This post originally posted in the OIRED COMPASS blog
Ever since I was a little girl, I wanted to travel. As a lover of Jane Austen, Middle Earth and Narnia, Europe of course, was first in my mind. I dreamed of crumbling castles, crumpets and the lilting accents of an old and privileged people. As I grew older, I was more interested in the young, vibrant culture of Central and South America with their spicy foods, Capoeira and tango. And yes, I am aware now that these visions are gross simplifications of vast and multifaceted lands. But the point is, I didn’t have much of a conception of Africa as a child. I was vaguely aware that ‘we are all Africa’, (as singer Shakira sagely pointed out,) in the sense that the continent is widely known as the cradle of humankind.
In the late 1990s, I picked up a copy of a National Geographic and began flipping through the pages. One of the photographic features profiled the caves of Namibia, and I was instantly entranced. The pictures showed tiny figures rappelling into the mouths of sunlit caves, wide swaths of red canyon punctuated by blue pools, bright-eyed children peering out from behind heavy shrouds. And just like that, Africa was added into the list of places to go. Tomorrow, finally, I can ‘cross it off the list.’ The PIs and staff of the Integrated Pest Management Innovation Lab are gathering in Entebbe, Uganda, for our annual meeting. Immediately afterward, we will be traveling to Addis Ababa, Ethiopia, to host a workshop to help farmers confront Parthenium, an invasive weed that threatens many crops. I will be updating the IPM website and tweeting madly during these two weeks, so you can join us virtually! I look forward to being both happily justified and completely incorrect about my assumptions regarding these two countries. See you in two weeks!