scared thrilled scared thrill scared thrilled

I find most things in life both scary and thrilling. I suppose I should hope it's always this way, but sometimes it feels like an awful lot of work.

Sunday, April 20, 2008

Thoughts from Ougadougou

Really, Ougadougou has got to be the coolest city name ever. It really sounds like Africa (what do I mean when I say that?)

I have been reflecting lately on the the different stages of feeling that I've been through on my trip so far. At this point I've been in Africa over two months. I've seen seven different countries, travelled thousands of kilometres. Been to the desert and the sea. Travelled by car, bus, truck, boat, motorcycle and foot. It hasn't always been easy, but it has almost always been good. And this seems to be my preference anyway. For things to be good rather than easy.

But the most important passings I've made so far in Africa have not been through physical landscapes, but the frontiers of my heart and my mind. It's like there are little hands inside my body, inside my head, feeling constantly for the boundaries of mind and soul, mapping them out with little strokes, testing the strength of the perimeter and pushing where they feel some give.

Lonliness has been one of these regions of exploration.
The last few years have been some of the most rewarding and exciting of my life. But they've undoubtedly been the saddest as well. I am typically a very social person. I have always had a lot of friends. At the same time I have found, in the last couple of years especially, real solace in solitude. I enjoy being alone. I especially enjoy it when I'm travelling, as I have some confidence, at this point, in my ability to handle the new and the bizarre without freaking out or making a scene. I'm petrified of making scenes as a traveller. Of course, all the cultural sensitivity in the world doesn't change the colour of my skin, and in many of the places where I've been in the last months this alone is enough to cause a real stir. Some of these places, I think, see few whiteys. The kids yell at you when you walk by. Toubab! Blanco! Le Blanc! Depends which country you're in. It is said sometimes with malintent. Sometimes without. It's easy to know which is which.
But I've met many people and made some friends along the way. I've stayed many nights in the homes of those I've connected with through the couchsurfing and hospitality club networks. But I've spent as many nights in the homes of those I've simply met along the way. Sometimes I enjoy this and sometimes I don't.

I began the journey in Morocco, with lots of fear and no lonliness. This lasted until I guess a few weeks ago when I first started to realize that I did, in fact, want to share these experiences with someone. My inability to capture the truth and beauty or the extreme discomfort of moments is a constant frustration to me. In the right circumstance I can write something which, i think, translates a bit of the feeling of a particular experience, but the limits of my skills and equipment in the realm of photography means that the visual interpretation of my time in Africa cannot possibly live up to the experiences themselves. And this is a pity. I really wish you all could see these things. The red dirt roads tunnelling holes through green walls of trees. The broad and sultry mango trees with their cool leaves and their fruit hanging thick, ready to drop from the sky like gifts from god. The site of a truck loaded with twice its own volume of straw, or wood, or sacks of grain, or people or flipflops and padlocks. The smooth brown walls of the mud mosques in the Dogon. The stars in the desert. Too many things. I'm not a photographer. It's a pity we can't all stand and look at these things together. Tant pis pour nous.

So I've switched things up a bit. I'm not as fearful, and I'm more lonely. I guess it's an even trade. I worry about the lack of fear though, and worry that it's accompanied by other things less desirable. Like callousness. I had a large argument with a man today, explaining that I didn't want to buy a small motorcycle made from old beer cans. I was less nice than I usually am.

And I'm bad at budgeting time. I have to post this quick like before my credit runs out.

tomorrow to Ghana. ciao my friends.



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