IN MY 20's, I was studying abroad in Durban, South Africa, and during my winter break, I decided to backpack through Southern Africa - Botswana, Zimbabwe, Mozambique, Zambia, and finally Tanzania. I was supposed to travel with my flatmates, but then things happened, and I ventured alone.
Pardon the hyperbole, but it was a trip of a lifetime. I slept in a nature reserve in Botswana amongst Timon and Pumbaa. I was chased down by a wildebeest! That was the first and the last time I have run so fast.
In Lusaka, Zambia I started talking to this woman in a communal taxi, and when she learned that I was alone for the holidays, she invited me to spend Christmas with her family. The food was delicious, her family was very welcoming, and she showed me around the primary school she'd founded in her village.
I decided to visit Tanzania last minute, it was not on my destination list. The day before I took a three-day train ride from Zambia to Tanzania, I quickly emailed my friend Anna Pia who lived there, and informed her of my arrival. "Coming to Dar es Salaam pick me up at the train station this Wednesday." When I arrived at the port, Anna was not there to pick me up. Of course not, she did not have enough information about my arrival. So, I took a taxi into the city, found an internet cafe, and emailed her to tell her about my arrival, and the name of the cafe.
Back in those days (the late 2000's) people were not tied to their email as they are now. So I could have heard from Anna Pia in one hour or in two days. I was hungry, broke, and I decided to be proactive. I started telling the cafe owner about Anna Pia, I gave him the name of her former high school (a well-known prep school in the city), and I gave him the names of some of Anna Pia’s friends, et voila, he started calling all of his people who knew people who knew people. About thirty minutes later, Ana Pia along with her father, arrived at the internet cafe to pick me up.
Anna Pia and I were so excited to be reunited that we never deconstructed that moment. The cafe owner did not personally know Anna Pia's family, but he knew enough to get us reunited. There were so many internet cafes in Dar, but I choose that one. There were so many things that could have gone wrong, but the universe pulled us together. That New Year, Anna Pia and I partied - we beach hopped, visited Zanzibar, and then it was time for me to return to South Africa.
At the bus depot, Anna Pia and I hugged life into each other. We were both aware that years would pass before we would see each other again. Both of us were starting to carve out our positions in life, instead of accepting the life that was given to us. I took a bus, a bicycle, another bus, another bus, another bus, and a communal taxi back to Durban. It took four days!
It was on one of those long bus rides through Malawi or Zimbabwe, where the sky appeared palatial and nothing but stars, the moon, and mountains filled the backdrop of the moving landscape that I penned in my mind - "to get the life I want, I must carve out my own position in this world." As soon as light started to rake itself across the sky, I pulled out my journal from my backpack and wrote the same things down: "to get the life I want, I must carve out my own position in this world." This mantra became my elixir to life.
Twenty years later, I'm still carving out my own position in life, and I'm still dreaming beyond borders.
Words Are Magic!
Women, Writers, Poets, Playwrights, and Storytellers are, and will forever be, part of my whittling toolbox.