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The Boy who harnessed the wind

April 23, 2018

About ingenuity, persistence, and how Africans live day-to-day.

 

No better book to teach kids about character, and for adults to learn about life in Africa. These are the 5 topics I enjoyed the most in the book:

 

1.Ingenuity. William was so poor that many days his family could have only one meal. At one point, he couldn't afford to go to the public school. Instead of doing nothing, he went to the public library where he read about windmills. He built one out of scrapped materials, and it enabled his village to have electricity.

 

2-Persistence.

His friends laughed at him and called him a madman. He kept going.

 

3-The public library.  William couldn’t afford to go to school. He learned about windmills by reading books at his public library. I am great believer in public libraries. What's my favorite place in New York? The New York Public Library (anyone can use it, regardless of where one lives).

 

4. The enabler

One day, some officials were inspecting the library in his town and they saw from the distance William's windmill. They called their supervisor, Dr Hartford Mchazime and told him about it. When Dr Mchazime heard about it, he drove five hours to William's house. He then brought reporters and insisted that William be provided financial support to finish high school. Finally, he enabled him to give a TED talk. The rest is history. 

 

 

5. Life in Africa

The book enables us to see what day-to-day life is like for many Africans. Here are some of my favorite passages:

 

Poverty 

 

"My parents had no money for school books, which cost hundreds of kwacha each. Even in better times, most students couldn’t afford these books and were forced to share. At least in primary school, that meant squeezing your bottoms together on the same chair and hoping the other person didn’t read faster than you did".

 

The environment

 

"Few people realize this, but cutting down the trees is one of the things that keeps us Malawians poor. Without the trees, the rains turn to floods"

 

Populism

 

“President Muluzi had promised shoes for everyone if he was elected. After he claimed his victory, everyone started asking, “Where are our shoes?” The president went on the radio and said something like, “Ladies and gentlemen, do I look crazy? How can I know the shoe size of every person in Malawi? I never promised shoes.” Our president was a funny guy”.

 

Culture 

 

In our Chewa culture—at least in the village—the daughter never eats with the father, and the son never eats with the mother. It’s not considered polite (what if you pass gas in front of your mother?).

 

Dowry

 

 "The dowry is usually money, anywhere upwards of one hundred thousand kwacha, or livestock, such as a cow. In addition to the dowry, the groom’s family also pays for the ceremony and reception: all the food, drinks, transport. For a man, weddings are expensive, which explains why there are so many young, single men in Malawi.

 

How Africans see the Western lifestyle 

 

"One of the things I noticed in New York is that people don’t have time for anything, not even to sit down for coffee—instead, they drink it from paper cups while they walk"

 

"We drove to Las Vegas for the Consumer Electronics Show. We stayed in Treasure Island Hotel, where jackpots of cars and other prizes are given away all

 

 

night long and women in their underpants serve free soda".

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