Ever since I first expressed initial interest in visiting Japan, I have often been asked the "Why Japan, why not Africa?" question. This question has come from strangers as well as friends who were, for the most part, simply curious to know why I had chosen to visit an Asian country before an African one. I used to be offended by this question, because at times it felt as if the person was attacking my motives (intentionally/unintentionally) for expressing an interest about learning about Japanese culture.
I'm sure you've come across the type. Usually the vegan brothas and sistas with locs and afros who feel as if everyone should eat and think as they do. And if for one moment you just so happen to disagree with their philosophy of life, then they simply write you off as being 'unconscious' and not down for the cause. Well to them I say, "Been there & done that (Freshman & Sophomore year). Have pictures if you'd like to see them."
But seriously, now when I am asked such questions I no longer feel offended. My choice to live in Japan and to research is simply a choice that I made because I wanted my first time outside of the United States to be a tremendous CHALLENGE. And at that time, I felt Japan fit the bill. The people didn't look like, didn't talk like me, didn't act like me, didn't have any connection to me- outside of being human. I wanted to see how I would react when taken outside of my comfort zone. (Now that's not to say that living in a country in Africa won't be a tremendous challenge for me.)
I wanted to post on this particular topic simply because I was recenlty involved in a online forum discussion and this same question came up in the conversation. And the tone that was used, it seemed as if those posing the question felt as if the first stop outside of the United States for black people should be a country in Africa.
So what's my view on this? Well, my view is that there aren't enough African-Americans going abroad... Whether it's to South America, Africa, or Southeast Asia it's imperative for US to get out to both explore and experience the world. As for where you choose to go, that's your personal decision. The most important thing is what you take away from your time away from the US-- or home country.
As for me, I don't view Africa as a short-term visit. I view it as a final destination, or long-term goal, if you will. One day I will be living in Africa and bringing you "Sista in Senegal" or "Sista in Lagos." Until my time comes, Africa may be out of sight, but is NEVER out of mind.