Seniors: Central African Republic, Mixed Reviews

Oct 25th, 2010 | By | Category: Senior Travel

Most of my blog posts describe the wonders of travel to a specific destination.  This one is a little different, offering information about a little-known country in Africa, and some personal experiences related to it.  Not all posts on a travel blog can unconditionally recommend travel to every possible destination. 

A few years back I volunteered to help out at the University Overseas Recruiting Fair. This is BIG.  There are only two such recruiting fairs for overseas teaching jobs in the entire country.  There were dozens and dozens

of schools recruiting from all over the globe.  Last February (2010) there were 115 schools that participated. 

You can see by this listing that they indeed do come from everywhere. Many of these schools are American International Schools for American children whose parents work abroad.  You could, if you are so inclined, search through the list just out of curiosity.  I do this all the time. There are teachers, generally married couples, who make a career of skipping around the globe spending two years here and two years there.

Not long ago I wrote an article on Jordan and of the experience my teacher friend had teaching band at Saudi Aramco School. I remember that Andy said that when he and his family deplaned, it was over 120 degrees.  Kinda like when my son got married in Shreveport and we walked out of the Holiday Inn.  Wham… the heat and the humidity gave one an instant sweat.

Anyway, while I was at the recruiting fair, teachers were lined up in long lines for such schools as Vienna, Tokyo, Honolulu, Singapore, Barcelona, Stuttgart and other exotic locations.  I went over to a fellow who was recruiting for a school in the Central African Republic (CAR).  I asked him a few questions about his school and then he started asking me who I was, my position, what I taught, my professional degrees and so forth.  He (the principal) ended up trying to recruit “me” to teach French in his school in Bangui, the capital. 

Although my response was to decline his invitation, I became interested in the CAR.  Situated about 500 mi (805 km) north of the equator, the CAR is a landlocked nation bordered by Cameroon, Chad, the Sudan, the Democratic Republic of the Congo, and the Republic of Congo. You want diversity? Ethnic groups: More than 80; Baya 33%, Banda 27%, Sara 10%, Mandja 13%, Mboum 7%, M’baka 4%, Yakoma 4%, other 2%. Ever heard of any of these?  Ni moi non plus.  And the Per capita annual income (2008, PPP): $700.

My curiosity has gotten the better of me, again, and now I want to share with you some information that I have gleaned on the CAR.  Population (2010 est.): 4,844,927 (growth rate: 2.1%); birth rate: 36.8/1000; infant mortality rate: 101.6/1000; life expectancy: 49.7; density per sq km: 7.  The people form heterogeneous ethnic groups, with the Banda, Baya (Gbaya), Mandjia, and Ngbaka constituting more than two-thirds of the inhabitants. Languages: French, Sango (both official), several others. Religions: Christianity (mostly other Christians [largely unaffiliated and independent]; also Roman Catholic, Protestant), Islam, traditional beliefs.

The Central African Republic (CAR) is one of the world’s least developed nations, and has experienced several periods of political instability since independence from France in 1960. This is probably why they still search for French speaking teachers for la République Centrafricaine.

Do you have any idea how many countries there are in Africa?  Take a wild guess.  I will bury the answer at the end of this blog.  Were you close?  I sure wasn’t.  How many can you name?  Did you list at least twenty?  A dozen?  Okay, how many?

I feel now that I made a pretty good decision to stay put at the University Lab School (Cedar Falls, Iowa) and not take my wife and two small children into a nation that has this warning today from the Travel Warning – U.S. DEPARTMENT OF STATE – Bureau of Consular Affairs: The Department of State warns U.S. citizens of the risks of traveling to the Central African Republic (CAR), and recommends against all but essential travel outside the capital, Bangui. Travelers in the CAR should exercise extreme caution. Despite an on-going peace process and the presence of a democratically-elected government in the capital, Bangui, rebels still control large portions of the country’s northern provinces, and highway bandits prey on civilians and travelers in much of western CAR.    jeb  [54 countries]

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