aWhen the Corona pandemic broke out two years ago and many countries closed their borders, the German world traveler Lena Wendt also had to make a decision: return to Germany or stay in Morocco?
She stayed and used the forced lockdown break to write down her experience in 25 African countries over a twelve-year period (“Thank you Africa! What I learned from my life between Djibouti and Morocco”). As in her first book “Reiss aus”, of which a film version was also shown in cinemas, her words were not understood and woe; The 36-year-old describes Africa’s problems and contradictions in a way like no other.
Globalism: Finding a way back to your old joy after lockdown – the ‘recipe’ for many Germans is sun, warmth, music and dance. What African countries are particularly suitable for such a “treatment”?
Lena Wendt: For someone who has never been to the African continent before and feels like drumming and dancing, I would say: Go to The Gambia. While you are in the capital more than the nightclubs and bars people party to, there are soon live concerts by musicians and drum groups around Sanyang Beach every evening in high season.
The Gambia calls itself the “Smiling Coast”. That’s right, the country is small, the weather is lively, the people are fun, the beaches are beautiful and the music is life.
Globalism: Is dancing and drumming less in the neighboring countries of the Gambia?
Fendt: The Gambia is a good country for beginners because it speaks English and is easy to navigate. Of course there are good musicians and drum builders in every country, but only a few Africans can afford the cost of drumming. That’s why people often sing and dance in churches during services or when someone starts hitting an empty container with a shoe and then others join the spontaneous session.
So my advice: whoever travels to Africa should buy a drum first; If you then unwrap it no matter where, the party will never end. promise!
Globalism: The old movie cliché of Africa with a magical ritual by the light of torches – does that still exist today?
Fendt: Of course there are ceremonies and magical rituals. Anyone interested should go to the Voodoo Festival in Benin – with campfire, drums, and ecstasy. Cartoon beliefs are deeply rooted in many Africans, as evidenced by the monkeys some wear around their necks or the scars on their skin.
If you are lucky, you may see griots performing, these are musicians, storytellers and magicians whose families keep centuries old knowledge. Spirituality and ancestor worship in West Africa in particular are still a part of everyday life.
Globalism: And how does that look?
Fendt: In Togo, for example, you can find dried animals for various types of magic in the markets. When someone gets sick or dies, people respond with “God wanted it this way” or explain it with magic. They believe in wards, expelling demons and calming spirits.
I also wrote about this in my first book, which describes my two-year trip to West Africa in a Land Rover; My new book is about my experience as a nomad in Africa.
Globalism: Would you rather travel across Africa as a nomad or a traveler?
Fendt: As a bottom party, I was traveling with my boyfriend at the time. I mostly do backpacking trips on my own, which has the advantage of connecting with locals faster – and saving money. Five euros a day, in my experience, is usually enough to eat, sleep, travel and one activity or the other.
Globalism: Only five euros?
Fendt: Of course, this does not work everywhere. In countries where the US dollar is the second currency, such as Liberia, housing in particular is relatively expensive. The same thing in Djibouti in East Africa, despite the widespread poverty there.
It also works without cash if you make barter transactions. This actually always works, although some Africans are surprised at first because they are more accustomed to gifts than white people. But gifts – I have learned this in my travels – are of much less value in Africa than they are exchanged.
Globalism: What you mean?
Fendt: Example: There is a surf camp in Liberia – and if the local kids are collecting trash, they can borrow the boards and surf for free. But as soon as the tourist comes along, the boys beg for surfboards, repair kits, and surf wax. This works.
Someone just drove a truck full of surfboards over there. The boys don’t have to do anything and always get something for free. And so they are there all day, even though they have nothing else to do. to collect garbage? Why, it’s free too.
Globalism: Gifts make you lazy, is that what you’re saying?
Fendt: If I want or need something and someone will come and give it to me – who says no? Perhaps there is also the idea that the person who gives me a skateboard is swimming in the money.
But if I don’t have to do anything and don’t even know the value of the gift, will I take care of it? So I think bartering is the best way, even if it’s the coconut from the tree you get in exchange.
Globalism: What are travelers supposed to do with a bag full of coconuts?
Fendt: They drank faster than you think. And you can share nuts with others. When exchanging, it’s not about the same value, it’s about indicating that you are on an equal footing.
Globalism: One of the things one learns from reading your book is that backpackers should wear a long, loose-fitting shirt for cross-country trips, because it is “protected from unintentionally peeping too deeply when urinating in groups on the street.” Peeing without a privacy screen – wouldn’t it shame the locals?
Fendt: (He laughs) I have asked some of my friends if they feel ashamed to go to the bathroom. In Morocco, where I live, everything is quiet and discreet, and people who use the toilet usually turn on the tap so that it is not heard. On the other hand, in sub-Saharan Africa, it is no problem to go into the bush along with it.
Globalism: Keyword Busch: I was on a safari in the Okavango Delta, and I saw the Big Five feeding hyenas in Ethiopia. But you seem particularly fascinated by dogs, which you keep referring to in your book. Are African dogs different from European fur noses?
Fendt: Most of the African dogs I’ve seen up close have been incredibly relaxed and intelligent. They attach themselves to your heels when they curse that they can land on you. So watch out, you may come to Africa alone and come back in pairs.
Globalism: You yourself stayed in Morocco, where you adopted a dog and married a man. Is that the title of the book “Thank you, Africa!”?
Fendt: Yes, but not only, I have a lot to thank Africa for the many new friendships, the wonderful moments in nature, more rhythm, more lightness, more joy of life. In Africa there is still this naturalness of welcoming people, of receiving strangers, that curiosity, openness, time and a desire for mutual exchange. And it’s natural to help someone and make time for them, even if you don’t know each other.
Globalism: Are tourists coming to Morocco again in greater numbers?
Fendt: Morocco continues to adhere to strict entry rules for air travelers. This has a negative impact on tourism. I teach yoga at several surf camps – sometimes I have two guests at one camp and ten at another.
Nothing can be planned, because it can happen that guests test positive shortly before the flight. While I hope that travel will become easier again and that more tourists will come, at the same time I pray that this does not happen.
Globalism: What you mean?
Fendt: Once the hotels are full, it’s all about the money. Nobody cares about the environment, the growing mountains of garbage and the pervasive water shortage. I live in the Agadir region. I was here for the first time in 2012. At that time everything was littered and the Bedouins were walking around with their camels.
Today there is almost no place that is not built with hotels and apartments. The government wants to pave the entire coast with hotels. Tuareg with camels and cowboys on the beach with horses were no longer allowed on the main beach, as they used to rent their animals to tourists.
Globalism: But no tourism is absolutely not a solution, is it?
Fendt: Much can be gained if people travel more consciously, for example use resources in moderation, bring refillable drinking bottles with them, shop at local markets, sit on a small cart to take a picture instead of a quad bike, preferring smaller accommodations in large hotels.
Lina Wendt’s book “Thank you, Africa! What I learned about life between Djibouti and Morocco”, published by Kupres, in 271 pages and costing 18 euros. The writer lives in Morocco, where she teaches yoga classes, lena-wendt.com.