Travels
Comments 4

they shrug and say, TIA. this is Africa


Africa is a new car and a hot paved road and fluorescent painted lines and people who have no cars using the highway also to walk.

Africa is exhilaration.

Africa is supposedly racist and really racist and people who talk up to you because you’re white and people who talk down to you because you’re white and people who look at you with a half-quashed idealistic glint in their eye because you’re American and people who spit half-heartedly in your presence because you’re American.

Africa is a soccer game with no score.

Africa is English and Afrikaans and Xhosa and Zulu and others and others and others, is English, is a whole set of languages which in my ignorance I do not understand why do they speak English if they speak this language or why do they speak this language if they speak English?

Africa is a plant with leaves and cactus-like thorns. Africa is an enormous black beetle. Africa is the dormant fear that swimming leads to great white sharks and walking leads to cobras.

Africa is the fullest brightest moon you have ever seen.

I try sea kayaking for the first time.

I sit in the boat and paddle and ride waves straight-on, tensely, confidently, patiently, wearily. I sit in the boat and I paddle hard, it hurts, and I do not move and another wave comes and I crest it and it rolls on beneath me and I do not look round to watch it spread on the beach but paddle stationarily.

I paddle and I do not move and finally I look round and the small waves are gone and I look ahead and the big waves are gone and I am past and I am free and I hold up my paddle because I am home but I forget I am in Africa.

I look and there it is, bigger than me or anything I know, a wave I cannot imagine, and I lean back into it, point the bow of my vessel into its flank, skewer it ineffectively with my paddle, and it breaks over me, and I am alone and I open my eyes and I see white and I feel hard sand against my face against my stomach and my legs and neck and arms and everywhere, hard water, hard salt, hard sand, I swallow and I breathe salt salt water, and my boat is gone, shot gloriously into the air followed by the paddle, and I am alone in the only way you can be alone, when a wave you loved does not reciprocate.

I surface, a little big head in the indisputably big banging ocean, and someone has got my boat and I retrieve my paddle and I walk, sluggishly, stumbling like a drunk man on the elusive sand grains of the Indian Ocean, and I think, this is Africa.

I can’t put my finger on Africa. I can’t put my feet on it either, or any other part of my body, and yet here am I putting every part of me on Africa, and having very little idea what it is I am eating and walking on and and (inadvertently) swimming in and rubbing and wearing and listening to and watching and living.

I came because I wanted to touch Africa so I could know it existed.

It does.

I am bemused to find that I do not know what comes next.

Maybe Africa.

This entry was posted in: Travels

4 Comments

  1. Anonymous says

    Erin,I well know that you had, what you considered at the time, a near-death experience kayaking on the Green River in Utah two years ago. And you got back on that horse! You go girl! I love you!Mom

  2. Brian says

    Africa is the sea water still coming out of your nose 3 hours after your epic collision with the wave.

  3. Anonymous says

    Thanks for writing that really lets us know what you are experiencing rather than just what you are seeing. This makes me feel like I am there too. Great fun!Love,Dad

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