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mary kariuki

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If you have NEVER been to Africa, when someone mentions "Africa" or you hear "Africa", what is the FIRST thing that comes into your mind?

People associate different regions/continent based on media, informational material, myths, stereotypes and such. The main idea of this discussion is to find out what people who never had "first hand experience" think about the continent. Thanks for your contribution.

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  • Apr 2 2013: sunshine, dust, golden grass, wide open spaces, people having conversations with each other, even if they are on opposite sides of the road, beautiful sunsets, dancing, singing, girls doing each others hair, easy smiles, water shortages, warm rain, the smell of warm asphalt, wild life, poaching, citrus fruits fresh from the tree, little black flies, which get into the corners of your eyes... I could go on for ever... but I shouldn't really be filling this is, I was born in Zimbabwe and lived there the first 19 years of my life :)
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      Apr 4 2013: Hey Doreen,

      Hahhahahahahah......yes people having conversations with each other, even if they are on opposite sides of the road...and to add to your thought Doreen, Yes in Kenya we shout at each other when we are on opposite ridge.....lol.....
      Lol.....At first Doreen I wondered where you got all those right thoughts before I read the last part....born in Zimbabwe...that explains why you describe our beautiful Africa so well.
      Thanks for contributing.....
      Is Doreen Visser a Zimbabwean name?
      Love, Mary
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    Mar 31 2013: Unfortunately my perception is one that has been greatly influenced by the media. First thoughts that arise are those of; chaos, hunger, famine, and poverty. Also, danger in every corner due to so many predators. However, upon further introspection i remember that the media is just another capitalist business and that negativity sells more then positivity.
    I would love to visit Africa and experience first hand.
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      Apr 1 2013: Hey Noel,
      Thanks for the comment and your perception about media. I love the fact that you want to visit Africa and experience first hand. You won't be disappointed, in fact you will ask why you did not visit earlier on. Welcome to Africa soonest.

      Love, Mary
  • Mar 31 2013: I think of lions and zebras and giraffes and elephants.
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      Apr 2 2013: Hey Brigit,
      Thanks for your lovely thought. Yes Africa is full of lovely fascinating animals.....
      You should definitely pay a visit and enjoy nature and lovely people.

      Love, Mary
  • Mar 31 2013: 1st thoughts: People: black, colorful, poor; Land: hot and barren, or humid...lots of insects.
    2nd thoughts: corruption, tribalism, instability, violence

    I am well aware that these thoughts represent stereotypes and are not completely in tune with reality. After all, to put a single face on an entire continent is a pretty gross parody.

    In reality, I believe Africa to be an extremely diverse mix of people and culture,varying widely from region to region. However, in spite of this, I think that a couple of generalizations can apply to the African continent. First, I believe Africa in general is still suffering from the effects of colonialism. What effects? For example, the unequal distribution of wealth, political instability, etc.

    I also believe that Africa is seen by much of the rest of the world as a 'black hole.' Many don't really know, or want to know, what is going inside and are happy to remain that way. For example, Stephen Lewis, a Canadian who was a UN envoy to Africa, came back to Canada and wrote a book about his experience there. He got a little spot on the news, but now no one remembers his name. It just wasn't seen as important. Maybe if we were building a pipeline....
  • Mar 29 2013: Hey Mary,

    I am really glad you started this thread, I am getting to learn a lot more about Africa, and yes, I would definitely want to visit some day.

    I studied Art History in university and since then, I've been obsessed with learning more about ancient history through art and architecture. Africa has one of the richest histories in the whole world, and much of it still remains undiscovered. There is soo much to learn from the ancient artifacts and legends and traditions - science, how they read nature and developed a really strong and effective system of medicine, how they aligned the architectural monuments to the earth's most intense magnetic fields and to the stars, and.. a lot still has to be discovered.

    And then there is the spiritual side. I have read a lot in religious philosophy about spiritual awakening from the ancient methods used by some tribes in Africa, I like to think their proximity and understanding of nature helps them with discovering methods of synchronizing with the earth, and I would love to explore that.

    I can go on and on about this, but I think you get a fair idea? :)

    Garima
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      Apr 2 2013: Hey Garima,
      Thanks for your comment and definitely yes I agree with your judgement about Africa rich histories. It amazing to me when I read so much about Africa even though I am African I can't stop thinking on our mathematical, medicine prowess. I just wonder what might have gone wrong? With all this amazing history and then the current reality and there must be a disconnect. Sometime I just think that as Africans we lost our self-power/self trust along the way. I hope we will reclaim the power as individual as well as a continent.
      Can't agree more on the spirituality issue, though the western religion make so many people confused and ignorant. Yes it is in Africa that you are likely to find spiritual awakened people while at the same time you find religious fanatics who follow things blindly. In my opinion, I think religion has a role to play in Africa poverty.

      Yes, you definitely have to go to Africa and start with Kenya...lol...am just advertising my birth country.....

      Love, Mary
  • Apr 3 2013: Hi, I think of the people as the first image that comes to mind. Probably Africain people I've met in my life and from photographes. Sort of striking and strong looking with beautiful dark skin.
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      Apr 4 2013: Hey Hee-Jin Kim,

      Thanks for sharing your thoughts.....and the vote of beauty among African...I am right now smiling......:)...proudly dark skin.......and YES, I agree some African can be strong especially from West Africa...

      Love, Mary
  • Apr 2 2013: The first thing that came to my mind was the panoramic scene from Pride Rock [from the Lion King].
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      Apr 4 2013: Hey Stella,

      Oh my God Stella...I am African but never watched the Lion King.....ohh....I will definitely check the plot and maybe watch the movie to identify with your panoramic scene.....
      Did you enjoy the movie?.....Did you watch it on channel or video...thanks...

      Love, Mary
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    Apr 2 2013: The first thing that came to my mind when I asked myself this question is wildlife, I see a green tree I don't know the species. The weather is cool sunlight is bright yellow in color. And there are some animals grazing. This is the picture which I see whenever I think about Africa.
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      Apr 4 2013: Hey Rhitik,

      100% right on your first thoughts. Yes animal grazing in open space is very common in Africa. And yes...trees of different species...wildlife....lovely tourist attraction ( I am enticing you to visit)......I would bet on average Africa has the best weather in the world...
      Thanks for sharing your thoughts...

      Love, Mary
  • Apr 2 2013: The first thing that comes to my mind is to build up a bridge to connect Africa and Brazil, and then unify African and Brazilian passports. As a Brazilian, I really miss a closer contact with Africans as we're very resemblant. Actually, I cannot think Brazil without thinking Africa!!! We're like brothers and sisters!!! I love Africa and Africans, and hope one day, we'll be only one nation!!! Thank you for being!!! Gerdson MourĂ£o
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      Apr 4 2013: Hey Gerdson,
      Oh my God, what a wonderful soccer team that can make...and yes, our African football (soccer) will become more interesting to watch with some "Ronaldo" in it....I love hearing my brothers argue about their favorite soccer players...And yes Africans are great and so much in common with Brazilan. I had a couple of Brazilian students...and gee....they were friendly and great......If Brazil becomes part of Africa...it better be located next to Kenya......Looking forward to one big nation....Just love the yellow and green colors.....
      Love, Mary
  • Mar 31 2013: My first thought was to draw on a geographical picture of the shape of the continent. After I honed in on the continent itself I immediately thought of the coastal slave trade and slavery of the country, Armistad..the movie. This left a negative feeling in my head. I tried to envision the grasslands, waterfalls, rainforests and big game. Next, I thought about the diamond mining of the country. Again, a negative picture of the horrid working conditions, starvation, unsanitary conditions, death and greed crept in. As I continued to think about it I remember the stories I have read about child rape and disease and Oprah's schools. This was though provoking for me. I now realize many of my thoughts are based on primarily on negative snipits of news, media and articles. Some were positive, but more of a macabre feeling settled than happy thoughts. Oddly it seemed for every negative memory I tried to counteract it with a positive memory. Hmmm....maybe a commenter therapist can explain this to me? :)
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      Apr 1 2013: Hey Melissa,

      I am just laughing reading the last part of your comment....(Hmmm....maybe a commenter therapist can explain this to me? :)
      I just love the way, you had to pause for a moment and genuinely think about Africa. It is such a great way to evaluating how you feel or you see Africa. Yes, the negative thoughts are mostly from media and yes, there have to be so many, because our media is a guru of negatives. You did a very great job trying to think of positives about our dear Africa. And yes, there are so many positives only the media does not focus on them. May be it is time, we just have a media focusing only on positives and productive things only...

      "Oddly it seemed for every negative memory I tried to counteract it with a positive memory"
      What are some of the positives memory if you don't mind sharing?

      Love, Mary
      • Apr 2 2013: Hi Mary,
        I worked in retail sales for about 15 years before feeling I could afford to pursue my real love, teaching. I am trained as a GIA certified gemologist. I have a love for beautiful gems, especially diamonds and tanzanite. These beautiful stones are mined in the killing fields of Africa. So much of Africa's beauty is marred by horrid irony. The lands and animals are splendid, yet they are riddled with poaching and needless killing. I have never been there but my Grandmower ( a name given to a grandmother who gardens a great deal :)) went and shared her experiences, videos, pictures). The beauty of the cultural dances, colors and family bonding is scarred by the rape of innocent children and spiritual belief that virgin sex brings favor. The diseases including venereal, malaria and lack of healthy resources in the midst of so many natural resources in itself is ironic. I know these people have been exploited; by their own and outsiders. It too is a sad irony. To have so much as a society yet yield so little for the person and individual. In some ways I can see America in this way too. Immoral, unethical and spiritually dead, exploited ( from my judo-Christian perspective which I am fully enculturated in). The collective is only as powerful as the individuals that form it. In my mind I would love to visit the continent. The rain-forests, landscapes, local flavor, the opportunity to interact with the children and show love and experience acceptance to this culture would be incredible. But not to admit it to be a little daunting would be disingenuous. Oddly I too see my visit as a dichotomy. I want to go and see all the beauty but don't want to embrace the unsightly, ugly truth. I suppose the optimist in me attempts to negate that unhappy with happy. Again, this perspective of mine is a qualitative research hypothesis waiting to happen! LOL. Thank you for this dialogue, I think it is beautiful.
        Love, Melissa
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          Apr 4 2013: Hi Melissa,
          LOL... start with thanking you for thinking this conversation is beautiful....Yes...I have learnt and shared so much with lovely people and congratulations on following your dreams...I just love your professional name "gemologist". I agree with your analysis, for every bad there is good. Africa is like sweet soar grape....we love the sweetness and beauty of Africa but as individuals myself included we have to deal with soarness too...otherwise...we never will eat the grape. Africans just need to change.....But before we change Africa, I would tend to think and encourage you to visit and embrace both sweet and sour...you will be glad you did. Visit Africa and experience
          I am from a middle income family...and just 3 homes from my parents...stand this poor homestead...i used to feel guilty when I was eating and thinking about the family members who had to toil and sweat to afford a meal...So I resulted to stealing my mum's maize, potatoes, pumpkins and sneaking to this family. My point is I never understood why my sooo religiously villagers did not do something to uplift this family...I was young by then)....I have grown to understand that Africans on average need a turnabout in our thinking....spirtuality and also "seeing". The religion in my country is no longer opening sight...instead it is making people follow blindly.....

          Love, Mary
  • Mar 31 2013: African safaris,
    Poverty
    Inter-tribal wars
    Corrruption
  • Gord G 50+

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    Mar 31 2013: I made a point of not reading the other responses so they wouldn't influence my response.

    The first thing I think...Africa is a large continent of diverse countries and cultures that is perceived as an undifferentiated mass by the majority of the world.(somewhat idealized and somewhat persecuted)

    The second thing I think...My image of Africa has been shaped by National Geographic.

    The third...I have a deep connection to the raw beauty of African expression.

    ...it's clear to me it's impossible for me to encapsulate Africa in a simple concise response.
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      Apr 2 2013: Hey Gord,

      Great tactic for not reading the responses. And yes, you are on key point that majority of people miss.....Africa is large (2nd largest after Asia, with more than 50 countries, more than 800 languages). Each countries has varieties of cultures and ethnic languages.
      Your second thought is key and similar to most people who never been to Africa...mainly because of national geographic channels. ( Yes safaris are great and lovely.....you are welcome to visit Africa)
      Your third thought is most beautiful......."raw beauty"......Lovely
      Thanks for your thoughts and contribution........Yes Africa is more than the 3 thoughts however, you did a great job sharing what first comes into your mind when you think of Africa....
      Love, Mary
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    Mar 31 2013: I love everything about Africa especially our music. Here in Abu Dhabi, there was a restaurant in Shangri La Hotel that has African crew members and they performed a lovely African birthday song for my father-in-law and I enjoyed it very much. I'm sure Africa is so much more beautiful than I picture it in my head.

    Since I'm in the Middle East, Africa is closer and I can't wait to go to see your beautiful country. :D
  • Mar 29 2013: I think to an Incontaminated area, out of the time.....mentally rich ,but weak in comparison to the colonialist that have exploited them for thousand years.
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      Apr 2 2013: Hey Sirio,
      I can't agree more...."mentally rich ,but weak in comparison to the colonialist that have exploited them for thousand years. " Yes Africans need to know their real power and smell the coffee.....

      Love, Mary
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    Mar 29 2013: big, hot, powerful, oppressed, dignity
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      Apr 2 2013: Hey Johanna,

      Yes Africa is very big...2nd largest continent. Perfect weather for most countries and yes dignity. Oppression is there too and Africans need to realize their inherent power and awake.....
      Thanks for beautiful comment.......Yes to all Powerful Africans out there......

      Love, Mary
  • Mar 28 2013: Depending on the mood, it can be three very different things that strike my mind the moment I think about Africa - (1) Very dense beautiful forests and landscapes, waterfalls and rivers, flourishing wildlife, tribes living in harmony with nature - partially unaffected by media and technology, elders who know how to celebrate nature and life (not sure why I always visualize elders or children in this place) and then all the international cricket teams!!! (2) The pyramids, ancient architecture and artifacts that speak a lot about human history - hieroglyphics and ancient languages that have yet to be deciphered. Knowledge! Mathematics, astronomy, medicine. Intense, rich culture. Spiritual realizations!! (3) Poverty, proximity to diseases and the amazing immune system that comes along with it. Dark skin and eyes that offer a ton of protection against the harmful radiations from the sun!
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      Mar 29 2013: Hey Garima,Wooah, I love your train of thoughts and the way moods influence your perception of Africa. I am glad 2 of the thoughts are positive and only one is negative.....that a sure win for me expecting you to visit Africa sometime in future.
      I love number 2 most especially "Knowledge! Mathematics, astronomy, medicine. Intense, rich culture. Spiritual realizations"....where did you learn all this?

      Love, Mary
  • Mar 25 2013: Without any attempt at hypocrisy or sycophancy, I think most citizens of Europe and North America will see Africa through the eyes of the Western media's portrayal of endless senseless wars, diseases, famine and poverty (and maybe wild animals).
    Only a few would know that there are 53 countries in this huge continent, and that most of this countries have happy and healthy citizens.
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    Mar 22 2013: lol ok I'm cheating, you can disqualify me later since I have been there before and currently am in. The first thing that would come to my mind when people say I want to go to Africa is that, "I hope they know its not a country but a continent, since even Ghana and Nigeria are so different in culture but yet they share a border." (sry I am answering a completely different question)
    • W T 100+

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      Mar 23 2013: Benjamin Abegunde.....where have you been??

      Glad to see you here again......hopefully you have made great strides in stopping your countrymen with acquiescing to suffering?

      Welcome back!
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      Mar 23 2013: Benjamin,
      I cheated too because I've been to Egypt......BUT......my impression of Egypt, was more like my imagination/perception of the Middle East, rather than Africa....not surprising becaue it is close. So, I understand what you are saying when you remind us that each area of Africa is very different:>)
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        Mar 23 2013: Colleen, you have to pay for cheating...send me virtual hug we settle. I agree with your view about Egypt; more of Middle East than Africa, I share the same sentiment. And surely Benjamin raised an important point of Africa misconceived by some as a country, and to add to that misconception, I have met people who ask me whether we share backyard with monkeys.....I wish we did....
        Love,

        Mary
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          Mar 23 2013: Dear Mary,
          I will take my punishment with pleasure....consider yourself hugged....many times:>)

          I live in Vermont, which is a very tiny state in the northeast, USA, next to NY. and people way out west, in the very large states sometimes think we are part of the state of NY! LOL! Our states are very different in some ways as well:>)

          Have you heard of the true story and book "King Peggy"? You are right....I like to read! She's right near you in Washington D.C., and maybe you could connect with her? I think of this because of your homesickness, which Kate expertly flushed out!

          Peggielene Bartels is from Ghana, came to the US as a young woman and worked at the Embassy of Ghana in DC since 1970....the last I knew, she still works there part of the time. She got a call from a relative in Ghana in 2008 telling her that she was the new "king" of the town of Tantum. The fascinating true story, as told in her book "King Peggy" tells us a lot about her adjustment in going back to Ghana, where I think she still spends some of her time as a ruler:>)

          There are several links on- line about her and here is one:

          http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Peggielene_Bartels

          Sending you love and hugs,
          Colleen
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          Mar 23 2013: Hello Mary, do you rent your backyard for elderly monkeys? :)
          When I think of Africa, I feel I have cousins there.
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          Mar 23 2013: I would let him into my backyard anytime Mary. I think he is a pretty good ol' chimp:>)
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        Mar 25 2013: Hey Colleen,
        Thanks for the hug...I feel better now.

        And yes, Vermont is never a state to me....thanks for reminding me...Before coming to US, I thought US is NY and California. Yes I was shocked to discovery 50+ states.
        Seriously, if was testing and was asked whether Vermont is a City or State, I would have proudly stated a "City", and start bragging about how I aced my American geography test....

        Thanks for Peggielene information and the links, I will surely check it out. Never heard of her before. Will update you after reading.

        Thanks for hugs and love....I feel less homesick....

        Love,
        Mary
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          Mar 25 2013: Hey Mary,
          I thought Africa was a "City" too....LOL:>) So, you discovered that there are a couple states between NY and CA? We are both doing good in geography!!!

          Glad you feel less homesick,.glad you are here in the US, and glad you are here on TED.
          More hugs and love coming your way:>)
          Colleen
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    Apr 20 2013: I am back again....I did my best to reply and share with fellow contributor. If I missed your thoughts...I beg your pardon.....and leave you with a big hug and love & peace.....
    Love, Mary
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      Apr 20 2013: Great job facilitating this conversation Mary. It has been interesting, fun, and educational:>)
      Hugs, peace and love to you too my friend:>)
  • Apr 20 2013: Mountains, Nature and awesome music and rhythms.
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      Apr 20 2013: Hey Ban,
      Thanks for sharing and yes you are right...pay a visit and witness the beauty....
  • Apr 20 2013: Unfortunately, the first things that come into my mind are poverty and the aids epidemic. And the fact that there is a surprising amount of discriminatory policies in Canada regarding Africains and the continent in general. For instance, the first time I donated blood I had to fill out a questionnaire to see if I met the criteria of a successful candidate. Among some of the ridiculous questions (had I handled monkey fluids?), one question in particular stood out to me: Have you ever been to Africa? In the event that you had been, you would not be able to donate blood. To this day this still sounds ridiculous to me.
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      Apr 20 2013: Hey Jessica,
      Thanks for sharing your thought. OMG......it is ridiculous to me too. After reading your example and I didn't know what to say other than it is quite ridiculous....
      And yes Africans faces challenges such as poverty and diseases...the great thing is that Africa as a continent coupled with caring people outside Africa has more resources and power to overcome some of this challenges. I hope we move to this direction of solving our issues soon than later.
      Love, Mary
  • Apr 20 2013: jungle lions and large spiders! lol
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      Apr 20 2013: Hey Ian,
      Thanks for sharing your thought....The king of the jungle...I am scared now of those crawling thing..however small it is....
      Love,Mary
  • Apr 19 2013: What does the word "Africa" mean to me? I am obsessed with the word since childhood. It brings so many thoughts into me mind..all wonderful ones. I have never been to Africa but it has always been my wish to go there. To me Africa is a wonderland...filled with so much natural beauty...the place where still the wonder of creation can still be experienced.
    I am a white person but I envy the beauty of dark-skinned people. To me they are what I wish everyone looked like. To me they are the perfect example of what each and every person should look like. Now I know by saying that, that this may upset some people, but you did ask what the word "Africa" brings to the minds of people. That and many more thoughts about Africa spring to mind. I (even though I have never been there) have fallen in love with Africa and its people since I was a very young child.
    i know that Africa had (and still has) its own troubles. So had we in Ireland. Every country in the world has had its times of turmoil. Yet...in spite of all of that the people who really matter remain beautiful. The countries continue to be beautiful. The wonderful cultures remain. Sadly, Africa is the HOME that I will never know. Ahh I had better stop. I just love Africa. Denis xxx
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      Apr 20 2013: Hey Denis,
      Thanks so much for sharing your thoughts courageous.I totally agree with your view about Africa...yes it is a "wonderland". Dark people are beautiful and so is everyone else....I think having varieties of color in the universe adds to the touch of beauty. Make your dream come true and visit Africa....it is beautiful and you might be tempted to settle there....so be prepared when you travel. Wish you all the best. Every part of the world has it own challenges.. it is matter of accepting and looking for ways to make life more meaningful and better. Enjoy Ireland...and visit your other home (Africa)
      Love, Mary
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    Apr 19 2013: Whoopi Goldberg reunited with her children in "The Color Purple" :)
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      Apr 20 2013: Hey Anna,
      I read "The Color Purple" amazing moving book. It is a great thought that you share with us.
      Love, Mary
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    Apr 19 2013: And yellow.
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      Apr 20 2013: Again Mathew.

      Lol...Yellow...beautiful bright color...I would associate that with ripe bananas.....
      Love, Mary
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    Apr 19 2013: Green and Red.
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      Apr 20 2013: Hey Mathew,
      Thanks for sharing your thoughts....Green in Kenya means peace and vegetation, while red is used in national flag in remembrance of blood and war during freedom fight.
      Love, Mary
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    Apr 19 2013: When I hear Africa, I first imagine nature (safari, desert, forests), then tribes, black people, colonisation and the problems (or wars) it caused. I think most of the problems the continent has today is caused by colonisation.
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      Apr 20 2013: Hey Volja,
      Thanks for sharing. Your thought is on point and I tend to concur that majority of challenges faced by Africans is because of colonization. Then I become hopefully that Africans has what it takes to overcome the challenges.
      Love, Mary
  • Apr 19 2013: when I think about Africa, the first thoughts hit on me,, dangerous...
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      Apr 20 2013: Hey Sanghoon,
      Thanks for sharing. Yes Africa is dangerous just like any other part of the world. However danger of frog in the water never discouraged cows from drinking water. Sometimes life becomes more meaningful when we step out of fear and explore....
      Love, Mary
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    Apr 19 2013: Amazingly bright colors
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      Apr 20 2013: Hey Aaron,
      Thanks for sharing and you are very right. Bright colors ranging from blue sky to sunset to African attires....
      Visit and make sure you take as many phots as possible....I love your profile pic...
      Love, Mary
  • Apr 19 2013: Music, drums and dance.
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      Apr 20 2013: Hey Pablo,
      Thanks for sharing your thought....African music is diverse....exotic dances and drums...make sure you visit and share the dance floor with dancers....lol...I am dancing now.
      Love, Mary