Pedalling a beat up mountain bike through the slums of Dar es Salaam, I couldn’t help but keep a running mental tally of how many people’s annual salaries my outfit equated to. Sunglasses, iPhone, wedding ring, to say nothing of tattoos – I spent a fair amount of time in Tanzania cheeks a-flush at how frivolous I must look, how my priorities must seem off-kilter.
And yet the people we met confirmed that Maslow was full of horseshit when he drew up his pyramid. Nobody waits until they have potable water and three best friends to start solving problems. People laugh, dance, innovate, get their hair done, and generally act like all people everywhere in the world, regardless of their circumstances.
Poverty isn’t romantic. Subsistence farming isn’t a noble back-to-the-land pursuit. A lot of the people we met would certainly be happier and healthier with a bit more cash, and we tried to tip well and promised to tell everyone we knew to visit Africa. But life is life; we do the best we can with what we have.