by corresponding devastation.  Like some ominous tableau of the future of our planet.

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Sinsister rows of bags of charcoal stood n ranks beneath healthy trees, macabre omen of what would become of the trunk and boughs offering shade.

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Africa’s forests are disappearing with horrifying speed. Each season thousands of trees are felled to clear land to cultivate maize. Why can’t they leave the trees, I want to know, plant around them. My husband has farmed here for more than 20 years. He sighs. They can, he says, it’s just easier – quicker – to cultivate without trees in the way. But the trees would offer the crop shade and sustain the soil, he adds. As it is, every year, as acres of indigenous forest fall, so the problems that accompany deforestation are exacerbated: erosion leaves ugly gashes in the earth’s suface, the soil is powdery like talc, testimony to its flimsy structure: it cannot hold water or nutrients or a crop of maize.

When trees aren’t being felled to cultivate, they’re falling to the charcoal burners. If I have the ear of Messers Affleck and Damon, perhaps they could consider promoting some of the fledgeling alternative fuel enterprises here? Save Africa’s trees boys, that’ll save lives. For it’ll save an Africa to grow food in.

Some of the trees were strung with beehives – bedecked like some alternative Christmas tree. This region is the primary honey producer in Tanzania.  Honey hunters fashion hives out of bark and hang them high in the uppermost reaches of the trees. It sounds – and looks – the ultimate in organic honey harvesting.

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Except that it’s not.  In order to acquire the bark necessary to make the hives, the hunters ring bark trees. Which die.

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In one small copse of trees, the bark hives had been replaced by synthetic ones. Certainly they were less attractive, but they still do the job. Without compromising the future of the forest.

Soon – on account of the shortsighted cultivation methods, the charcoal burners, the honey hunters, there will be no trees left to harbour the pollen and insect population necessary to support the region’s biggest industry; there will be no shade under which toiling farmers can rest, no leaf fall to add depth and substance to the soil, no trees to hold Africa together.

Anybody engaged in Making Poverty History must see the big, big picture. Not just fleeting glimpses of bits of it. In order to make poverty anything approximating history, those who are engaged in the effort must understand the hearts and minds of Africa and rural Africans.  What use is a drive to save lives from disease if they’re going to fall to hunger? Because the land will not yield food, because livelihoods – like those of the honey hunters – have been compromised by the fall of the forests. It’s not about being an idealisitc well fed tree-hugger; it’s about understanding that each piece of a jigsaw must be within reach in order for a picture to be whole. If just one is missing, the picture lacks cohesion and substance and meaning and – most importantly – sustainability.

If aid agencies could reflect on the whole, and if they consolidated efforts to do as much, perhaps there’d be a chance.  In one area of slash and burn, where the trees had almost all gone and the ground quite bare, black where the scrub had been subjected to recent fire, grey where the ash still clung to the dust, I spotted a gentlman clamber out of a 4×4 bearing the name and logo of an international medical aid organisation. He was, judging by the way he was instructing the labour involved in the exercise, clearly ringing the death knell of this particular patch of forest.

But I oughtn’t be so harsh; he’s got the lofty job of saving lives. Why on earth would he need to worry about the future of Africa’s forests?

 

 

My Tuppence Worth

September 14, 2007

No point in whining about a thing if you’re not prepared to take some action. So I’ve written a letter to Bono, my mate Matt and all the boys who Make Poverty History. I doubt anybody will write back; I’ll let you know if they do:

Dear Sirs 

It is difficult to know how to begin this letter. How to start in order that I can grasp your attention before you bin it?  You’re busy, I know, and I’m sure you receive sack loads of mail every day. 

If I were to begin by revealing that I am the descendent of East Africa’s earliest white colonizers, you’d dismiss me as being inherently un PC.

If I were to tell you that I am a housewife and mother of three, you’d sigh heavily and say ‘oh gawd, some silly woman who thinks she knows what she’s talking about’.

If I were to tell you that I never went to university, you’d presuppose I didn’t have the education and couldn’t possibly offer anything in the way of value to an operation that posts jobs for policy managers, research analysts and advocacy specialists. 

But I am working on the assumption that – because you are of charitable disposition – you will read a little further to understand what it is I might have to say.  

As the spawn of settlers I have no other home.  My family has been here since my grandfather – a man of modest means from Scotland – arrived in 1904 – over 100 years ago. That means two things: that I have a fundamental and intimate knowledge of my part of Africa (her language, her geography, her problems, her people, her soul, her vulnerabilities, her cunning). And – because it’s home – I really do give a damn. It probably also makes me a little cynical of many aid efforts. But a little cynicism gives an edge of reality. And that’s always a useful thing to have when addressing a problem. 

As a woman, I empathize with African woman and I have observed them: they are Africa’s spine. As a mother, I understand what children need in terms of care and education. As a housewife, I understand about budgets and monitoring what I spend; I know how to worry about money. 

As for the fact I didn’t go to University, one ought not to overestimate the value of higher education: it’s not what knowledge a person has that counts, it’s how they use that knowledge.  

So, in the hope you’ve got this far down the page and haven’t dismissed what I might have to offer before I’ve even started simply because I lack the conventional credentials, let me assume for a moment that I am the decision maker in your organization.  

This is what I would do:  I’d stop considering Africa in such patronizing light for a start. Africa has resources and manpower. It might seem a hopeless case, but there is hope. Little shards of it glinting amongst the chaff.  Like needles in a haystack, not easy to find and careful you don’t prick your fingers whilst trying.  I’d put those resources to work – nothing is so rewarding – so morale boosting – as a little bit of successful commerce. Why must Africa always be regarded in terms of handouts? What about a leg up instead? I’d offer loans – or inputs – with attractive conditions to farmers and small producers. That’s what my husband does: provides the inputs to 50,000 smallholders who grow tobacco. Once the crop is in and the farmers have been paid, they are in a position to pay their loans back and possibly extend the reach of their land in order to increase their earnings next year. Yes, yes, I know growing tobacco isn’t terribly PC anymore, but it’s a great deal more PC than adding another 50,000 families to Africa’s list of hungry and impoverished.  And anyhow, it doesn’t have to be tobacco: it could be any number of things. Africans are amongst the best traders in the world – look at their markets for God’s sake – realize that potential; embrace them in commercial ventures. It’s much less demoralizing than throwing money at a problem. And much more sustainable.  

 I’d concentrate my efforts on women. I’d certainly employ them to monitor my projects in Africa – in the end they are responsible for the welfare of their children (single parenting and domestic violence are the reality for many African women – and they don’t have access to the support their similarly suffering peers in the West do). Should you question my applause for the African women, assuming I’m a wicked old man-hater (I’m not, I’m happily married, thanks), let me put to you a challenge: the next time you’re on the continent and being driven from one charitable effort to another in a nice new air-conditioned 4×4, take a look out of the window: who’s selling tomatoes on the roadside? Who’s carrying water? Or firewood? Who’s roasting maize cobs or brewing tea in the hope of tickling the taste buds of passers by and enticing a little trade? Who’s weeding that field? Now look again: who’s under a tree smoking and gossiping with his mates?  

And I’d educate the children. But in a less conventional way than we do our own privileged children: remember an African child has probably never had access to a jigsaw puzzle or a book. I’d teach them to learn first. For then my education programs would be much more meaningful.  

 I would understand the media that Africans rely on for information: the radio, their own language newspapers. And I’d understand the enormous part cell phones play in their lives and see if I couldn’t manipulate that to good use.  (Did you know, for example, that brewery profits have slumped since the mobile phone arrived here: the blokes would rather the kudos of owing and using a cell phone than forking out for a beer)? 

So, that’s what I’d do. And I’d do it by surrounding myself with people who could help me implement my plans because they know Africa as well as I do. Because they understand her machinations, her strengths, her limitations. Because they have lived with her. Because they love her.  

But as I said, if you’ve even got this far, now’s the time to diss what I think: after all, I’m just a mum: what would I know? But even if I have made you consider Africa’s difficulties from a new perspective for the briefest moment, I’m glad I took the time to write.  

Thanks     

And now I’ll get off the soapbox I’ve been teetering on all week. Not content with relocating the family to splendid Outpost isolation, husband has organised that we go camping this weekend. To get away from it all, he says.

Get away from what exactly, I wanted to ask.