How our (fake) dream gap years turned into (fake) nightmares

Louise Linton went through a lotta ish during her gap year White Savior Tour™ of Zambia and wrote them all up in a book called ‘In Congo’s Shadow‘. She shared some details with The Telegraph:

Two hours had passed – maybe three. I couldn’t tell. The dense jungle canopy above me had eliminated what little moonlight there was and plunged me into inky blackness deep in the Zambian bush. I lay very still, listening for the armed rebels and wondering how long it was until daybreak, not knowing if I’d survive to see it.

As the night ticked interminably by, I tried not to think what the rebels would do to the ‘skinny white muzungu with long angel hair’ if they found me. Clenching my jaw to stop my teeth chattering, I squeezed my eyes shut and reminded myself how I’d come to be a central character in this horror story.

Becky With The Angel Hair learned a lot in Zambia…

I learned some of their language, planted a vegetable garden and created a little school under a Mukusi tree, writing about my experiences in my diary.

But I soon learned that Africa is rife with hidden danger. I witnessed random acts of violence, contracted malaria and had close encounters with lions, elephants, crocodiles and snakes. As monsoon season came and went, the Hutu-Tutsi conflict in neighbouring Congo began to escalate and then spill over into Zambia with repercussions all along the lake. Thousands of people were displaced and we heard brutal tales of rape and murder.

After learning enough lessons, Linton left Zambia – but she didn’t stop learning lessons when she left Africa! Linton’s biggest lesson is going on right now while she chills in Los Angeles.  She is learning that Zambians are on twitter. She is learning the meaning of the word ‘dragged’ with #LintonLies.

And we’re all taking a page from Linton. Over at Buzzfeed, Gena-mour Barrett and Hannah Jewell published a woeful tale of a gap year in the England’s rugged Cornwall. We too had (fake) dream gap years that turned to (fake) nightmares.  Channeling the spirit of Barbie Savior, we’re sharing our stories below. Feel free to add your (fake) gap years and how they were (fake) ruined in the comments!

  • Homelessclubkid: “I remember my gap year in Scotland vividly. It was right after Hitler’s army had scorched the land and given thousands of purple-eyed children ebola. I met one of those girls, she was an orphan named Annie. Her greatest joy in life was to sit on my lap and drink traditional Scottish Saké. One night in December, the midnight sun shone brightly while armies of vikings invaded our igloo village. I left Scotland after that attack.”
  • Me: “I remember my gap year in Nebraska vividly. It was right after Nebraska’s Cornhuskers were annihilated at the Rose Bowl, dashing the hopes of the Husker Nation. I met one of its citizens, an alumna named Sarah. Her greatest joy in life was to sit on my lanai and drink Pepsi, which she called “soda pop”. One day in April, the sun shown brightly while Husker fought Husker for the annual Spring Game. I left Nebraska after that scrimmage.”
  • Melanie: “I vividly recall the first time I left my home state of Minnesota for the Independent Republic of Arizona. I remember huddling beneath the ice shelf locals called home, listening to the sound of the zeppelins approaching from neighboring Maine. All seemed lost until I remembered the bottle of Pinot I had stashed beneath my white woman cape. The joy in the eyes of the local children who sat at my feet will be imprinted on my memory for the rest of my days.”
  • Julia: “I remember my gap year in Madison vividly, to which I ventured from the Kingdom of Buffalo. I recall my wide-eyed fear as I entered the local co-op grocery for the first time, the fliers advertising cat chakra alignment and beginners’ anti-vaccination clinics. The locals were zombie-like, unwilling to make direct statements, awkwardly fidgeting as they waited for a chance to snatch the last remaining carton of vegan ice cream from the solar-powered freezer. I asked myself, What is life’s purpose here? What do they know of chicken wings, of deodorant––of modern medicine, even!––of hair conditioner? I felt helpless to save them all until, consumed by a fit of inspiration, I drew upon my white liberal soul and made a flier of my own offering spiritual guidance to them all. The joy in the eyes of these white hippies with dreadlocks as I discussed with them the power of astrology was only eclipsed by my realization that the power to be a true savior was inside me all along, though I’d confused it for Frank’s hot sauce.”
  • Will: “I don’t remember much of my gap year, but the parts that I do remember are very compelling stories. The clearest recollection is from a time shortly after I arrived in San Antonio, for my gap year. I had only been in the area for a short time when I decided to make a day trip to the Heart of San Antonio, what the locals refer to as “The Alamo.” After paying my respects to The Ancestors of Texas at this Very Important Shrine, I walked—on foot—the perilous journey to the local river, an excruciating .2 (point two) miles. At last, after what seemed an eternity, I arrived at “The Riverwalk,” appropriately named considering the arduous quest I had embarked upon in order to lay my eyes upon its splendor. There, I watched as locals and travelers mingled, and boats trafficked humans up and down the river while being yelled at over loudspeakers by the boat drivers, who were adorned with straw hats, sunglasses, white or blue polo shirts, and white khaki shorts. This was it. This was exactly the sight I wanted—nay, needed to see. It was in this moment that my purpose in life became clear. Now I knew what I needed to do to help the people of this Great Texas City. But first, I needed to remember in which parking garage I had left my Prius.”


Featured image from Wikimedia Commons and owned by WillMcC



DrRubidium is an analytical chemist that spends her days finding needles in needlestacks. Also a science communicator, she focuses on the the science behind everyday stuff and pop culture.

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