May 20, 2002
Up 5 am and out 6:30. Most of the day is spent traveling to Zambia. A bridge is out on the road south so we have to double back to Mezuza and take another route. Stopped off at Mezuza again for a couple of hours in a frustrating attempt to get e-mail.
Back on the Road
I turn around to say something to Bob two seats behind me and see Rod lying in the aisle asleep-recurring Malaria he thinks. He stays there for two days and then gets up but he is a rag. His head hurts and he is weak. Bob starts reading about Malaria. There are many kinds with symptoms all the way from feeling like you have the flu to feeling a piercing cold that makes you tremble and shake. During these times you want a heavy thing to mash you down and keep you still…you wish you could die.
Rod warns us to use mosquito repellant but Bob has his doubts about it’s effectiveness. In the tent at night we use a towel to kill off any mosquitos we find before we go to sleep but invariably during the night they mysteriously materialize-buzzing in your ear…keeping you awake until you finally get up and thrash around with your towel again.
The Malaria carrying mosquitos were especially bad around wet marshy areas like Dar es Salaam and Lake Malawi. Sunday is our day to take our Larium but it makes us have vivid dreams at night. One night I dreamt that some people had cut my chest open and was slicing up my heart and eating it!
To pass the time on the long haul today I read Edward Said’s memoirs “Out Of Place.” As I read I gaze out of the truck from time to time wondering…what to wonder…what to think…Edward was born a Christian in Palestine, had ancestors from Lebanon, grew up in Cairo but isolated from the muslim community, went to English schools which he hated, was educated in the United States and now teaches at Columbia University in New York and has become a spokesman for middle east affairs. “Out of Place” is a good title; I have felt that way myself.
Las Vegas Bottle Store…pass one woman chopping wood out behind a mud hut and two men sitting in front…”makes me mad!” Melissa from New Zealand says…children literally scream out their greetings…villages are perfectly neat no litter or pieces of paper or the proverbial third world plastic. As in Moroccan casbahs you would think absolutely no one lived there at all because they use and reuse everything over and over until there is nothing left to become garbage.
Cleaning The Lenses
I am feeling comfortable and at home in Africa. The lives and cultures of the people in these countries at least seem to have integrity…congruity. The way they live makes sense in relation to their history, geography economics and culture-not to be compared to any other place. Rather than judge, a friend says she tries to engage “others” with a “reverent curiosity” to describe how she travels. We are intentional-we borrow her idea and make it our own-we call it “reverent inquiry.” We want to respect the dignity of those we are coming to visit.
I want to be transparent in sharing my struggle with my own ethnocentric/class biases I have learned from living in my culture…insofar as I can become aware of them. Where are you from, he says…America, I say…which America, he says? And there it is again. I could cover it all over with political correctness but I want to explore-I want to peel the layers off the lenses-I want to write with integrity. Traveling is a seriously important business. Rod says 90% of Americans don’t have a passport which means that many Americans have never, in a substantive way, experienced any other valid way to live in the world. Isolated. Insulated. For how long? We cannot be a “superpower” and not be inter-dependent with the rest of the world; the world is going to force us to look and listen to it. It has begun with 9/11. And we thought the Cold War was bad!
I made the mistake of remarking to Rod that we liked the fact that our drivers were Africans and none of the other trucks had African drivers. He reminded me that he was African, which he is, and that even some of the British and Australian drivers have been at it for 15-20 years and know Africa well. There I did it again-I used the term African when I really meant black African. Assumptions can work both ways however. I have a friend whose husband happens to be black and when he visited Africa he had to explain that he and his brother were Americans born and raised in New York.
I ask Rod if the local people can tell that James and George, who are Kenyans, are not from this area. Yes, he says, because of their size and they are very dark. And people here don�t speak Swahili so they have to use the common language-English. Rod says that Malawians and Zambians are more friendly than people in the north and south of Africa because they are not around western tourists enough to become inflamed with desire for the material things we have that they don’t have. In the north and south the feeling is that “You’ve gotten yours, now it’s my turn to get mine-no matter how.”