The dusty black book: Youthful memories and lessons learned four decades ago

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african journal

A few weeks ago, I pulled one of my old black journals from the storage area, and leafed through pages written four decades ago. As a 25-year-old, I was embarking on a life-changing African experience. Selective parts of that adventure remain vivid in my memory, but the journal brings back the details, along with moments that I perhaps would not wish to remember, and puts everything in context.

These were different times, of course. There was no Internet (at least available to the public) and computers were only making their way from massive corporate data centres to the front lines  — newspapers were starting to replace old typewriters and pneumatic tubes to deliver stories to the composing room, with primitive video display terminals.

Clearly I would be crazy to try the stuff now that I did as a young adult, including hitching a ride on the back of a beer truck through southern Rwanda, and camping out overnight at the border with Burundi before catching a ride on a goods truck to Bujumbura. The place names are exotic enough — although my family had heard them many times over the years.

In 1978-80, communication was anything but rapid. The commonest way for individuals to send messages around the world would be air mail — telegrams were possible, but expensive, and phone communication required very special arrangements and plenty of money. (In fact the only time I received a phone call while I was in Africa was to learn the news that my father had died; setting in motion frantic planning and long flights to return home for the funeral.)

I realized after concluding the African journey that not everyone can experience these sorts of exotic adventures, and that many who spend their lives travelling from distant place to place end up rootless and truly unhappy and unfulfilled (or they are running away from major problems.) But I appreciate with the years and memories the value of pushing out beyond what would be most people’s comfort zones. Memories are important as I continue with business adventures even in 2019, as I struggle with IT challenges and prepare to launch the new daily publication.

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