There are times when things need to be done; steps need to be taken in order to manage and organize one's continuation, daily or monthly or yearly, accordingly.
In my case, it's a lifestyle somewhat irregular, a path less taken, but for some, they fall into it. Like me for instance! What I am rambling on, about here, is finding work! Earn some dough to keep the wheels lubed and rolling onwards.
The bank dried out weeks ago, and I'd been running on fumes since. Somehow, the powers that be, and this vigor for keeping myself from superfluous spending, in San Pedro and their ex-pat community -a very difficult thing to accomplish- has been alright and fairly successful. Despite needing a set of new underwear, new t-shirts, new shorts; that my tent is starting to come undone, my backpack’s mold is on the rise with all the constant bombardment of humidity, outside, camping on the beach and outside in the arms of Mama Africa for the past months. There’s still a small pot of CFA to retreat back to Europe, when the floor falls out here –with the support of friends and family on the forefront of this.
And luckily, most of the peeps around here, took an understanding to this road-life-type, not necessarily a man with his hand out, but one with his hands open and mind curious. They welcomed me in, my two travel companions as well, and accepted that we do what we could. And while most of the time the ex-pat was dining on 'prime rib', we were around the corner at the local kiosk, eating the local way. This is not only how it has to be, but ultimately the way it should be -in my case anyhow.
The huge mutton feast of Christmas, a long table of merry folks; the huge pig dinner for new years and another long table of merry folks. These were not events I'd expected, at all. I imagined myself doing most of the cooking, and a few of us gathering together at someone's house. But instead, the host, Manu, brought everyone together on his sandy beach bar surface area to mingle and spend these holiday times as some kind of family, together, and it’s all a very dizzying, gratifying, incredible experience I’m so fortunate to have been given –it’s just too bad that my camera broke so long ago and there are no clear portraits of any of this for the future.
I was lucky to have been welcomed in despite my lack of merit -in the way of cash money, of course. Not charm, because I am so full of that!
Contacts were made for this work I started speaking on, even before leaving San Pedro the first time for Ghana, and on return, after the holidays, again I tried to squeeze my waist line into a few doorways -full of pig and mutton and cous-cous.
These doorways opened, and announced, delightfully my appearance, my addition to the atmosphere, my intentions, however, despite all the chanting and speaking of such a large idea of English classes there was not one reliable bone to be picked for meat, to eat. My last chance, so to speak, was with a foreign company looking at changing teachers in February. I went for an interview, I waited, like the last times, I waited for replies, that never came. I decided to leave to Sassandra -a small beach community, to wait it out. Just before leaving, a small school which I'd been in contact with announced they'd have three classes on a Wednesday, for their school kids to learn English; three different levels.
My travel buddy, Nico and I left on Friday afternoon, hitch-hiked the 100 km to Sassandra -and Dervante (a small village community referred to us by our friends at San Pedro)- spent a few days on the very long, beautiful, picturesque, empty, unoccupied beaches of the area. Sweating out the many days of local gins and cane alcohols, of too many beers and many very long nights. Of the holiday season parties that seemed to last forever, and drizzled too many of the few brain cells I have remaining. We spent four days on those beaches chilling, eating in the small village nearby, and scrounging up what we could from the locals. Sobered up a great deal, then I rushed back with my thumb out to prepare my classes for Wednesday afternoon. I arrived back on Manu's beach Tuesday around 4 p.m. Opened my mailbox, and low and behold a class cancellation, another announcement, this time a completely different tone, that the kids -aged 3 to 11- showed no interest in taking English classes!
The day before class! What a wonderful arrangement of business minded, integrity they have oozed out into my life! Thank you for the third time, being completely indulgent in front of my face, telling me that there are many great things to be done, then each time coming up short-handed.
Firstly, not responding to my emails, secondly a reference phone number for a company with classes, that didn't work! Then, now finally, pulling out of the classes that were said to be, a great idea, and would certainly fly!
So here I am, again at the crossroads. And waiting for another company to give me an unreliable, big maybe, for something that might take flight in the future.
Mama Africa, you rock my world every other day!
Relish it baby, or cry tryin!
With travelling, there are times when one goes and then comes back. It's happened to me a few times. Mumbai, Hampi, and Om beach in India. Phnom Penh, Yangon, Bangkok, and KL in South East Asia. Berlin, Barcelona, La Rochelle and Paris in Europe. And numerous places in Australia.
Being back in San Pedro, has felt a bit strange -espeically considering I was here with my girlfriend who has now left to the otherside of the globe (and everyone is asking about her).
I left nearly five weeks ago then arrive without much of an annoucement -to surprise a couple of people.
Before leaving, had made some friends, built some banter. But, when I arrive, no one seems to give a fuck about how the past weeks had been, how the road had treated me. Nothing personal, it's simply protocol politeness like everywhere in West Africa.
'Ca va?' 'Bon Soir' 'Bon Courage'. All fairly short and impersonal.
In fact, to go even further, for some reason, when I speak to most of those around me, I really feel like they can't wait for me to finish speaking, or that I'm wasting their time speaking from the mouth of someone who 'doesn't understand', or has 'nothing to say'.
To be fair, there were a few hugs and hellos. A travel companion that I'd spent a duration of time with weeks before arriving in San Pedro, had himself arrived, and found himself 'inside' the family circle. We had a great few drinks on my return for sure
He came on my request because the place was so lovely. And chill. And I knew he would find and could use a little bit of a break from all the madness of West African travel.
Overall, people have been very helpful, and it's not like I'm being pushed around or antyhing, but there just seems to be a great deal of indifference about most things.
I get the same feeling, from those I met on the road, coming to here, through Cote D'Ivoire, only they were locals. These are mostly foreigners. However! They are foreigners that have lived most of their lives in West Africa, for a decent handful.
So it seems that, there is a closer connection to this 'attitude' that I feel, which applies not only to the locality, but everyone. And equally, it has a lot to do with me and my perspective -and expectations.
This indifference, this somewhat anti-social, not givin a fuck about much, kinda swagger. There is something to do, as well, with the French language, and the way it, itself, creates an environment. Because it's certainly, certainly not the same as in Ghana. I wouldn't say one is better than the other. They are both quite developed in comparison to other countries, but there is a clear 'style' that has been shaped out of the difference between the English language and the French one.
And a lot of those here, that I've come to meet are pretty much, what you might consider 'French Colonials'.
Servants and flash cars, and pools. In Ghana, I didn't meet any of the English settlers, but one Australian in Accra -who spoke like she was roughing it, but I don't know what her meaning of that concept is, so.
Furthermore, my French is mediocre at best, and there's not a lot of understanding towards that -it feels like, to me. And though it frustrates me a bit, I fear that I am no different with English -outside of the classes I'm teaching.
At the end of the day, the community has, more or less openned up to me. Its nice to be somewhere that people know my name, like the sitcom, 'Cheers'. And there's a spot that I can say is chill and can kick it normally, in the hammock writing, or lay on the sandy beaches after a long battle with a few decent sized waves. This environment hasn't exactly been in abundance in thise part of the world.
Sometimes it's better not to look deeper into things, but simply nod and smile and find my place in it all, with patience. As a moving body, a traveller, many times we become accustomed to, are not used to, taking our time in a place, because we've been in the motions of forward 'progression'. Missing the days to chill, sit back, calm down. In some cases, it's really worth shutting it all down, and simply letting it all unravel slowly, naturally, coherently.
Relish that road baby, every day of the week!
In the past four days, the hitch hiking has been so friggin intense its overwhelming.
750 km crossing part of Ghana and Cote D'Ivoire, stayin at 3 euro a day Budget.
Yea, Ive given it everything, everything I have to make this happen. Xmas somewhere other than alone in my tent in fargin Timbuktu!
And this is not Europe or the West, this is West Africa, and when the day is high and you are stuck on a long, empty road, you can stand under the sun pumping 35 degrees or walk 5 km to hope a tree will arrive for some shade a bit!
The best one today, was the last. A Ghanan picked me up, and we drove like thunder, on his moto, the night fell upon us. We drove with headlights blinding us, with bugs smashing our faces, and the usual dust filling our nostrils, then, then! His headlamp went out! Boo ya. Fortunately, it was 6 km from the town where I write this now and fuck me that was a teeth grinding, finger clenching experience. Potholes, Trucks, and roadside goats, and no fucking headlight!
Are you for real Mama Africa!
Arriving at the gate of Mole National Park was pretty much my biggest diappointment yet. The whole area is absolutely dry, dead, and mostly burned up by fires. The gate guard was completely opposite to what I had hoped -sympathetic to my walking there and shortage of money. And after the mandatory guide and hourly rate, plus a gate price that I found online being less than the one recently raised up (soon to be raised again apparently)
I said fuck it to that place.
To see wildlife it is meant to be an expereince with nature, with your own two feet and a heartbeat -and the possibility to camp and have a small, control fire if we wanted. But no! It aint like that. So, I spent a couple days chillin at the nearby lodge, Savannah Lodge, where a table full of NGO teachers were there living the ol' daily struggle -and not one of them could speak English as a first language, yet there they were, teaching English!
Of course I had to hang out and check that mess of a situation. What a disaster. Education is in the dumps, no materials, then you get a bunch of money and resources from Europe, to bring a bunch of very, very poorly English speaking Spaniards, and two half decent speaking Austrians.
I mean, ok, at least the Spaniards were all Education students back home in Madrid! But this is not helping. Its entertaining sure, its helping to babysit as well. But its not helping, with progress I mean. Now, after a couple hours of hitching away fromt hat tourist trap, and towards Ivory Coast I am looking at the map which I have to ensue to reach San Pedro, for a 'family' xmas. And the way is, long, long, long , long.
The night before arriving to Tamale, I spent on the lakeside. One more night on the lake is what I wanted so, in spite of having a big day, from the shore, across from Dambai all the way to Tamale, I clamped down and camped. After it was said and done, and the ride int he morning very quick, I say it was well worth it to feel the slight breeze of the northern Volta Lake one more time, even if it wasn't exactly a picturesque environment.
And by no intensely great surprise, as I started to settle in and rest, a flashlight appeared. Having spotted the flashlight I waited for the voice to follow.
The local English ensues, calling me out,
'Where are you going?' He asks me this at 9 in the evening.
While in other parts of the world, the first question varies from what religion I am to my name, in these parts of West Africa, the most frequently asked question in English is, 'Where are you going?'.
And it is asked all the time!
Not my name, not where I come from, but here, it's highly important to know 'Where I am going'. From down the street, from across a river, from down to the valley floor, they gotta know!
Even if, even when I am in my tent, well after sunset, and clearly about to sleep.
'Nowhere! I am sleeping. Please leave me alone.'
Getting to Tamale was a 13-hour mission that involved 6 motorbikes, one car, and 3 hours of walking. But it was free, and it got done!
Plus, low and behold, when I arrive to Tamale, couch-surfing is there to lend a hand to me in dire need of a bath. I got four positive replies out of seven! In Europe that would be impossible!
Tamale... itself. Is not worth much mention, except that their local food, this slimy okra sauce with a variation of fufu, is horrible and I've had to eat it three times in two days! Wonderful living on a fuck all budget sometimes!
The fortunate turn, which gave some color to this dismal town, was a guy I met, Kwame, back at Wli Falls, showing up in Tamale as well.
With my being able to help him with the couch-surfing accommodation as well, it seemed that I would have a roommate.
Just having someone to hang out with, have a chat, talk some shit has been really, really great.
It's impressive that through all the people I meet all the time, very, very few could even be a friend. Even in an English speaking country like Ghana. Kwame, however, I certainly can say, who I met by chance, actually made a friend out of the process. There are few times I can say that about Asia either. Just worlds apart. And most of the time it can be the language barrier, it's more than that, it's a real connection that is missing -no common denomination.
Relish it Baby! Or cry tryin!
Since leaving Accra, its been pure hitch hiking. Its been some very nice gestures from local hands. Great rides. A couple very interrogative, others refreshed to see an Obronis (white person) movin the way I am.
Offerings of open hospitality are nowhere short of excellent and in fact, shocking. A couple of peeps that didn't want me to leave, that had sadness in their eyes. Moments I had rarely, very rarely come in contact with since leaving Europe.
Very close contact. This heart to heart emotion being traded between us. I've really not had this, especially when my girl was around.
Sadly, travel as a solo soldier, gets one much closer to the impact. And that's just about everywhere. Just about eh!
Four different waterfalls, the biggest in West Africa as one of them and the largest Lake around as well. Campin out in some remote villages, seeing traditional dancing, one of them with her ass in my way, swinging it like she had a license!
An election! Opposition winning ground! People excited everywhere, with blow horns and white dust on their bodies to declare victory! Jungle movements all over the place. And this. I gotta say. This is actually a little more on target to what I figured I would overturn in Western Africa. These are the events I figured would fall right into our laps as we proceeded down wind. But it never happened like this.
And it gives me deep sadness that I cannot share this all with my girl who worked so hard, with me, to make it down so far. Just to stand under Wli Falls together, I know that woulda made the girl so friggin happy.
Well, my feet have just crossed their 65th country. A man yesterday said,
'Man, I've been to 22 and I am quite proud.' He was saying this to mean, as a compliment, to me, that I should be very proud to have come all this way -and that there must have been some very hard times and great sacrifices made.
He was an Israeli that had also recently arrived to Accra from Dakar.
He had come by land as well. Though he didn't stop through Gambia or Bissau, he did majority of the way as I and Helen had. And man, did we laugh. But he understood. He understood what it takes.
'I think you travel the way I like to.' Another thing that he said last night that stays in my mind.
There are different types of ways to get anywhere in the world -different ways to arriving at the same destination. It just so happens I find an irrationally, stupid, difficult, and senseless way to just about anywhere. But I am not alone, that is for sure. And for the third time in West Africa I've had the pleasure of meeting someone that roles the same way.
First, it was Nico, laying on a piece of grass, behind a line of beach, on Karabane island in Cassamance. He was living in his tent! What a surprise to find someone like that. What a laugh we had for a couple weeks until he got malaria -troubles we had as well, disagreements of course, among other things.
And the Spanish sensation, Jose, who's cycling across Africa from Spain and should, now, be in Sierra Leone, recovering from malaria.
And now the third man, whose name I didn't even get, because we had way too many other things to laugh about. Especially the roadways and situations we faced, so similarly, across Guinea!
The way is so full of surprises. And sending my girlfriend into the airport the other night was a horrible situation, that I'm tired of going through. Though, still, too stubborn, to determined, to change it.
And with her recent departure and a sure load of loneliness to come in her wake, I find a nice, volunteer position in the city! At a hostel. Where I can make some friends and stop moving for a while. Yes! And its something I've already done a couple times, YES! What luck, what a fit!
But like I said.
The way has so many surprises. And this time, the hosts are not going to see the need of rest,and willingness to work. I've been fortunate a few times to find a place. But on this occasion, they've missed out. Theyve missed out on some great food, and a very competent, friendly, community kind of lad. The dice have rolled another way. And by surprise, it's actually a Westerner, whose let it roll like that.
A small shock. But hey! Life goes on, and this journey is long.
Relish that road baby! For better or worse! Love is a battlefield.
It is too hard to find time online for this stuff. Between finding electricity and time its becoming a very rare moment where I have the time to do anything but research something along the way online. For example the road we must take from point A to point B, or couchsurfing on a regular basis, or a number of other things.
The past days we spent in San Pedro, after crossing the border into Cote D'ivoire. It's a fantastic place in comparison to other coastal areas we've witnessed from Europe to here.
They have a community, the locals are friendly and not irritating, begging money all the time -or demanding it either.
The coast is full of nice beach, and big waves and small bars and hotels to grab a, not so pricey drink. And there's a school there, which I hope, to get lucky and find a job within for a good while.
Because I really need a break. And after my darling lady leaves back to Berlin, I'm gonna need soe time to reflect on what is, exactly important. This road is a mighty one alright. And in Sub-Sahara always a colourful experience. From broken down cars, and hard headed drivers. Visas with barracades galore. A doctor at the border waiting for you to forget your vaccination card -to fine you. And the odd, good piece of luck. Most of it via couch surfing. A site that has more than once, save dour asses in this part of the world. Relish it Baby!
The ride to Conakry, which lasted 32 hours through approx. 600 km, was mostly spent in a small, station wagon, made by Renault. Only they made it to fit around six. We had a total of ten adults, 3 babies and one infant! That is one hell of a ride when the road is more made for moto-cross, then driving. In fact, there are few parts of the world that would consider it a road. Even Google couldn't calculate what we were up against -and this is the main 'highway' between two capital cities. That's how real shit gets around here! There are so many fucked up things to include; for instance the grieving through a short, but memorable stint of food poisoning. High fever, aching body, pissing ass, all the great things that come with the Ol' dysentry. And our friend Nico, who we had to leave behind as we took off for the mountains of Guinea. Who now has malaria, and can notch that one off of his list of things to accomplish while in Africa. Between the wicked rides and awful pains we did receive great hosts in both Bissau and Conakry, who helped us all through our aches and pains and our journies forward -patient with our delays through the Cote D'ivoire embassy, for example. I am very weak at the moment and the internet is so utterly shit that it plies at my patience more than the mosquitoes on the Island Archipaelego of Bissau; so I really have to just let this Relish thing go on hiatus for a while. I Cannot do the HTML scripts because the keyboard is a different language than the one typing and no one, including the computer can figure how to change the language. I mean this is very little qualm compared to what people are going through out there on a regular basis -some might say to me. Like our host who had some hot shot throw a gun out on him and represent his gangsta ass from NYC. Black man in hip-hop cries out for his homeland, and how he cannot be one without it, then he comes and exploits it like everyone else -in this case, likely diamonds. And not only that but bullies a really nice guy who went through a lot more shit than he could calculate through his life, who had to get out of Sierra Leone a decade before. He couldn't simply move his big, shiny SUV so that the locals could move through -because they got enough problems, see! Nope, he had to get out swing his fists in conjunction with his pistol and demand acknowledgement, like he was in some kind of fucking movie 'You know who I am? You know who your fucking with?' He commands. Um, yea I know. You're the jackass with an ego the size of a watermelon and using a gun to enforce your own insecurities. Just another day in a capital city of West Africa! If it's not the military threatening to jail me because I'm not carrying my passport, it's some guy throwing a knife out to rob me. Honestly, every single cliche is gettin knocked off on this trip. Taste the Rainbow!
This place is really, very much, still a backwater. The whole country is frozen in time. Yet, there are way too many 4 wheel drive boomin round the city, for the state of its people. A clear and obvious tone. That takes little, to no imagination to assume why -especially considering it is one of the most highly imported countries of Coke from South America in the world (if not the most).
Though we can blame the frozen country on it's many Presidential failures, their high amount of corruption and neglect, the dictator 20 years back, the Coloinal Portuguese, and everything else that holds back a country. The fact of the matter is, this place is as dusty as Kathmandhu and it ain't gettin any better, any time soon.
The city has some charm to it, though. People here, compared to Senegalese or Gambians, they are much kinder, easier going and less evaluating of the 'White Man'. Before Bissau everyone was calling me a Tubab, here, a few of the kids sayin
But more or less, shit's hella mellow compared to the north of here.
After two weeks on the Bijagoz Island Archiapelgo, where one can really, really, very much escape the outside world, you can see some tradition happening, still. Not as much as people claimed, for what we noticed. But a small amount of traditional wears, and a large amount of traditional living. Plenty of huts. They are not going anywhere, anytime soon.
While the beaches we found, a few of them intoxicating, and empty, bare, there is also this mega force of tidal shifts everywhere around the archipalego, that gives one only a small fragment of the day where he can enjoy a swim.
We missed the Hippos, and the turtles on the far off islands, for if you want to do antyhing with great appeal you gotta bring a heavy stack of bills. The saddest part of this sub-continent. Though no one seems to have money, everything, everything is dependent on it. And a lot of it too.
The fish is great. Barracuda around 4 euro. The beers on the main island of Bubaque can be found out of a 'Bazooka' or Tap, come out cold and for 50 cents. And a few of the ex-pats I found highly surprising and very accomodating. Incredible, in fact.
Before Bissau I hadn't made a single friend out of the ex-pat community. All somehow too distant and gritty, greedy a bit and highly judgemental of the Tubab, like their neighbors.
But like I said, in Bissau things seem to roll a bit different. And one of the reasons is, I believe, that the foreign element that arrives here, they came, before as travelers, and stay because they fell in love. Where in Senegal, for example, they went for an enterprising venture, not for the free will of the road.
I am terribly happy that we've lost a few weeks here in Guinea Bissau, even if the virgin beaches of Varela were far from that, though nice enough and baron of anything but buidlings destroyed by erosion.
The more time we spend in Africa, the more I realize I must really find the beauty in things, the way they are, not as I perceive them to be, how I think they SHOULD be. Simply how they are. And step back from my ideals of how to change things, and what we need to do to fix things, but simply enjoy the moment some more and allow that down here, the mind works differently for many reasons, and maybe it should simply be as that.
Leave the romantisizing to all the blog writers out there who make everything seem so much more beautiful than they in fact are. I'll stick to honesty and the harder, more pliable, atoned road. Where life lives and fairytales get smashed.