[From the first pages of the Cape to Cairo manuscript, Nov. 2009]
This is a story about traveling from Cape Town to Cairo on public transport. It’s also a little about what happens when you throw yourself out into the craziness of the world and try to do something you never thought you could.
Nothing referred to in this book as a ‘hotel’ remotely resembled one, with the exception of a couple of nights in Khartoum. I learned to suspect that some jails may be nicer than some hotels.
Africa is a very big place, and this is a very small part of it. But it’s a small part that’s nothing like you probably thought it was. It’s nothing like the manufacturers of 4x4s and the publishers of Conrad’s Heart of Darkness have told you it is.
Finally, this book is a little about what it is like to leave the life you know behind and move in a new direction. In part, this book is for everyone who stands on that doorstep in their own lives, looking out.
12 NOVEMBER 2009. And time to leave
I’m sitting in the parking lot in a hot part of Johannesburg. Waiting. Waiting for my brother John to be released from ‘invigilating an exam’. International Political Economy. I think I’ve asked a half-dozen times what it means and each time somehow let it slip through the cracks and had to ask again
Bodhisattva – it means one undertaking the journey to Buddha-hood, to enlightenment, to some fundamentally different manner of seeing the world. In an hour I am off to the airport. Then to Cape Town and the beginning of my journey. There is nothing classically religious about it, yet on some deeper level, so much of where I will be going, inside and out, is religious. In the deepest sense of it.
State of mind? Calm, clear, in control.
The fear and rushing of previous days has since passed on, to be replaced with an alert stillness. Watching the leaves on a tree washing in the wind and having nowhere better to be is liberation. Not a freedom in location, but a deeper, more satisfying freedom born from checking out of the self-involved human race. I’ll not be rushing today to earn money. To accrue the baubles that the world demands I obtain until needing them becomes a dishonest purpose.
I am recall piece of writing from a blogger by the name of Solbeam that I had read before departing; “we are eating ourselves alive, and we are still hungry”. So apt.
For the coming days and the challenges ahead, all I’ll have is myself and a pair of bags. It’s all I’ll need to cross Africa. And a sad indictment of the excesses of a world confused and lashing out for more stuff when all we really want, deep down, are new ways of living.
I think I am trying to find some simpler, wiser, more fundamental truth. About myself. About my life. About how I answer the simplest questions asked of that space between I and the World.
Watching the tree leaves, it seems unnecessary to be so dissociated from the world. Why not share in the joy that it provides in quiet reflection. Step into the dancing air and the wind-washing leaves and just revel for a single childlike moment once more time.
And if for a moment, why not a life?