Letters 08-31-2015

Inalienable Rights This is a response to the “No More State Theatre” in your August 24th edition. I think I will not be the only response to this pathetic and narrow-minded letter that seems rather out of place in the northern Michigan that I know. To think we will not be getting your 25 cents for the movie you refused to see, but more importantly we will be without your “two cents” on your thoughts of a marriage at the State Theatre...

Enthusiastically Democratic Since I was one of the approximately 160 people present at when Senator Debbie Stabenow spoke on August 14 in Charlevoix, I was surprised to read in a letter to Northern Express that there was a “rather muted” response to Debbie’s announcement that she has endorsed Hillary Clinton for president...

Not Hurting I surely think the State Theatre will survive not having the homophobic presence of Colleen Smith and her family attend any matinees. I think “Ms.” Smith might also want to make sure that any medical personnel, bank staff, grocery store staff, waiters and/or waitress, etc. are not homosexual before accepting any service or product from them...

Stay Home I did not know whether to laugh or cry when I read the letter of the extremely homophobic, “disgusted” writer. She now refuses to patronize the State Theatre because she evidently feels that its confines have been poisoned by the gay wedding ceremony held there...

Keep Away In response to Colleen Smith of Cadillac who refused to bring her family to the State Theatre because there was a gay wedding there: Keep your 25 cents and your family out of Traverse City...

Celebrating Moore And A Theatre I was 10 years old when I had the privilege to see my first film at the State Theatre. I will never forget that experience. The screen was almost the size of my bedroom I shared with my older sister. The bursting sounds made me believe I was part of the film...

Outdated Thinking This letter is in response to Colleen Smith. She made public her choice to no longer go to the State Theater due to the fact that “some homosexuals” got married there. I’m not outraged by her choice; we don’t need any more hateful, self-righteous bigots in our town. She can keep her 25 cents...

Mackinac Pipeline Must Be Shut Down Crude oil flowing through Enbridge’s 60-yearold pipeline beneath the Mackinac Straits and the largest collection of fresh water on the planet should be a serious concern for every resident of the USA and Canada. Enbridge has a very “accident” prone track record...

Your Rights To Colleen, who wrote about the State Theatre: Let me thank you for sharing your views; I think most of us are well in support of the first amendment, because as you know- it gives everyone the opportunity to express their opinions. I also wanted to thank Northern Express for not shutting down these types of letters right at the source but rather giving the community a platform for education...

No Role Model [Fascinating Person from last week’s issue] Jada quoted: “I want to be a role model for girls who are interested in being in the outdoors.” I enjoy being in the outdoors, but I don’t want to kill animals for trophy...

Home · Articles · News · Features · So you want to go to Africa
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So you want to go to Africa

Katie Huston - November 15th, 2007
“Going to Africa? Are you crazy?”
I’m sure that’s what more than a few people thought when I moved to South Africa for eleven months to study and travel. We associate Africa with poverty, corruption, violence, and AIDS. And I’m not here to argue that everything is fine and dandy on the Mother Continent; these are very real issues.
The problem is, that’s where we stop. When you hear about Africa, you hear about disease and failed aid schemes, starvation and war. But you don’t hear much about untouched beaches, hiking and trekking, exotic wildlife, vibrant traditional culture, lush rainforest, vast desert, and the kindness, generosity and resilience of the people.
What’s more, if we want to understand the problems of these troubled nations, we need to experience Africa ourselves and share what we learn. Simply funneling money into the continent is not the solution. Africa can be a fascinating and compelling travel destination for just about anyone, whether you’re a poor college student living like a local or you’re in search of a luxurious safari. Although the airfare’s pricey, once you arrive you can usually travel quite comfortably for far less than it would cost in the developed world; tourism is what supports many Africans, especially if you seek out local-run enterprises rather than profitable foreign programs. You’ll probably get a better deal, and get a much better sense of culture and place while you’re at it.
While in Africa, I traveled for eleven weeks: to Mozambique, Lesotho, Swaziland, Tanzania, Zanzibar, and all through South Africa. It’s impossible to give general travel tips for a continent with 54 countries and 8,000 dialects. Africa is bigger than the U.S., Europe and China combined, and every country and culture is different.

Here’s a few stories, however, that may hold a few general words of advice...

Actually, in some places, a vice-grip would be more appropriate. Better yet, keep it hidden - a bra, ladies, is a surprisingly good place to store all sorts of things, up to and including your cell phone, and I did it regularly. Theft is economically motivated, and in Africa, if you’re white, you’re rich - it doesn’t matter if you’re a poor college student.
For the most part, I was smart and lucky, but on a deserted beach in Mozambique, of all places, I got myself into trouble. I’d left my cell phone (which doubled as my flashlight) in my pants pocket when I threw my clothes off one night for an impromptu swim in the warm Indian Ocean. It was great - until I returned to shore to find my cell phone, sweatshirt and long-sleeved shirt missing. At least the thieves were courteous enough to leave my pants and T-shirt.

It’s likely that your travel plans will change. A “three-hour” boat crossing to Zanzibar will last eight hours. You’ll get flat tires, and your bus will break down. You’ll end up someplace you don’t want to leave. It’s best to give yourself several days of wiggle room - and be prepared to wait. When I stayed with Marisa, a Peace Corps volunteer in rural Lesotho, she told me she spends at least a third of her life walking or waiting for taxis.
Sure enough, I woke at 4:30 a.m. on the morning of my departure to catch a 5 a.m. minitaxi to the nearest proper town, a three-hour ride away. And waited... and waited... until a minitaxi - an ancient VW van, packed with 19 people - finally spluttered by at 9 a.m., four hours later.
However, the experiences gave me a real taste of life for the majority of African people, who accept inconvenience as inevitable. I’m a lot more patient now, and I appreciate our public transportation and the value we place on timeliness. And I’ll never be without a journal and a good book.

Muzungu means “white person” in Swahili, as well as several other East African languages. And “muzungu price” means you’re paying more because you’re white. Sometimes, as in the case of the ferry from mainland Tanzania to Zanzibar, these prices are institutionalized, even legislated. But most of the time, you’re just getting ripped off. When I was sitting alone and ordered a Fanta soda, it cost me 500 Tanzanian shillings; when I was sitting with a local in the same bar, I paid 300.
Paying 40 cents for a Fanta instead of 25 doesn’t hurt me too much. But paying extra for every bus fare and cab ride can be frustrating - and can make a big dent in your budget. (Especially when you find out you’ve paid twice as much as everyone else for a ten-hour bus ride with no air conditioning and one bathroom stop; everyone’s staring at you, the only muzungu on the bus; and the driver keeps asking for your phone number.)
The best way to avoid being overcharged is to travel with locals, or ask people how much something should cost before you purchase it. In some countries, be prepared to bargain not only at markets, where the initial asking price is always too high, but with cab drivers, bus fares, and even hotel rates. However, accept the fact that once in a while, you will be ripped off, and choose your battles.

When you take a tour of the Cape Peninsula in South Africa, you’ll notice the sign: “Baboons are dangerous and attracted by food.” They’ve been known to break into houses in wealthy Cape Town suburbs, raiding fridges, upturning garbage cans, ruining furniture and defecating everywhere.
And despite all this, when I was on safari in Kruger Park, my friend Kunno - a Zimbabwean safari guide, who should’ve known better - announced, “These apples are too mealy. We’re never gonna eat ‘em,” and tossed one out the window as we passed a gang of baboons. Within seconds, the baboons had scrambled onto our car, a Citi Golf without A/C, as we frantically rolled up the windows.
A infuriatingly smart one planted himself right in front of the driver. We tried driving forward. Backward. Throwing more apples to distract him, which he caught without budging. It was 115 degrees, the sweat was puddling in our seats, and we began to panic. If we couldn’t open the windows - SOON - we were going to suffocate. We got away by tossing another apple several feet away from the car, but it was a close call.

This isn’t necessary if you take a South African Greyhound. But if you’re taking a bus trip on a cheaper line or in another country, there’s a good chance the stops won’t look like your typical American rest area. In fact, they might not even involve toilets.
When I took a cheap overnight bus in South Africa, a bathroom stop occurred when someone stood up in the back of the bus and bellowed in seSotho or isiXhosa (common black languages in South Africa) The driver swerved to the side of the road, people piled off, relieved themselves in an open field (and by “open,” I mean no trees or bushes), and climbed back aboard.
This is no problem if you’re a guy, of course, and it’s not too much of a problem if you’re a woman in a long skirt. Capri pants, however, are a bad choice, I learned when a bus full of Africans got a good glimpse of my hindquarters.

No matter what kind of traveler you are, Africa holds something for you. Travel in South Africa will be easier and more familiar than travel in most countries. Taking comfortable guided tours with other Westerners is likely to go more smoothly than traveling on a shoestring budget, local-style (although sometimes that leads to the greatest adventures).
Malaria is no reason not to travel if you take the proper preventative measures, but don’t underestimate the importance of using bug repellant to prevent infection if you’re in a malarial zone.
Get a travel guide - Bradt publishes an excellent Africa line. Talk to other travelers for destinations and tips, and make friends with locals if you truly want to experience Africa. Bring hand sanitizer and T.P., and don’t lose your earrings in a squat toilet.
Be adventurous. Explore. Uhamba kakuhle (“go well” in isiXhosa) and have fun.

From the plains of the Serengeti to the mountains of Lesotho, these were some of my favorite places in Africa.
Top Five Destinations

-Bulungula Lodge, South Africa
This eco-friendly backpacker’s lodge lies in the middle of a remote rural village, at a beautiful river mouth on the Indian Ocean. The lodge is a model of sustainable tourism, 40% owned by the vibrant local community. Locals guide village tours, horseback rides, canoe trips and visits to traditional healers - or you can relax and do nothing at all. It’s hard to leave. www.bulungula.com.

-Tofo, Mozambique
Think the beach is the life? Try Tofo. You can scuba dive with manta rays and snorkel with whale sharks, join the Mozambican kids playing soccer in the sand, or befriend the locals harvesting sea urchins just down the beach. Take a break to enjoy food or drink at a seaside bar. This is the life - and you can live it up, even on a student budget, at Bamboozi or Fatima’s, the two hostels in town.

This tiny country, the “Kingdom in the Sky,” is completely surrounded by South Africa, but it has a distinct culture of its own, marked by patterned Basotho blankets, bizarre hats and transport on horseback. The mountains and waterfalls are breathtaking, it’s much safer than its larger neighbor, and the people are the friendliest I met. If you visit South Africa, be sure to make it part of your trip.

-Serengeti and Ngorongoro Crater, Tanzania
It may sound silly, but when my safari truck bumped through the Serengeti, it was hard not to burst out singing “The Circle of Life.” This is the Africa of the imagination. The Ngorongoro Crater, a World Heritage Site, is breathtaking and packed with herds of wildlife; it’s hard to go on safari and not run into a pride of lions.

Stepping onto the “spice island” is like entering another world. Wander through Old Stone Town, where it’s easy to get lost among the old mosque doors (the island is 98 percent Muslim), and feast on local fish and fresh-squeezed sugarcane juice at the night market. And be sure to get away to the beaches, where the snorkeling and scuba diving is first-class. My five days in Kendwa, on the island’s northern tip - where I lived on the beach for $10 a night - were as close to paradise as I’ve ever seen.
For more African travel destinations and tips, visit www.lonelyplanet.com or

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