Danger When Travelling Abroad
It is no longer business as usual for British, Canadians and Americans travelling abroad. They face hostility in some countries or are murdered or kidnapped because of the passports they carry.
The world has changed. Countries where the British, French, Spanish, Italian and Portuguese settlers walked in, took the land by force and imposed European languages now question that imperial decision. What right did Europe have for the invasion and land theft?
This might be far from tourists' mind when they take holidays abroad, but it might be a good idea to study the political history of the country you intend visiting before you buy the ticket and book a hotel.
This is just a precaution because nobody can predict being taken as a hostage for what his country did abroad.
Respect Local Customs
Tourism is not only about visiting ancient ruins and spectacular waterfalls. It is also an exercise in better cultural and race relations. Being there is not the same as reading about it.
There is no point in taking a plane to another country, if you are not willing to understand how people in other lands live. Number 13 is regarded as bad luck in Europe and North America, that is why the elevator in your office and apartment building doesn’t have a 13th floor.
The same applies to other countries. They have their own beliefs so, do not ridicule customs and traditions of countries you visit. You are not superior in any way.
Tourists Blend in
Get a few survival kits of Balinese, Spanish, Sesotho, French, Hindi, Portuguese and Tagalog phrases together like: How are you? Good morning. Excuse me (although it is now out of fashion). Thank you. May I? What time does the boulangerie patisserie open?
There is nothing that irritates locals like the question, ‘Do you speak English?’ In Paris, one shoe saleswoman looked me straight in the eye and said NO. What can I say?
Better still, take some sign languages classes. They are more effective because anybody will understand when you put fingers in your mouth. That’s right. You are hungry. Bas! As they say in Hindi films.
You are a tourist because you look and act different. Try to blend in.
African Americans are used to be asked questions in Sesotho, Zulu or Xhosa in South Africa. Oops! Most of them look like us.
Do prior research. Buy what locals wear as soon as you land.
O.K. I cannot blend in, even if I’m wearing a saree made in Varanasi, India. I have Africa written all over my glorious self.
Baseball caps are worn all over the world now but ditch them. Buy the straw hats locals have been wearing for ages.
Do not hold hands. Locals do not do it and besides, you can tell when people are in love especially the sad and happy way they look at each other.
Custom Made Tourist Guides
Cuba is one of the few countries in the world where parents still tell kids what to do. It is called child upbringing, not child abuse.
The advantages of little Rodriguez as your tour guide is that he will show you things no other tourist has seen before.
He plays in the mountains and the beaches. He knows where his brother meets his girlfriend. He knows the curfew for certain areas, because of activities that take place out there.
Slow down on the cellphone camera. Don’t act like a typical tourist! Enjoy. Feel. Marinade in the sun and flying little things like stinging you as a way of saying welcome to the neighbourhood.
Rodriguez might detect your genuine interest in his country, and share a piece of fruit with you. Wow! It tastes like grapes and Rodriguez can speak English! Yes he does. Running shoeless on god’s earth does not mean that you are poor or do not understand English.
One disadvantage though is Rodriguez and his pace. You cannot keep up with him. He is too fast. Do not worry. He will be with his friends he recruited along the way without sending a text.
Lesotho is one of the southern countries colonized by the British so English is the only foreign language widely used.
Lesotho is the belly of the beast so to speak, because it is completely surrounded by South Africa. Most families in the rural areas rely on the money miners earn in the South African gold and platinum mines.
Why go to Lesotho at all, you might ask. Driving. Dangerous mountain roads no, not dangerous.
They are selfish roads. They want your undivided attention and there are no DON’T DRIVE AND TEXT signs because you text you die. Period.
You can pick up a car from Johannesburg and GPS will guide you all the way to Maseru. Ask Avis, Budget or any rental agency about gas (filling) stations. They might be quite far apart.
Old school road maps are also available at the counter, after you have produced your driving licence and passport.
Bring swimwear so that you can take a dip in the seductively-blue hotel pool. If you are lucky, you might catch one of the greatest pianists on earth doing his thing.
A visit to Katse Dam is a must and it is not a day trip. Book your rooms at the lodge well in advance.
Destructive Blogs About Africa
Personal blogs are unreliable. They can be very subjective and based on unsubstantiated news headlines. Others are based on misinformation that will forever keep races apart.
One blogger had this to write about Lesotho:
When all was said and done, I decided to travel to Lesotho via a day trip from a backpackers lodge in the northern portion of the Drakensberg region.
Although the trip only lasted six hours, it took me to a remote part of Lesotho that is far off the tourist trail, and gave me a glimpse into the real lives of the Besotho people.
And this says nothing of the problem of HIV in Lesotho, whereas many as one in every two people is infected in some regions.
A rhinoceros has horns. An owl has wings. HIV Aids, poverty, drugs, corruption are not African traits. They are present in your own backyard that is why you avoid certain neighbourhoods in France, Canada and the U.S.
One wonders about the motive of North American tourists posing for photographs with children in Africa, Bolivia or India.
Such images are common on Facebook and Twitter. Charity begins at home. What is important is my attitude to all children in Canada and not outside these borders.
Some Lesotho Information
Government: constitutional monarchy
Royalty: Letsie 111 of Lesotho
Distance Johannesburg to Maseru: 350. 23 km
Currency: Maloti. The rand, the South African currency is used a lot
Cuba and Lesotho are just two examples of how you would plan for a Christmas abroad. It could be any country.
Respect is the key, especially because some locals have zero tolerance for tourists that regard them as a circus and a Facebook photo shoot.