Archive for July, 2014

Filed Under (General) by Rob on 30-07-2014

Another ‘top ten’ for you today, based upon my day’s experience, and another 9 years living in this continent:

1. Smoke from a log fire – it’s just not the same as a bonfire or barbecue smell, but I love it! It also probably means that something tasty is being cooked!

2. Diesel – particulary from lorries, although a Peugeot pickup passed us today and was belching out an amazing quantity of smelly smoke.

3. Baygon bug spray – it does what it says on the tin, but it doesn’t half stink!

4. Sandy dust after a vehicle passes – close your mouths folks!

5. ‘Jungle Formula’ insect repellent – I’m wearing it now, and it’s a kind of a lemongrass-type smell I’ve grown to quite like over the years.

6. Open sewers – not pleasant.

7. Perspiration – it happens! But most of the time it’s fairly bearable 😉

8. Strong ladies’ perfume – that’s the perfume’s aroma, not the ladies who are strong (though many are).

9. African rain – before you write in to complain, I know that rain itself doesn’t smell of much. But the smell of the streets, lawns, plants and trees after a rainfall is heavenly indeed.

10. Roast chicken – fresh in my mind as I just had some. On many street corners in a big African city, you can find folk roasting or grilling chicken, often on a rotisserie. Very tasty, and tonight’s dinner was not exception (even if it did take 90 minutes to arrive!

Thanks for reading.


1. How ‘outdoors’ everything is – people chatting on the streets, preparing food in their courtyards, selling all kinds of things, all outside. Streets are busy, active places. Few people own a car, and so the outdoors is where people meet each other. I guess it was like that in the West years ago too (though perhaps less in winter!)

2. How everyone is part of everyone else’s world. Unless you live in Yorkshire, you’re pretty unlikely to randomly address strangers in the street back home. Here, it’s completely normal. You can talk to anyone at any time, and you’ll never get that surprises – almost put out – look for ‘invading’ their personal space or peace and quiet. Community is still real here. I guess it was like that in the West once, too.

3. How nothing has a price (until you name it!) Visit a market in the UK, and you’ll see signs reading “Potatos £1.20 a kilo” or “Tomatoe’s £1” (and, yes, usually spelt like that!!) On an African market, there are not prices – YOU name the price you want and they will tell you if it’s high enough. If not, you discuss the price until you’ve reached an agreed amount.

4. Palm trees! Now, I’ve seen enough of these to know that they are not the ‘symbol of paradise’ many Westerners perceive them as. That said, there’s something wonderfully beautiful about these plants, and vastly different from any flora which grows in British climes.

5. How much dodgy wiring there is everywhere. In Britain, health and safety has gone mad! However, it does mean that you can put a plug into a socket without worrying that you’ll get zapped by 220 volts every time! I NEVER touch a plug with bare feet in Africa (once was enough!)

6. The absence of carpets. Why would you want them in a hot climate anyway? Rather, a nice mosaic-tiled floor, or even just polished concrete, does the job!

7. Flat roofs and white concrete walls. Now, where I live, it’s pitched roofs and red brick walls in most places. Not in Africa. Of course, there are mud huts and all kinds of other permutations, but the white walled, flat roofed building is number 1 in Urban Africa.

8. The sounds of an African night. Where I live is pretty rural. However, the nights are still silent, as far as animal life is concerned. In Africa, you can hear crickets, cicadas, frogs, fruit bats and all kinds of other wee beasties, all singing a delightful cacophony from dusk till dawn.

9. How clapped out most taxis are! Of course, there are some nice ones, but in many cases a cracked windscreen, poorly-fitting doors, missing seatbelts or non-existent suspension are the order of the day. This is what makes public transport in Africa interesting, after all!

10. How many warm smiles you see, in spite of adversity. British people smile sometimes. But usually when you’ve told them a joke or when they’re really happy. Africans are either happier in general, or just smile more. I passed a beggar in the street today, with little more than a few coppers in his small plastic bowl. He gave me the best smile I’d seen in a long time. Maybe it was like that in the West once, too.

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