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I read Theroux too, and found him to be unrelieveably cynical. He notes, as do a number of observers in recent years, the many failures of Western charitable agencies. But his conclusion--that Africans are so radically "other" in values and outlook that any Western engagement of them is bound to "fall apart" over time, is appalling.

I read his work while visiting friends in Sierra Leone, one of the most devastated places on the continent, with plenty of recent examples of the corruptions of Western aid. But I also saw resilient ordinary people, rebuilding their lives, helping others, living by faith and hope. They too had some access to Western resources, but they owned the processes, made the decisions, and undertook the work.

I was delighted with Mr. Wainaina's outlook. He was really refreshing. He praised African people and institutions, spoke of people of faith who were serving their neighbors well, spreading good will and encouraging the same from others. He exuded good cheer, patience, practicality, respect, and hope. Wonderful. I want to learn more from him.

Many thanks,
Joel Carpenter
Calvin College