Afrika, Mien Liebling
"My German is limited ... mien Deutsche, ends just about there. I can hear, listen and understand better than I can speak it which limits the conversation pretty significantly.
Today I spent over three hours at the Zimbabwean border, attempting to cross from Botswana. The line for visas, which can only be purchased at the border and used to be cash only, stretched far from the immigration office. This left most of those waiting to roast in the intense, near equatorial, sun. It was hot and the process was slow. I loved it.
This is Africa. As a continent, Its a journey of challenges and obstacles. Nothing works as it "should" here, instead life simply finds a way. The sooner you begin to trust this the sooner you can really begin to know Africa. It is unlike any other place in this world, so it would be silly to think things would work the same as just anywhere else.
This is the continent of misfits. A refuge for those incapable of living as they "should" and choose rather to simply live as who they are. Everything here breathes life. The energy is unreal and propels all here who embrace it, forward. It attracts and draws in this energy from all over the world, like a magnet for kindred spirits.
This is where we get to my German. Remember, mien Deutsche ... is not so good. I loved my three hours at the border because it captures something special about this place. In my three hours I participated in conversations in Dutch, Swiss, Portuguese, French, Spanish and yes, German. I speak none of these well but those who did sure do. Most spoke more than one and almost all, thankfully, some English.
When you travel, there is typically one dominant culture and one dominant language defining what you find in your destination. This is typically the case for anywhere in the world, but remember, this is Africa. In South Africa alone there are 11 official languages. This does not include the amount of foreign presence here at the cultural intersection of the world. There is a universal call which brings so many to Africa and with them, they each bring a bit of home.
Here, so far away from Europe, you can be exposed to more ancient customs, pop culture and global perspectives in just one conversation than you may find in an entire week touring the Iberian. And this is just a result of interacting with fellow travelers.
Once in Africa, you are all thrown into the large cast iron melting pot which makes up this beautiful collection of native people. New sounds, new words, far removed from Latin roots, enchant your ears with their magical musicality. The tonal qualities are dynamic, filled with great contrast. Often this is accompanied with a generous smile which only grows when you give a simple 'dumela' a try. (Dumela means 'hello' in Setswana)
So there we were, sitting against the mud smeared tires of 40 ton trucks. Finding refuge in their immense shade, waiting, and talking. Together in the pot, melting into this shared African experience. We would have all been miserable but hey, this is Africa. You remember this and you look into Zimbabwe, look down and see the red dirt of Botswana still under your feet and all you can do is smile. One day a familiar pavement will be there and you'll be willing to give anything for just one more hour against that tire.
It's when things don't go according to plan you learn the most. For a place where nothing works as it "should" there is quite a bit to learn. Everyday has been a crash course in something new and there on the Zimbabwean border I found myself in the midst of a linguistics seminar. Composed of a motley crew, old and young, from all over the world brought together by a global curiosity and a drive to explore. We all held this common principle that brought us together to this single place. We were already friends and comrades before even meeting. THIS is Africa and just one more reason why I love her."
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