I once had an American pen pal who kept asking me if I saw lions in my front yard and rode bareback on elephants to my bush school. The Africa she knew was confined to silly Eddie Murphy movies and doccies on Discovery Channel that focused on the plains of the Serengeti and the Masai people of Kenya.
( i fought the temptation to send her one of these)
I too knew nothing of where she came from, save for what I had seen on telly, not the documentaries which then I had no access to. In this way yes my home was backward. I only had access to ZTV for information. And the place she came from was fantastic, who could blame her for thinking that the world was my urinal and I had no access to tap water?
Or for the pity that seemed to ooze through every word, every punctuation mark, “how is it,” she asked “do you stay warm at night?”
“Do you sleep around the fire in your hut?”
Far be it for me to say that our house was a solid brick construction with asbestos roofing. Much like that of that hapless Mujuru fella. How could I tell her? For in my letters I poured out my almost orgasmic pleasure at having a friend from the land of my television. I poured out my insecurities and my childish need to be liked (which I carry with me still to this day). My inability to say no and to refute a comment if it meant losing her, and I dint want to lose this one, she was way too 'television'.
Damn the internet for creeping into her life, years before it came into mine. Her letters became less and less, and much shorter. No longer was I an exotic friend to be marvelled at and envied. Instead I felt the mockery and pity from her every word. After all, poverty is not attractive at all... although it does get you a lot of sympathy...sickeningly so.
Which brings me back to the present, I should put a daily reminder to myself. Somalia needs all the sympathy I can give, and you too. Plus money, especially the money.