I walk a lot of dirt roads here. Lately it’s been after heavy rains.
Rainy season, who knew?
Buy an almanac.
I do some of my best thinking during these walks.
There was a period were I didn’t shower for a few days because the water coming from the hose in the moldy bathroom wall smelled like sour poo.
Meaning, I had to stay relatively clean during my “calm down Bobby” walks.
Infinite pools of reflective shapes forming before me.
Stay clean bro.
The absence of cars, drunks and people holding phones like plates as they talk to ethereal persons, can’t not be experienced here, not in this place.
Occasionally you do get some asshole screaming at demons, but it’s rare.
The sounds of insects chirping bravado, flutters all around me.
I love you.
La la la.
Bruce Willis WAS a ghost!? Whaaaa?!
All my suspicions for what this alien insect language could be saying are endless.
This landscape teems with life and obstacles.
I can’t help but feel anxious here.
“Why did I wear a white t-shirt today?”
“Puddle by puddle” I say, calming myself with the affirmation there is no rush, no need to worry about a problematic future shape there may not be a dry solution for.
I step gingerly.
Like i’ve just burgled some priceless artifact.
My cheap fucking sandals sucking to the slimy mud.
“Why did I bring a white shirt to Africa?” I repeat under my breath.
Aware that the back of my shirt is now speckled with red mud, being flung from the heals of my size twelve, Ethiopian trebuchet sandals.
Miraculously a thin board appears linking one dry section of earth to another.
I decide to walk the plank.
Deeply comforted I’m not alone out here.
Up ahead, a mile or a hundred more, there’s a person navigating the same problems patiently.
Possibly with similar expectations to my own, to remain clean and dry.
Somewhere in the vast landscape before me, is this hero, fetching boards and positioning them just so, to help all those that would follow.
Knowing these people exist makes me happy.
It gives me hope for the world.
I’m also aware however, every puddle I navigate patiently and successfully, is fortifying my expectation to remain relatively clean and dry.
This expectation is the bane of my distress.
Time halts as the baritone whine of sun kissed insects erupts from the tall thick grass.
No longer individual sounds.
They’ve now unionized, into a wave of one.
All coming from deep inside the long grass.
Do not enter, unless you have a blade more than a foot long.
This is the only key that works here.
A three pound piece of sharp steel.
Getting wet is failure.
I’ve convinced myself, all my energy and concentration is poised to prevent that from happening.
I advance from pool to pool, mirror to mirror, ebbing with slow, cool, consternation.
“What is my objective?“, I ask aloud.
This, after slipping more than once into the cool muddy water.
Feet adorned in mud.
Was my objective to reach the end clean?
Was it to reach the end dry?
Or was it to reach the end?
This specific moment summarizes my relationship with Gabon.
With Equatorial Guinea.
With Africa, really.
And to a much larger extent, life.
All are relationships fraught with conformity.
In retaliation to this conformity, I’ve tried to force my travel expectations on Africa, unsuccessfully.
Even, at my lowest most desperate, attempting to rent a small boat to take me across the border from Libreville to Bata.
No small feat for a tiny boat.
Down right dangerous, according to several agents.
But, I justified the plausibility of me going this route because, the immigration offices in Libreville, Port Mole and Cocobeach, all refuse to give me an exit stamp.
What choice do I have?
“The border to Cogo and Bata is closed” they howl, like sick dogs deliriously communicating with a crescent moon.
The more I herd “no” or “impossible” the more obsessed getting to Equatorial Guinea, through Cogo, I became.
Ignoring all other options.
Going to Equatorial Guinea by boat isn’t my objective.
Getting to Morocco from Ethiopia without flying is my objective.
It was after navigating the wet roads in Cocobeach, the “border” town with Equatorial Guinea.
That I realized the power of objective reconsideration.
After being exposed to the impossible immigration edicts Gabon so recklessly wields, objective reconsideration became a crucial perspective assist.
This was a very important but frustrating lesson for me.
When traveling through west Africa, look at all your options, ideally before you buy the most expensive visa on the continent.
My Equatorial Guinea visa was 100,000 Francs.
When the Singa Mwanbe docked in Kinshasa after three weeks, everybody was dressed to impress.
Which surprised me, because the same people, for the previous three weeks, were not particularly hygiene or fashion focused.
Simone, is a man who looked after cars on the barge.
He and I would talk on occasion.
He always wore a black t shirt, shorts and a fashionable kangol hat.
The kind that Samuel L. Jackson never wears anymore.
On the last day tho, Simone wore a beautiful white, velvet looking trim Islamic dress, with matching white pants.
He was so clean, he practically glowed.
Especially in contrast to what the ship had become.
A filthy truck stop toilet.
He told me that when he arrives in Kinshasa he wants people to see him and think, “hey now, there’s a guy who met a challenge and came out the other side, clean.
Not a mark on him.”
It was a testament, a symbol to his strength.
His power garb.
I thought about him today after washing the mud from my clothes.
“I should wear this white shirt more.”
I said to myself.