Tag

being foreign

struggle
Culture, Europe, Nomadism, Travel Advice

Struggle: A Travel Manifesto

If you travel (or live), where the mother tongue is not your mother tongue, you will struggle. The mundane will become complex and challenging, and you will no longer take your habitual fluency in the everyday for granted.

This is a good thing.

It shouldn’t be easy. (Or at least, I strongly believe that it is through challenge, discomfort, dis-ease that we grow best.) So, this is my travel manifesto for you…

Go out into the world, and struggle:

Struggle, to purchase underwear.
Struggle, to ask directions.
Struggle, to talk about the things that matter to you.

Comprehending the cost of your coffee will be a minor victory.
Catching a compliment on the first go will be cause for celebration.
Navigating a simple interaction will thrill you—as it never could at home.

These are all very good things.

For it should not be easy, this day-to-day living.
It should not be easy, this being in the world.

So struggle, to take the bus.
And struggle, to order at the bar.
Struggle, to understand.
Struggle, to say you have understood.

For it should not be easy, this everyday living.
It should not be easy, this quotidian life thing.

When it is easy, we forget—

We forget that buying our coffee is in fact a minor victory,
that a compliment is cause for celebration,
that understanding is a miracle,
and being understood doubly so.

So struggle,
and don’t forget
that it is a privilege to move through this world with grace.

And when you do forget,
as, invariably, we do,
Go out again
and travel.

Remember what it feels like
to struggle for the simplest of rewards.

Remember not to take
anything for granted.

Remember how to move
through this world
with grace.

 

— Monday, 15 May; train Barcelona—Paris

 

*Image photographed in Belleville, Paris. Artwork by rnst.

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travel, portugal
Europe

Some Things I Like (About Travel)

 

Lisbon, Portugal. Saturday afternoon, somewhere far from the city center.

I like this cafe, edged in fading sunlight, that flanks a nondescript park.

I like sitting by myself and soaking in unknown smells that will soon be memories.

I like following conversation like it’s music, unaware of any meaning beyond what I can discern from the melody.

I like sitting on the metro and not understanding a word anyone says.

I like struggling to understand basic signage.

I like not being sure whether the sign on the door says “push” or “pull.”

I like ordering from a menu at random.

I like not being sure which way to look before crossing the street…and then checking both ways twice, just to be safe.

I like when buildings surprise me by speaking, and streets by staying silent.

I like uneven cobblestones, and I like parts of cities no one tells you to go to because they are boring.

I like when a bus ride is an adventure; a walk around the block a quest.

I like feeling out of place.

I like blending in and feeling like I’ve gotten away with something.

I like when it’s not too easy.

I like when nothing can be taken for granted.

Most of all, I like getting lost in the unfamiliar, which renders humility not a choice, but an inevitable outcome.

It is good to be back here.

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Adventure, Europe, Nomadism

The Strangeness

 

“There are no foreign lands. It is the traveler only who is foreign.” — Robert Louis Stevenson

Sorry, Robert Stevenson, on two counts. First, I still haven’t actually read any of your books, but I swear they’re on my list. Second, I’m going to have to disagree with you on that lovely and popular quote of yours.

Because I’m starting to think that there are only foreign lands. That nothing is, after all, familiar or domestic. That when we spend a portion of time “abroad,” away from what was once home or something like it, we realize that “home” is just as strange, just as illogical, just as arbitrary as all the rest.

***

The sun is out in uncharacteristic force, and as I walk down the street in Chelsea, London, it reflects back at me with a grin off a row of tall, identical apartment buildings.

The walls are spotlessly white. The streets are free of garbage. The public transit runs seamlessly.

I have just arrived this morning from Cape Town, South Africa. And as I am coming to expect when I jump continents, I’m slightly bewildered by everything… The old lady in a mauve pantsuit and Ugg boots pushing her walker with one hand and holding her mauve hat with the other. The young men wearing shorts and T-shirts (whereas I have just pulled my down coat out of storage). The utter politeness of traffic on Kings Road.

Politics and economics, on the other hand, run parallel. Xenophobia and poor economic choices rule the day, here as much as elsewhere.

I digress. It is the strangeness that lingers with me today, and which I would attempt to describe. The slight eeriness of one of the places I consider a home base. A flutter in my stomach as I amble along the too-neat lanes and study the too-same rows of pretty buildings.

London.

London, where I stay for free. London, where I have friends, a climbing gym membership, and a regular cafe, supermarket, and aerial dance studio.

London, where I don’t need a map.

London, where I keep coming back, although I can never quite decide if I even like the place.

As I do in Cape Town, I have a community here. And so I return again and again, such that it has become familiar, evan banal, to visit.

Except, not this time. This time, it is the sense of strangeness, not of homecoming, that strikes me first. The roads too straight, the people too well dressed, the pavement too clean, the attitude of the entire city just a bit too…deferential.

As spring unfurls in the flowering magnolia trees and the underdressed pedestrians, London opens her arms to me, and I hardly recognize her.

This, too, is a foreign land.

And if this is foreign, then nowhere—nowhere is anything but.

Why talk about this strangeness? This foreignness of the formerly familiar?

“This is our tragedy….our fictions are killing us, but if we didn’t have those fictions, maybe that would kill us too.” ― Salman Rushdie

It’s critical to acknowledge the inescapable quality of strangeness in a world brimming with fearful people seeking security in the familiar. People who genuinely believe there is a “right” way to build a city, be in a city, be a city.

There is no right way.

There is no “standard” from which all other lands digress in various degrees of foreignness. Such a standard is fiction, and it divides us.

Perhaps the truer statement is this:

All lands are foreign, and it is us, only us, who are the same—everywhere.

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Africa, Culture, Travel Advice

It’s. A. Trap! (Fair Doesn’t Always Mean Equal)

Ourika Valley, near Marrakech, Morocco

“Very good price. Very low. Better than free.”

We’re standing outside the van on the road to Ourika Valley, a verdant, majority-Berber region about two hours from Marrakech, popular with tourists for its many waterfalls.

A half-dozen camels on short tethers wait for curious tourists to approach. It’s well past 11 o’clock, but the sun is just making it over the mountains to warm the deep valley.

The man speaking proffers a tangle of necklaces. Plastic. The artisanal products are waiting in well-planned shops, with tougher hagglers behind the counter. My companions for the day, a French couple from outside of Paris, laugh and tell him that’s a good marketing plan.

In a way it is, but then…maybe not.

You see, I don’t want anything for free (unless it’s a sincere gift). I don’t want the cheapest price (anymore). I want a fair price.

And that’s a very different thing.

Ostensibly we’ve stopped for photos, but the view was around the last bend, and we’re really here to have time to spend money. We’ll stop at three more tourist establishments (some would call them traps, but I won’t today and I’ll explain why soon) before actually reaching our intended destination.

> The Argan Oil Cooperative. Smiling women sit outside the building grinding argan nuts into a paste, which will later be separated into cosmetic oil and the base ingredient for savon noir (black soap). They beckon us to sit beside them. Ashkid, ashkid. (Come, come.) You can take pictures, we’re told. No problem. There’s a dish in front of the women with a few dirham notes in it. We can leave money there.

> The Berber House. A traditional Berber house, which I might have found more exciting had I not spent a great deal of the last five weeks visiting my Berber friends in their (yes) Berber Houses. We’re shown the kitchen, the store room, the family room, the hamam (bath) and the backyard. You can take pictures. No problem. On the way out, there’s a well-placed souvenir shop and a donation box for the welcoming Berber House family.

> The Guide. We stop in the village near the waterfalls to pick up the guide. We haven’t asked for the guide, but the guide is going to come with us. He accompanies our small group halfway up the trail, to the first set of falls, and then tells us it’s time to turn back. When we insist on continuing, and he insists on not going back without us, I convince him to wait at the halfway-up cafe while we finish the hike.

Now, I don’t like being forced to pay for things I didn’t ask for or want in the first place. I also don’t like not paying someone for work completed or services rendered. I don’t like feeling cheated out of my money. And I don’t like feeling I’ve cheated someone out of their fairly-earned money.

Most people in the world would probably agree with those sentiments.

I think all of these scenarios and concerns come down to the same fundamental issue: fairness. Fairness to local people working in the tourism sector, and fairness to tourists seeking to spend their money well (ethically, reasonably and in a way that feels good to them).

So, what’s fair?

I’m going to seriously oversimplify for a moment. The tourist-local marketplace dynamic—as I see it—breaks down like this:

Tourists don’t want to feel ripped off or trapped. (That’s a low bar.) These things are traps: Telling someone to take a picture (no problem, pictures are free!), and then asking them to pay for it. Insisting someone take a bracelet as a gift—and then insisting they pay for it. Following someone through the souk, though they have clearly stated they do not want a guide—and then asking them to pay for it. (These are all common experiences for unsuspecting foreigners in Morocco.)

Tourists do want to feel like they’re getting a good deal. Sure, some are pinching pennies, but most just want fair. Many, like me, will feel frustrated when they know an item’s market price, and then are asked to pay four times that because said item has been handily transported into a souvenir shop. They don’t want to pay “tourist prices.”

Local people want to make a decent living. They see foreign tourists and assume (reasonably) that if they had enough money to pay for a plane ticket to Morocco, they also have enough money to pay a few dollars above market price for a bottle of oil, silver necklace, taxi ride, and everything else. They might also encourage (or push) said tourists to spread their money evenly—a few gifts at the Argan Cooperative, a dollar to the Berber House, a tip to the guide. From this perspective, those tourist establishments mentioned above are not traps, but simply an integral component of the day’s adventure.

Some believe that tourists should pay tourist prices, because they can. And hey, I get where they’re coming from.

Naturally, I also get where tourists are coming from. I’ve been pondering this a lot lately, and I think the fair solution is neither “equal” (tourists often do earn significantly more than the locals they’re buying from, so why shouldn’t they pay more too?), nor excessive (no one likes traps and cheating). Rather, it’s somewhere in the middle, where everyone is happy—or at least not pissed off.

So, when buying abroad, keep three questions in mind:

1. How much is this worth to me? (How much do I want to spend on it? Keep in mind, for perspective, what you would spend at home.)

2. What is the “market price”? (What would this cost a local?)

3. What can I afford? (What’s my budget for this day? Week? Holiday? Will this meal/souvenir/excursion put me over?)

The “fair” price exists somewhere at the nexus of those three answers.

Happy shopping!

*** 

And to justify this blog title:

 

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“Don’t go to Morocco Alone.” And other Fear-mongering you should Ignore.

A rooftop terrace in Taghazout, Morocco.

Me: “I’m thinking of going to Morocco.”

Everyone: “Awesome! Just don’t go alone.”

As you may have guessed, I didn’t listen to everyone, and here I am: in Morocco, very much solo, and so far quite pleased about it.

(For the next month, I’ll be living in Taghazout, a small town on the Atlantic coast, teaching some yoga, learning the fine art of surf bummery, and generally winding down after an overly hectic few months. And I’ll have time to visit a few Moroccan cities afterward, not to worry!)

There is a saying here, which a new friend taught me:

One rotten fish can make the whole bucket stink.

For those who work in the tourism industry, that rotten fish (in the form of robberies, political unrest or an isolated attack) is the proverbial boogeyman. Just a whiff of danger and foreigners will cancel their flights. An act of terror (as occurred while I was living in Kenya)? Total disaster for the industry—and, by extension, a great many people’s livelihoods.

I digress somewhat. I don’t to tell you what happens to the tourism industry when the fear-mongers win. I want to tell you why you shouldn’t listen to them in the first place.

Every country- or city-shaped bucket has a rotten fish—often many.

In my opinion, those rotten fish are the reason why people will tell women not to travel solo to India, Zanzibar, Turkey, fill-in-the-blank-with-your-country-of-choice. “It’s not safe.” “Men don’t respect women there.” “It won’t be pleasant.” Et cetera, et cetera, et cetera.

And sure, there’s a good chance I will encounter an asshole or two before I leave Morocco in six months’ time. I’ve spent time alone in all of the aforementioned countries, and I’ve had occasional negative experiences in all of them (though always far outweighed by the positive). But do you know where I’ve encountered the most assholes? On college campuses in the U.S. In Parisian metro stations. Walking down the street in Boston.

So what can we learn here?

***

Well, for starters, check your assumptions. Are you giving more credence to warnings of danger or disrespect because the destination in question is “over there”? Keep in mind that nowhere is perfect, and nowhere is particularly “safe.” I have yet to investigate, but I’ve heard Morocco may be one of the statistically safest countries in the world. Chew on that.

Second, ask yourself if you’re discounting cultural differences. If so, you may be falling victim to the understandable yet problematic epidemic of Western ethnocentrism. That is, judging another culture purely by your own values. Quick tips for women wishing to avoid harassment while traveling alone: cover your hair, cover your shoulders, and cover your legs (generally, follow cultural codes for modesty and behavior). Oh yes, that’s problematic in its own way, and I take issue with it sometimes, but we don’t get to make the rules when we visit someone else’s home.

Lastly, choose your devil, because there is nowhere—nowhere–you will be utterly and inalterably at ease.

***

I (and just about every woman ever) learned since birth to fear. Fear attack. Fear violence. Fear bad men. Fear everything, right? Society teaches us that.

And it’s true. Of course it’s true! The world is a scary place. Especially for women. We’re working on it, but we have a very, very long way to go. Change, however, has never happened when we stick to the status quo. Fear-mongering doesn’t keep us safe; it keeps us the same. So if you want something different, you have to ignore the fear-mongers.

There’s a lot of space between reckless risk-taking and bubble-girl-style caution. Here’s what you may find there:

> Deserted tropical islands where you can run naked across miles of sand, because you are totally, beautifully alone.

> Kind shop owners who will invite you inside for tea, show you pictures of their wife and children, and invite you to stay with their family if ever you return to their country.

> Fascinating strangers on trains, buses and trails, in hostels, campsites and smoke-filled restaurants, whom you never would have met if you hadn’t been traveling solo.

> The best meal of your month, discovered only by following your nose and your intuition (yours alone) through a labyrinthine bazaar.

> And last, but unavoidably, rotten fish. It’s part of the travel bucket. But hey, it’s part of every bucket, and you can’t avoid them all.

I hope, if nothing else, this will make you think—maybe reconsider. Please share your thoughts in the comments if so inclined!

***

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Africa

The Invisibility Wish


Living here, I find I cycle between feeling very comfortable and, dare I say it, assimilated (as much as such a thing is possible), and feeling totally out-of-place and exhausted with sticking out. This is a stream of consciousness on the latter:

Sometimes, I wish I could be invisible here.

A foreign feeling for me, who always wanted so much to stand out;
Now here, hard as I may try, I could not hope to blend in,
And though it is freeing at times and instructive at others,
Sometimes, I would like to be invisible.

Anonymity—a luxury I never appreciated—suddenly seems so very appealing:

To spend a day where no cars screech to a stop to watch me pass, and no strangers want to talk to me simply because I am white (or foreign, or tourist, or moneyed or different… it’s all the same. And it is because I am white and foreign; I watch the women walking here, and no one wants to talk to them)…

To spend a day anonymous; to slip under the water of hyper-conscious observation and simply watch for a change; to sit on the bus in silence—what a day that would be.

Sometimes, when every day is a crowded audience for which I perform my life, I wouldn’t mind stepping into the shadows and only watching for a while.

But I can’t.

You can’t watch without being watched. You can’t be an observer without creating ripples through the world you observe. I think physics taught us that.

You can’t be a white woman in Africa without recognizing the remnants of colonialism. (Irrelevant that at my ancestors were far removed at the time, living their lives in Eastern Europe at the time. I am still a white woman in Africa, here.) You can’t be a tourist without accepting that your money talks and it’s saying, “come talk to me.” You can’t be a foreigner without relinquishing your right to anonymity.

Or maybe you can, but I haven’t figured out the secret. I will have to do without invisible days and unobserved observation, as I do without good cheese and potable tap water. Luckily, I have a vivid imagination—sometimes I pretend laughing cow is really a luscious Camembert, and sometimes I pretend the shouts and stares are all imaginary, and the beach is really a calm and peaceful oasis.

It’s all perspective, anyway.

*** 
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Culture, Travel Advice

The Difference A Word Makes

[Greetings from Nungwi, Zanzibar, my new home-for-the-moment! It was a tough choice, but I decided to switch tracks and will now be living here and teaching yoga for the summer. Come visit. J]

***

Considering I will be here for so long, and mostly on my own, I decided my favorite method of dealing with unwanted attention and attempted sales—the “ignore and conquer” tactic—may not be my best option here. After all, I don’t really want to be that rude muzungu lady who never talks to anyone for three months (even if, secretly, I would be totally happy to have three reclusive months free of dealing with strangers).
Instead, I’ve decided, I will engage. Stop to chat with, or at least greet, everyone. Practice my increasingly passable Ki-Swahili.
And it’s amazing the difference a few words make. Knowing that “poa” is the response to “mambo,” the most common greeting. Even better, greeting with “mambo vipi,” a more colloquial version, rarely used by tourists.
Five basic words of greeting are all it takes to distance myself from foreigners “fresh off the Zanzibar ferry.” The fact that I can hold an introductory conversation and explain that I am here to live and work, all in (broken) Ki-Swahili? Just icing.
Being able to decline, politely, in Ki-Swahili when offered goods and services means I usually only need to say “no” once, rather than six or seven times. Already, I think I have probably avoided hours of pointless sales pitches for jet-skiing, fishing trips and spice tours.
It is truly incredible to observe the difference a word or two makes. Some seem to appreciate my effort, smiling or laughing with good-natured surprise. Others just respond in English, but my language skills are far too rudimentary for me to take offense at that. Overall, the response has convinced me to share my experience here.
To those traveling or living abroad who are tired of being treated as wallets (or breasts) with legs, try learning a few words of the local language. You’ll still stand out (and women, you’ll still be harassed), but you’ll also stand out from other tourists.
You don’t have to be fluent—no one expects you to be—even ten words will often make a huge difference.

Have you ever experienced the difference a word makes? What was it like?
***
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Africa, Culture

The Tropical Beach Paradox

Walk along Miami Beach in a string bikini, and you’ll fit right in. Opt for boy shorts, and you’ll probably feel overdressed.
Now, do the same thing in Zanzibar, and unless you are on a truly private beach, chances are you’ll feel very uncomfortably exposed.
That’s why many large resorts have private beaches. That, and the fact that nothing says luxury like owning your own piece of the ocean.
Zanzibar is between 95% and 99% Muslim, depending on who you ask, and though local women express their faith in various fashions—some wearing full sleeved dresses and somber-hued veils, others donning brightly colored and fashionably tailored items, and still others wrapping vast kangas (traditional patterned fabric) around their bodies and heads—all of them do so modestly.
Women don’t show their bodies in public, so men don’t see many bodies. Thus, as my partner once—rather rudely—pointed out, for local men, “seeing exposed skin is like porn.” Harsh, but not inaccurate.
There’s a paradox here, because Zanzibar’s major industry is tourism.
This industry packages Zanzibar as a remote, tropical island paradise escape and sells this vision to tourists looking for beach holidays, water sports and romantic adventures—for the most part. The people who populate the island, however, are Muslims, the female half of whom does not swim, does not frolic, lightly clad, in the surf (like the beautiful images on brochures) and seemingly finds it quite entertaining to observe the foreign antics of ever-growing hordes of visitors. (How they really feel about these foreigners, I will not presume to guess.)
It’s a paradox because we are looking at a massive (and growing) industry built on a beach culture that never before existed and, in context, appears shocking and clumsily out-of-place.
(A foreign woman visiting Zanzibar is left with three options. She can:
A. Wear the swimsuits which would feel appropriate or even modest at any American or European beach and feel very uncomfortably exposed.
B. Not swim. (Not a real option.)
C. Find a truly deserted beach—as most of the coast is populated by fishing villages or mangrove forests, this last option is unlikely, unless she books her stay at an exclusive, gated resort.
D. Why is there no D?)
(It’s not as deserted as it looks.)
This paradox is hardly unique to Zanzibar. If you follow the equatorial belt around the world, you won’t find many places where short shorts and bikinis seem appropriate. And still, as travelers seek more exotic, more remote, more different destinations, anywhere with a nice beach is liable to become “the next Thailand,” or the next “place you need to visit in the next decade.”
Why the hurry? I think that’s a story for another day.
Meanwhile, many of these tropical paradise escapes are rather unlikely and incongruous candidates when you really think about it. I mean, I want to comfortably lie on a beach without offending anyone’s religion, attracting large amounts of attention, arousing anyone’s fantasies of “Western Women,” or shocking anyone with different expectations of modesty… I can’t be the only one!
Where’s the solution?

I don’t think there is one… anyone have any better ideas?
***
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Africa, Culture

Rusinga Island, Lake Victoria, Kenya

Here, I am Muzungu: foreign, white, outsider. Kids yell after us as we pass on foot (or, after realizing the walk from Mbita is at least an hour, on pika pika, moto-taxi). It hasn’t gotten old quite yet.
There is something… there is something about the impossibility of fitting in that has always challenged me in the best of ways. In Nepal and India, no matter the effort I made to wear the right clothing, to learn the language, to immerse, I was always patently, immutably other. Here too—I can already tell.
In Europe, not so much. I have a face that can appear French, Italian, Slavic or even Turkish according to context. Without my backpack, I can walk through a city unmolested, my status as tourist unknown, and blend into the crowd of a subway car. The chameleon has many merits, and I have certainly enjoyed exploring new places in the guise of a local.
And on the other hand, I do not like the constant attention, stares of curiosity, shouts, deference and, conversely, hostility I receive when I travel as an obvious tourist. I certainly do not like being singled out by the Nairobi police as an easy source of a bribe, and I do not like the behavior of those men who seem to believe that as a foreigner I do not warrant the same respect as women of their own race.
But still, there is something.
There is something about the impossibility of fitting in that I do like. Standing out, not because of a voluntarily articulated identifier like religion, sexuality, or dress, but because of an immediately evident, insuppressible feature like skin color—like eye color, height, even language, too.
That experience was very rare growing up in Boston, or going to school at Middlebury College. And I think most people, of all backgrounds, shy away from it because it is uncomfortable. It is inescapable. It can be exhausting and challenging. It is also, I think, important.
There is something about the impossibility of fitting in that forces us to confront the reality of our otherness—no greater or lesser than anyone else’s. Amongst so many other reasons, perhaps that is why I travel. It is too easy to fall into the comfortable trap of sameness. Surrounded by people who look— and maybe more significantly behave speak dress and think—like us, we relax not into multiplicity, but into uniformity.
I would rather learn how to be equally at home in my otherness as I am in my belonging.
~

Home for the moment.
Here at the western edge of Kenya, the roads are dirt and dust. An energy center in town offers drinking water, internet and computer use, solar energy and more to residents. Wifi is scattered at best.
At the Wayando Beach Eco-Lodge, our neighbors appear to be hippos to one side and nonstop music to the other. I will teach yoga at 7:30 in the morning… if anyone shows up. I serve Tusker Pilsner to guests and fry Tilapia fresh from the lake for dinner. I have seen three different jewel-colored birds—ruby, emerald, sapphire—since writing that sentence.
The sun burns hot at midday, but the nights bring light rain and heavy wind, and I am happy for the warm blanket in my tent.
Eco-lodge means sawdust-composting latrines, round, self-contained huts for guests, and lake water showers (don’t worry— it’s treated for parasites). It also means fresh papaya, mango, bananas, ginger, arugula, peppers, passion fruit and sweet potato from the garden.
We will spend two weeks here, or hopefully longer…
To Be Continued.

~
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Zanzibar!

Have you ever written a sonnet?*

A sonnet’s beauty and difficulty both lie in the restraints placed around its form. Fourteen lines, iambic pentameter, and a rhyme scheme of a-b-a-b;c-d-c-d;e-f-e-f;g-g, the sonnet is no quick jaunt on a summer day. It is hard work to fit depth of thought and poetic sentiment within its narrow frame. But when it works, it’s magic: the sonnet emerges as just reward for the poet’s pains.

This trip I have just begun (arriving in Paris on November 17th, and checking in now from Barcelona) is a bit like writing a sonnet.

Why?

Have I mentioned that I am traveling with my partner? And have I mentioned that said partner is traveling on a Ghanaian passport– a document that grants today’s international traveler few privileges?

Well, I am, and he is.

We arrived in Europe knowing that we would have to leave within 30 days– the length of his visa. Yesterday, we returned from the Moroccan Consulate in Barcelona giddy with disbelief. We would not continue on to Morocco by ferry as we had expected.

Why?

Because one week prior the Consulate had received instruction to grant Moroccan visas only to residents of the Barcelona area. We would have to return to the U.S. or Ghana now to apply.

And so we are back to square one. The fourteen lines, iambic pentameter and strict rhyme scheme of travel sonnets and bureaucratic poetry close in ever tighter.

The following two maps represent our respective “green zones” for international travel. Green and yellow mean we can obtain visas on arrival or do not need them. Gray typically entails a lengthy visa application process, and often the necessity of returning to the U.S. to undertake it.

Were you to lay one map on top of the other, the world would be mostly gray.

Add to that the places we do not wish to travel, for various safety concerns, and the gray spreads farther still.

Yet even as borders tighten and possibilities shrink before my eyes, I feel an odd sense of freedom then, faced by our obstacles. When our plans shatter and we are forced to return with all haste to the drawing board, we have to opportunity to create a sonnet of exceptional spontaneity.

Where will we go now?

To Zanzibar! (You may have guessed it.) City of rare consonants that beckons my imagination to wander. To East Africa. Nairobi, Kenya first, in fact– though its lack of Z’s renders it a less tempting contender for title line– then on to Botswana and Tanzania and maybe South Africa.

I hope the sonnet that emerges is worth all the trouble.

~

*[The credit for this analogy goes to a friend– he managed to express perfectly the nature of this trip.]

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