i am in a good place. also, i am in a great geographic location.
Tzaneen, South Africa.
i am on a one-month trip. i promised the Undarguradyouate Reesurch Offace at my university at least two solid weeks of good research for my thesis in exchange for funding toward airfare. (i also find it amusing to misspell words that smart, accademuck peeple should take panes to write correctly).
the topic of my research is human displacement. i set out from my home to study how it must feel to be forced to leave your home. the goal of my research is to portray the human element that is erased by the magnitude of the statistics. the voices of the suffering people around the world cannot be heard above the hubbub caused by the automobiles, mp3s and fast food of the western world.
i find myself quite at home here. i know, the circumstances of my self-imposed place change are not at all comparable to forced displacement. in any case, i spent nearly half a year around these parts before. it is somewhat of a homecoming. i am fortunate to be staying with various friends and visiting places i used to frequent. i am running around the mountains in northern South Africa, interviewing people who have been forced to flee from the breadbasket-turned-bloodbath, Zimbabwe.
today, i met a videographer/director that works for Animal Planet, National Geographic and the BBC. i was interviewing him about border crossings, because he has spent time filming baboons in the nomansland between Zimbabwe and South Africa. it was a great talk. He invited me and my buddy to stay for a cookout on a deck over the pond. we stayed until nearly midnight. he will be taking us on friday to camp out in the bush and walk with lions in the sunrise.
on January the third, they told me in the Dulles international airport that i would not be able to secure a visa to get out and see Ghana on my nine-hour stopover in Ghana. no way. however, there was one wildcard that they did not know would come in so handy: the musician card.
i got on the plane, exhausted from a whirlwind week of tying up loose ends and celebrating beginnings. i ate my meal and fell asleep, ready to wake up and sit all day just one arbitrary border away from visiting a country on my Must-Visit List (about 180 to go).
the plane landed. i woke up. after a hot bus-ride to the airport terminal, an immigration officer pointed to a metal chair and told me to sit. he said no could i get out. the metal chair was not jiving well with my already over-sat backside. an airport worker who was clocking out and walking home did a double-take, staring at my guitar.
”you’re a musician?”
”how long you here for?”
”oh, you must see Ghana. speak with the man at that window. i will take you to the town for the day and bring you back before your flight.”
i thought about it. i asked her to watch my guitar for a moment while i dashed to the bathroom. i told her it was valuable as all get-out and then ducked around the corner, making sure to take what would be an obnoxiously long time for someone to use the toilet. i asked another airport worker if Heidi was a safe person. the answer being affirmative, i figured that if she and my guitar were still there when i returned, then it was a go. you see, i have to play up all the safety decisionmaking processes on these blog entries while i’m still away. after enough time has elapsed, i will tell all the exciting stories about jumping off things, climbing whatnot, getting chased, you know, the usual. worry not, none of that happened on the day in Ghana. it was a lovely time.
Heidi took me back to the airport in time to catch my plane to Joburg, SA. i got free first-class treatment on the flight cause i was a good sport about a few tiny things that are simply prone to happen on airlines. after dinner on that flight, i woke up, claimed my bag and walked off the plane into the South African morning.
the Tshishongas, an absolutely lovely family that has adopted me as one of them, picked me from the airport. around here, you don’t pick things and people UP, you simply pick them. i stayed with my family for a few days before heading up to the mountains to conduct a few interviews. speaking of ‘up,’ i have stayed up too late–big surprise–and you can consider yourself updated.
today is my birthday. that is mostly meaningless to me at this point. i have seen so much beauty that i sometimes forget what beauty is. life is such a celebration right now–and i feel so fortunate about everything–that i feel no need to celebrate myself on some certain day. i have not told anyone in these hills that it is my birthday. if you feel up to it, you can send me an email that i’ll read when i get to the net again: i would appreciate that. i am glad to be where i am. i am thankful for all. goodnight, goodmorning, or good-whatever-it-is-wherever-you-are.