For anyone who is considering travel to Africa, especially solo travel, below are a few stories of the hospitality I have encountered to help you decide to say yes!
While staying at Red Chilli Hideaway, another solo traveler and I met Captain Sandy Newman - a 60 year old Ugandan guy who had come to Red Chilli to watch a soccer match.
The three of us got to talking and the next thing you know, he offers to drive us into town. That then becomes showing us a house he is building, taking us on a tour of Kampala and buying us dinner.
He was one of the first black African airline pilots who was sent to flight school in the US in the 60's and now has a soft spot for Americans. He spent the evening telling us stories, including the time he flew Idi Amin and friends and was given $3000 (keep in mind this is the 70's) cash as a thank you.
While doing a day trip from Nairobi, I was talking to the guide about a place some local people recommended I go dancing on Saturday. He said it was full of tourists and prostitutes and I should go with him to a place for locals. Against someone's better judgement, I agreed.
He took me to a country western bar behind a butcher shop that was filled with 250 Kenyans and me. People were dancing to country songs sung in Swahili and Kikuyu - and eventually an English rendition of Kenny Rodgers' "Coward of the County".
I did my best to represent on the dance floor. Being the only mzungu in the joint, a lot of people watched me every time I got up on the floor. I nodded my head and told people the music was nzuri (good), though honestly some of it was hard to take, and felt like I really did experience a local Kenyan Saturday night.
I have spent the last two days with the monkey guy in Arusha - more on him coming soon.
This afternoon, while I was at his house filming him making the monkey toy, his wife cooked us lunch. The kitchen is the 2 foot space on the floor behind the couch. Here she whipped up ugali and a stew with vegetables and small fish. She even found a fork so I could eat the mzungu way as I was no good at scooping up stew with a handful of ugali. It was very lovely.
Finally, last night as I was walking home, a young woman passed me on the street and said "take care". I knew the area I was staying around the market is not so safe at night but I heard before 10pm is okay and it was only 8pm. Her warning freaked me out a bit but I was only 3 blocks from my hotel.
After one block, the woman came up to me, took my hand, introduced herself as Yasmin and said she would walk me back. "You are like my sister, I know my country, don't worry." My sister appeared to be drunk and/or high, which doesn't seem to make for the best escort. "We must stop by and say hello to my friend, don't worry". What, me worry?
Off the street, through two more doors and we come to a room full of women laying around so we can say hello to Josephine. It is now I realize Yasmin, Josephine and everyone else are most likely hookers.
We leave. Yasmin tells me she has a child buy a German guy, that she knows her country, I am her sister and let's jog the last block. When we arrive, she asks for my email - I give it and can't wait for a message - she writes her phone number while swaying, then kisses me on the cheeks and hugs me goodbye.
The hotel clerk asked where I found her... hey, I was found. We agreed that, there were too many numbers in the phone number Yasmin gave me for it to work, she is a hooker and she is drunk and I am lucky to arrive back safely. But arrive back safely I did escorted most of the way.
These things don't happen when you stay home. Get out there and travel.
P.S. If you haven't read my entry about the Boomu Women's Group in Uganda - go back one space. Coming next... UniquEco Designs!