practicing talking about kenya, somewhat exhausted by it

  • i wondered how this part would be, coming home from a trip to kenya and having to talk to people about ‘africa’ and being a rich white tourist in kenya and so on. so far it is patchy and a bit exhausting, but i think i’m getting better.
  • first good talk with my mum about race and white privilege. finally enough tries.
  • i always need some practice to express things in a way people can understand. maybe because i spend so much time alone, and nonverbally? and hypertextually? i’ve really gotten to where i think in a big cloud of bits, not a focussed or linear way without effort.
  • a product of my thinking too much without talking… a lot of catching up to do on the talking front.

things that came up that i expected:

  • people generalizing about “africa” when i’m talking about specific places in kenya
  • people defining kenyan (and generalized african) societies as on a path of progress or evolution or civilization than ends up at a north american model
  • people much more willing to define or consider social problems in africa than problems at home
  • people defining the colonization process in canada as “more successful” than in kenya without considering that calling this successful defines genocide and occupation as a success strategy as long as it results in consumer luxuries.
  • people judging social and environmental problems in kenya and africa without considering their causes in western countries
  • when i try to process parts of my own privilege i’m uncomfortable with, decisions i would make differently now, i get back a lot of… like apologetic responses. ‘oh you did fine, how could you know any better? no one can do better anyway. that’s how things are.’ so many ways to silence a conversation.

Snacks: a last holdout against globalization

I just spent two weeks in Scotland and England with my mum. It was lots of fun, but I was a little disappointed in how similar everything was to home.

When I was in Europe in 2003, the fashion was so far ahead I could only point and laugh, and there were always some obvious local specialties. In Holland, every pub had Heineken and Grolsch on tap, as you’d expect. Bars in Granada served free tapas with every drink; bars in Barcelona didn’t.

On this trip, we had to hunt and hunt to find anything we couldn’t get in Vancouver. There were more people dressed fashionably, but the frontiers of fashion were set in approximately the same places as they are here.

I made my mum take a highway exit twice so that I could get another fleeting glimpse of some highland cattle, because they were so hard to find. Despite spotting millions of sheep in the countryside, we were hard pressed to find any non-tourist shops selling local woolens. Do Scottish people ignore their huge wool harvest, or do they just wear the dumb tourist sweaters? It was frustrating.

Right after my mum and I had been sort of lamenting that globalization had made travel more boring, we stopped to buy some snacks for the trip to the next place. I remembered all the weird chips and candy I’d hoarded in Eastern Europe, and made a trip down the “crisps and biscuits” aisle.


Walker's Lamb and Mint Flavour Crisps

Nobby's Nuts

The green V logo in the corner of the next one means “suitable for vegetarians.”

Bacon Streakies

Besides the snack differences, the UK might be the world headquarters for design that uses an object to replace a letter in its own name. Every mention of Italy used the boot for the L; every fish shop’s name was spelled with a fish… every package of bacon streakies had a little bacon streaky for an I. So there’s that.