The American expat in Africa

It’s always a strange thing to meet those from your own country when visiting another country. Some people love it. I oft times avoid it. Obviously when in Europe, this happens a great deal as many Americans go to Europe. Of course, it’s not often the case that I mingle with them so much as there are the rare few who like to travel the way that I do. Let me emphasize that it’s not necessarily the right way to travel, but it works for me and I like it.
Once you cross one of those bodies of water (whether it be Mediterranean or Atlantic) and head in to Africa, the amount of Americans sluffs off a great deal. It’s such a smaller amount and the type of travel in Africa so different that the logical assumption would be that those of us who make it here would have a great deal more in common. The image of the intrepid explorer, pith helmet tucked under the arm, watching gazelles give birth, delving in the “wilds” of Africa tucked in our minds.
But amazingly, this is not the case. It’s hard to describe other than to say that the majority of Americans I’ve met in Africa are well, strange. There seems to be this focus on, “What I have discovered here is mine. You can’t have it, but I’ll tell you about it. Wait, no, don’t come! This is mine!” It’s almost like Americans who make it to Africa feel as if they got in too late in that Colonial carve-up and that they are belatedly discovering something that is unknown.
It is the case that there are some well-known Americans based in Africa who would be, quite honestly, no one but a number in a cubicle in the US were they there. I mean, let’s face it, most of us in the US are indeed just that number, myself included. But in Africa, they are stars. Now, it would be ridiculous to base an entire conclusion on these examples alone, but the people I’ve met outside of these prominent few that I know of, but on the ground, I have yet to dispell this conception, especially seeing more of my country folk in Ghana. Okay, there are one or two Americans I know who are in Africa a lot that are quite cool, but they’re actually everywhere in the world a lot, so they’re somewhat of a different camp.
I’m not really sure if these “turdy” Americans started out this way or it came about over time. I’m a bit worried that they didn’t start out this way in which case I really need to watch my ass and stay open-minded as I travel to Sub-Saharan Africa more. I can’t feel immediately threatened and start urinating around this chunk of African space that I define as mine like this graduate student from San Francisco did the minute I started talking with her and she found out that I’m also from San Francisco and might best her at her own game.
I’m just thankful that I have #1 Fan as well as fans numbered 2-5 (dare I say, 5?) who can kick me in the ass if I start going the way of these fellow Yanks with whom I’m become so perturbed.
The American expat in Africa