We Do Too Little for the Place We All Should Call Home: Africa

The Register Guard (Eugene, OR), December 27, 2009 | Go to article overview
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We Do Too Little for the Place We All Should Call Home: Africa


Byline: Sriram Kh For The Register-Guard

DAR ES SALAAM, Tanzania - When students asked me about my winter break plans, my favorite reply was a simple one-liner: "I am going home."

Their typical response was something along the lines of, "Oh, how long will you be in India?" That is all the opening I needed to engage them in a discussion of how Africa is the "home" for all humans. The "roots" of Alex Haley's Kunta Kinte are connected to our own collective narrative as well.

Tanzania offers a compelling argument for why it is home to humans - going back to hominids, who were human-like precursors to our kind. The evidence, in this case, includes the well-preserved footprints of hominids in northern Tanzania, estimated to be 3.75 million years old.

Further, with coffee having originated in Ethiopia, the stretch of Africa that includes Tanzania, Kenya and Ethiopia is an important ancestral home to this avid coffee drinking human.

Tanzania is merely one country in the African continent, and at almost a million square kilometers, Tanzania has about four times the area of Oregon. Yes, four times - that is how large the country is. Dar es Salaam, the capital city, and its neighboring region has a population roughly equal to that of the entire state of Oregon.

One can, therefore, easily imagine the challenge at the very early stages of planning the trip - how choose the parts of Tanzania to visit over the three weeks I will spend here. Of course, I am here to focus on a research question, but more on this later.

As I continued to work on my going-home travel plans, I brought in Africa and Tanzania as examples at the appropriate moments in my classroom during the recently concluded fall term.

For instance, during a discussion on global climate change, I used maps to point out that the electricity consumption in New York City alone was equal to the consumption in all of sub- Saharan Africa, with the exception of South Africa. Yes, it caught the students' attention.

Students' response has been the same over the years: They are excited to learn about the continent of Africa when provided with the chance, and utterly disappointed if there is nothing presented despite their genuine interest in learning more.

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We Do Too Little for the Place We All Should Call Home: Africa
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