Friday, January 25, 2013
Where's Your Sense of Adventure?
The way some people ooh and ahh when I tell them that I live in Africa lulls me into a false sense of self important adventurism. "Wow, what's it like there?" is a common question. I do wonder what they see in their minds when they think of where I live. Sometimes I'd be tempted to say, "Well, you know that scene from Hotel Rwanda where they're driving over the dead bodies in the fog?" or, "You know when the locals turn on Dian Fossey in Gorillas in the Mist?" Instead I usually just say, "Grand."
It's kind of nice when people give me that look of pity mixed with admiration when I say I'm heading back to Zambia. Maybe I am kind of brave, I start to think. Maybe I am a bit of a wanderer. And then I get stuck in Heathrow because of the snow and I fall apart at the seams. I'm tired, frustrated, anxious and angry. Hardly has there ever been a time when I garner more sympathy and compassion from my Facebook posse than when I update my status - using Starbuck's free wifi - to let the world know my flight has been delayed. "What a nightmare,"they commiserate. And I feel like welling up as I sip my latte which, if anything, is too hot.
Turns out I'm not so courageous after all. I envy this breed of young Irish men in Africa who have an immense sense of adventure. My definition of what makes them intrepid travellers their willingness to travel long distances on the back of an open truck. A friend of mine recently travelled to Tanzania from Zambia, largely by lorry. His story of one 18 hour leg of his journey spent wedged up against the driver of a banana truck was impressive and amusing. There was something theatrical about it and I was jealous about his expedition. I was jealous about his audacious spirit, to not need a timetable, to not need a ticket.
Another story that tickled me recently was of a friend who had taken a long cycling trip outside of Lusaka. I think that cycling in or out of Lusaka is outrageously adventurous, bordering on reckless. When his expensive bicycle malfunctioned, he decided to hitch a lift back to Lusaka and spent two terrifying hours sandwiched in a dodgy Corolla with four drunken wedding revelers as his bike got a hammering from the boot banging on it repeatedly.
My brother accidentally ate cat once in the Cameroon. That's a good story. I wonder if I told a tale of having accidentally eaten a horse-burger in Kimmage would it be as gripping.
I wonder if young men like these are thinking, while their teeth are chattering and their arses are broken from the rusty metal truck floor, about how venturesome they are being, how epic their trip will have been. Or are they just as wound up and miserable as people sleeping on the floor of a warm airport? Is the experience worth the misery?
I'm envious of these cat eating stories because I don't like to think of myself as pampered or needy. I don't think anyone wants to be like that. I like to think that the fact that I don't own a hairbrush, I pretty much only wear one pair of shoes, and I drive a shit car makes me carefree and easy to please. I like to think the fact that I live in Africa makes me a bit of an explorer.
Well I'm not. I'm very definitely not. Would you find me volunteering to travel by banana truck for a five hundred miles? Not in a million years. Give me Heathrow any day. I may live in Africa, but I definitely have no sense of adventure.