example of darkness. With skyrocketing corruption [the country is the world’s most corrupt, according to the World Bank], mismanagement and the highest number of coups d’état, Nigeria has accentuated the image of Africa as the world’s laughingstock. And since no one, in the right senses, likes to be associated with laughingstocks, especially in this day and age, I can understand why this young man from this West African country incessantly denied his homeland and chose to be perceived as a South African because of that country’s new reputation within the international community.

The Nigerian lad isn’t alone nor is this problem confined solely to Africans. We all feel good if we have a great job. We don’t want to be associated with jobs that society looks down on. A wife is happy if her husband has a respectable job. That’s dignity. We don’t want to visit a country and stay in a shoestring hostel, especially if some well-heeled friends of ours would come and pick us up. We’d only stay in a hostel because we don’t have enough money or because of the camaraderie.

An British acquaintance of mine lives in one and calls it a hotel. I know it’s the good old psychological problem. Whenever he calls me, he does so from outside, at the train station or somewhere like that. And whenever I ask him to leave his number he gives excuses. He doesn’t know that I’m not that dense. Yet, he’s not from Africa. It’s a psychological problem. No one wants to be rejected.

Nor do Africans. It’s strange, but whenever I hear kids refer to me as Méigwo Rén [romanized Chinese for an American], I feel good. But the opposite is true when I hear them say Fei Dzwo Rén [Chinese for an African]. Méi means pretty, beautiful. Fei means many things, but one big meaning is Nothing. So while America is in many ways beautiful, Africa is void and empty.

Ask any Taiwanese kid where they’d love to emigrate or vacation. America is tops. In a small survey I conducted in 1996, one of my students summed up why Africa is everything that America is not. "They have no food there," he wrote. But food or lack of it is only one of the reasons why Taiwanese people would never ever consider emigrating to Africa, except of course to South Africa.

American culture is pervasive on the island: movies, fast food chains, blue chip businesses, people etc. Every single day, America features in the news and all or almost all of that news is good news. But for news from Africa, anytime one gets it, is gloomy, a reminder of the sad side of humanity.

"He couldn’t be from Africa," the 14 year-old son of one of Taiwan’s top brass told his grandmother. I’d been assigned by his father to tutor him while he was on a month-long vacation back in Taiwan from San Francisco. If he knew for sure that I was born in Africa, I’m sure he’d hate studying even more!

Blaise is not alone. Just an epitome.