Wednesday, October 19, 2016

The Great Adventure!

For a decade I hitch hiked across Europe. In Switzerland I picked apples at the foot of the breathtaking Alps. In Germany I lived in a tent beside the Rhine, and taught English at the Berlitz School.

Cause for deportation?
But that wasn't enough. My back pack took me to a kibbutz in Israel, where I ran a bar, and was ultimately told to leave the country after I cut down a tree for Christmas. How could I have known it was a diplomatic gift from Australia, and one of only three in the country?

After Israel, that back pack carried me to Africa, where I hitch hiked, and paid to ride atop supply trucks. Through Egypt, Sudan, and into Kenya I went, searching.

In Kenya I was offered a position writing for a newspaper. This article convinced me that African journalism wasn't for me.
Granted, it was a slow news day in Kenya. I understand there was a deadline for copy, but this article should not have made a high school newspaper, let alone a national magazine.

I had been given a sign.

At certain times situations arose that allowed me to see how I had changed. I remember arriving in Kenya after weeks of travel atop trucks in Sudan, eating around campfires, squatting in the dirt with the driver and truck boys, eating with my hands from a pot. In Kenya, at the first restaurant I saw, I ordered breakfast. The waitress set my food on the table and hurried away to bring cutlery. In a moment she returned with a knife and fork, but I was eating with my hands. I froze because of the woman's shocked expression.

I remember refusing to enter a hospital because a man was sweeping blood out the front door.

How powerful and strange it felt to be in desolate Sudan one day, filling a water bottle in the White Nile, looking out for crocodiles, and then to be in Scandinavia the following day. The contrast, the difference in culture, language, terrain, climate, people, mentality, was almost too much to bear. Culture shock struck me hard.

I had lived wild and free for months, always moving, traveling, surviving on rock hard dates and water that smelled of purification tablets, for weeks, clinging to ropes as I slept, the truck bouncing and shaking. In the span of one day, I was standing on hill in Denmark, snow falling, the entire world silent, as flakes melted on my face.

Africa changed me. Part of me is still there, captured in sweaty little police station where I was forced to watch a fat policeman beat an eight-year-old boy.

It captured another part of me on a dusty road in Sudan. The truck I was riding on slowed. Through the dust I could see something ahead. Another truck, carrying passengers atop, had driven off the road and tipped over. Injured people lay strewn about. Some were trapped, half crushed. Victims moaned and cried for help as we passed.

Part of me remained there, screaming for my driver to stop until my voice broke.

I tried to stay in Scandinavia. But I was different. When I spoke to friends and described Africa, or Israel, my tales met a look of disbelief. The pain that look brought, always accompanied my silence.

For months I could hear the faint calling of my pack, like the voice of a sexy, tempting ex lover, sitting at the end of the bar, her presence arousing sweet fantasies.

This time my pack, my longing, my searching, carried me to Yucatan, the land of the Maya. There, in a forgotten fishing village, I found an abandoned house, shoveled out the sand of hurricanes past, strung up a hammock, and moved in.

I found the shell of a spear gun buried in the sand. Using metal found in the street--a car antenna--and parts bought in Cancun, I rebuilt the gun. Soon I was swimming to the reef, shooting lobster and the best snapper in the world.

Travel articles appeared. On a portable, manual typewriter, I pounded out a novel.

Writing opened a new chapter of my life. It became my therapy, my drug. When taken daily I no longer needed to roam. I was creating adventures on paper.