When you have traveled alone as much as I have, things get…complicated.
Especially when you over-think, and over-plan, and make sure that you are there well, well, well in advance.
Because truthfully, well, well, well-in-advance is much better that suitcase hauling madness dropping things everywhere- dropping neck-pillows, boarding passes, books, even bride price- running ungracefully, sweating profusely in the hoodie you wore because in that airport, the temperature is remote-controlled, but not by God.
When you are like me, you have had to go to close by places and far away lands (and close-by places in far-away lands), alone.
Then you realize that it is quite a shame that you have only two eyes with which to read the many signs to get to the gates to get to the flights to get to the far away places or close-by lands.
Then you realize that your two ears must do an impeccable job of being alert and listening, to grainy voices that speak Englishes dipped thickly in foreign tongues. Then you realize that for the lone traveler, headphones are not always the best idea, and that Emeli Sande just may have to wait for when the captain turns off the seat-belt light to serenade your soul.
You learn that No, there is no conductor on the bus and No, do not hand your dollar-twenty-five to the bus driver.
Yes, feel the shame he intends you to feel when his eyes bore into yours Questioningly.
Yes, feel a pang of guilt when yours look back helpless, Answeringly.
“In the machine,” he says. It whirrs.
You walk away wondering why he didn’t try to hide his annoyance.
Sitting on a quiet street outside Lincoln Community School, you think, not for the first time, of how alike this weather is to October at home. Save for the humidity. Which yanks your pores open and fills them with moisture. Then dust. Hello, break-outs.
I am a beautiful, fair faced angel on the inside and that’s what counts.
You wave goodbye to your mum and dad, unbeknownst to you that your suitcases do not intend on journeying with you.
“See you in Boulder,” they, the suitcases, say. But of course you are too busy waving to mum and dad, that you do not hear them.
Ah. That bored-looking woman who held the now familiar logo in her hand with her bored-looking wee lass. The wee little lass who said, obligatorily
“Pleasure to meet you,” when really, you knew she didn’t care about meeting another student from another country in Africa to take on another (what was it, 45 minutes?) 45 minute-long bus ride to a clove of green-roofed buildings.
The wee little lass and her wee little sass as she eyed the pack of gum you offered which her mother told her with one look she was not to have. (Is that really how it happened?)
The little girl’s outfit was a pink rainbow, yo. Pink rainbow. Red and orange and pink and blue, but all still pinkish.
You were the only one with a flight at that time, the bored-looking woman said, while yawning.
It didn’t occur to you that this would be a pattern.
Eh, koma the way the children run after the wobbling white car. With such speed and determination. Such big smiles for distant cousins from distant places where no children run after cars. Such big holes in their shorts. Running fast, to be first to touch it when it slows to a halt in front of Agogo’s new iron-sheet-roofed house. Then shyly line themselves along the wall for mum to get out of the car hand them a hundred kwacha To Share- all one million of them, at which point their neat line breaks up into a mad frenzy and, when they think you’re not looking, they do weird obscene dances that you highly doubt are appropriate for children their ages.
But I digress, you were not alone on that trip
When you are like me, you plan, plan, plan. Make sure your passport’s reachable always. Nobody likes a fumbler fumbling through her bag for her passport while they wait in line. Make sure you are calm, you will not crash this time. You will not be the exception to how safe flying is. You will not miss your bus stop. You will get on the right train at the right time, do not sweat it.
Eish but with those newly done micro-braids, I hope your hairline doesn’t suffer. But they last long, as we all know. And they look neat. Future leader? You definitely look the part.
via Jozi waku Mauritius
If this plane crashes, may God forgive all your sins, Known and Unknown. Said, thought and done. Words, thoughts and deeds.
The clouds outside your oval window are so thick, so dark and, judging from how violently the plane is shaking, not playing at all. Holding tighter to your seat will not help you in any way, shape or form, my darling. Say your prayers. Those loud African American college students filling the middle aisle certainly are. So say them loud, say them proud.
If you are to die, let it be while you say the name of Jesus.
New York City
Where, oh where is that email. What did it say? Did it say I should look for the words Three Dot Dash, or for three dots and a dash? Or for my name? Eish, abale.
Drag your luggage this way. Drag your luggage that way. Look left, look right. As if you are safely trying to cross the road, but that’s not it. Where is he? Ah, there he is.
“Hi, I’m Priscilla Takondwa Semphere,” you say, pointing to the the placard he holds with your name written on it.
“Where are you going?” he asks.
“Three Dot Dash…” you say clumsily, after a most awkward I-thougt-you-were-joking laugh.
“Yes, but where,” he asks.
You frown, and pull up the email you were finally able to find.
“Affinia Manhattan Hotel¿” you half declare, half ask.
“Alright, then! Welcome to New York City!” he exclaims, his new-found enthusiasm causing you to jump a little, a little jump you disguise as a shift forward to get to the waiting car with him.”Sorry for that. Security measures.”
And given everything you have heard about America, you can’t help but wonder if security measures would be in place if your skin were a different colour. But he was nice the rest of the way, so you let it go.
You let it go.
Northampton, Massachusetts via Jozi
“You let it go, ma’am” you repeat. A little rudely mimicking.
Eish but Priscilla where on earth is this boldness coming from?! Hm! Zoketsa zedi.
“I’m sorry, ma’am. but don’t you have a 50 ml restriction? This is not even 20 mls.”
Ah, ah. Again, I ask, where is this boldness coming from? And over mildly scented Nivea lip balm. A kiss of smoothness.
“Ma’am. Please just let it go.” You let it go and look at her offended.
Do you honestly look like a ‘ma’am’ to her?
Clementines in a cardboard box, £1.69 per kg. Honestly, you would not pay that money for those normal looking “clementines” (simanachesi awa? Tangerines? Ih, kaya mani). Right after the clementines in cardboard for one pound sixty-nine per kay gee, there is a wall of… just…utter unLondonness, to be frank. The ugliest green and the ugliest white in the ugliest manner. Such an ugly scene. Some sort of a building. If this was 2015 and you had your Samsung Galaxy with you, you would take a picture of this and put it on Instagram. You would tag @thesanmi and the caption would be,
“This is the London they never show you. #omg #thirdworldsavesfirstworld”
But you are not alone on this trip. Again, we have digressed.
See, if you are me, and you have travelled mostly alone, you don’t really see things. Something about travelling alone doesn’t permit you really looking and taking in. Because your eyes are constantly on the signs ahead of you. And you have a place to be. And you have a set destination with set and scheduled plans. But see, there are those moments when you permit yourself to see, and when you do, the memory lasts forever.
Green, green, green. Blue, blue, blue. Water, and school uniforms. Noodles with a sunny-side up egg on top. A first for you. Guitars and people and books and waves and a peek into the future.
Humidity, but the refreshing sort.
This one is a journey that only you can travel. Nothing odd about doing this one alone. This one is a journey where the only signs you read are probably in your heart, or hidden somewhere in God’s mutterings. And then sometimes they are personified. In this journey you are not allowed to not see. You have to, my dear. Here, you are the only one on the queue, so feel free to fumble through your bag, fumbler.
Here, handing the driver the bills is okay. If you need to learn that the bills go in the whirring machine, handing the driver the bills is a sure way of finding out.
“There is only one way to learn. It’s through action. Everything you need to know you have learned through your journey.” – Paulo Coelho, The Alchemist