By Roger Western, G3SXW
Most folks know very little about West Africa. We think of it as uncivilised, dangerous, disease-ridden and war-torn. But what our contest group has found is that these are misconceptions purveyed by sensationalist, mass media – they are entirely contrary to our on-the-ground experiences.
Firstly, almost everywhere we encountered warm, welcoming people who it was a delight to meet. Yes, they have had their political instability and some areas have been war-torn. But even soon after the end of a war we have more than once visited countries only to find genuinely hospitable folks who are glad to see us, and not just for our dollars. But we did notice subtle differences between the dozen or so countries which we have visited over the past two decades. If I were asked for my favourite it would be Ghana, with Liberia a close second. Of course, they are both English-speaking (loosely!) and that helps. But there is, forgive generalizations, indeed a difference between English and French speaking West Africa: the French areas are generally more mercenary, seeking to gain an extra dollar.
In Ghana and Liberia we found happy people. It’s not very often we walk down our streets these days and see folks, not just children, laughing. So I wonder about the health of our rich society. Few people in West Africa have freezers or surround-sound but they are happy. Their society still has structure: morality, honesty, respect for elders, family cohesion. Children proudly wear their school uniform each day. They may not have an iPod or even a calculator but they mostly don’t steal or shoot people.
What a fantastic two decades of travel around West Africa. It is true that Africa gets under your skin because Africans are so ALIVE! And all this happened for us because of amateur radio. A common purpose brought us together to participate in CQWW CW contest year after year. We have forged life-long friendships with many local people.