Did you see that giraffe?

Bike2Malawi tricyclist, Daphne Loads, writes:

As part of #Bike2Malawi in support of MMF for girls’ education in Malawi, I’m tricycling 420 miles around my corner of beautiful East Lothian. At the same time I’m travelling in my imagination from Cape Town to Gqeberha (formerly Port Elizabeth) following part of Mamie and Jack Martin’s route from Scotland to Malawi 100 years ago.

I’m having fun imagining that wild roses are proteus flowers and that the weasel streaking across my path the other day was actually a mongoose. My familiar beds and borders have been transformed into the stunning vistas of Stellenbosch and Betty’s Bay, the sites of two of South Africa’s botanical gardens.

This virtual journey reminds me of Michael Marra’s song in which he spells out the consequences “If Dundee was Africa”. Mischievously, he points out that Aberdeen would be at the bottom of the Mediterranean Sea and that, with a sunnier climate, Broughty Ferry would seem not bad. I think Marra’s hilarious lyrics also highlight the serious difficulty of trying to imagine other lives and other circumstances in different countries.

If East Lothian *were* Africa (sorry, I can’t help being pedantic …) it’s unlikely that I would have gone to university, or indeed survived into my sixties. Statistics for educational participation and life expectancy are relatively easy to compare. I find it more difficult to think about how these differences came about, why they continue and what we should do to tackle them. I can’t imagine what it’s like to miss out on schooling for lack of basic items. I don’t know what it feels like to have my education financed by a stranger on a bike.

Difficult as it is to imagine other people’s realities, I’m convinced it’s worth the effort, even if we sometimes get things wrong.

Did you see those giraffes?