The flame trees outside the Dar es Salaam train station are some of the most beautiful plants i’ve seen in days – more so as their orange flowers lick the deep blue of the sky, cloudless. It’s hardly fitting that here, in this loud and beautiful contrast of colours, our family must come to an end.
I met Jun Ho in Lusaka. Actually, to be fair, before that even. As I boarded the bus in Monze, Zambia, to carry on towards the capital, he was seated in the back, a lone face among two dozen for whom this bus, this place, is everyday. We didn’t speak then, and I shrugged him off as many of the stories I would wonder about as we briefly connected and went our separate paths. Alighting in Lusaka though, we bumped into each other more directly outside the Tazara offices – he too on his way to Kapiri Mposhi to take the slow train to Dar es Salaam. Traveling for his first time outside of Korea, exploring a new world. We would hike Lusaka looking for a backpackers before running around like headless chickens through the traffic of the Lusaka main road, trying to swap forex and buy food for the fourty hours of train journey that we had decided to share together.
We would meet Naomi and Patrick later that morning, as they too were cutting it fine – boarding the eleven o clock bus to Kapiri Mposhi with us. All hoping to make the two hundred or so kilometer journey to the station in time to board the train before it left – our only chance for days. She from Britain, he from Italy, travelling as Dharma Bums through Africa – living outside of life in a world of their own construction.
Gradually, guarding each others’ bags and swapping anecdotes about our countries and languages became comparing book lists. Became paying off extortionate policemen together. Became Naomi’s stories of the darkness in Northern Uganda. Became the big discussions of life, truth, dharma. We became a ragtag little family. Questing together on our galloping metal steed.
Running from one side of the train to the other, we called out the names of animals we saw as we clacked through the lush green of Zambia and the mixed colours of Tanzanian forests – grey, copper red and brilliant green underneath the blue, blue sky. We would discuss thoughts on the big things, in the low light of the cabin as the scent of strange places was pulled in through the window, riding the chilled night air. As the day died in that ochre hue particular to the Western horizon of Africa, and was born again in the salmon pink of the East, we would share our small meals of homemade sandwiches, biscuits and bohemian collections of sweets.
It was two days in a cabin – in time that seemed to stretch forever, yet died before we were ready. As we say our goodbyes, under the blue, blue skies of Dar es Salaam, the flame trees, watching, seem a small consolation.