What That First Visit to Africa Is Like

The feeling struck home within seconds of disembarking.

When the motor-launch deposited me in the cacophony of the quayside, engine churning mats of water hyacinth as it turned to head back across the brown expanse of oily water that was the River Zaire. I was hit by the sensation that so unnerves first-time visitors to Africa. It is that revelatory moment when white, middle-class Westerners finally understand what the rest of humanity has always known – that there are places in this world where the safety net they have spent so much of their lives erecting is suddenly whipped away, where the right accent, education, health insurance and a foreign passport – all the trappings that spell ‘It Can’t Happen to Me’ – no longer apply, and their well-being depends on the condescension of strangers.

– Michela Wrong, In the Footsteps of Mr Kurtz, p. 3.

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