A travel request to all darkies

2010-04-10 09:55

BESEECH, verb: to beg ­earnestly.

Dear Black People, I am not just imploring you to travel, I am doing so on my knees and with clasped hands. Go “out there”. Grab a bag and get out of town. Please!

I am tired of being a “rare” ­variety. I find nothing special or out of the ordinary about my mission to know Africa through first-hand experiences.


However, this “awe” has followed me around West Africa, where some Europeans and Americans felt it necessary to sit me down and talk to me about the phenomenon of a solo black female traveller.


“Black women just don’t do that,” is what one young (not so) lovely German teenager exclaimed in Ghana. She was there as a volunteer. Like the thousands of her ilk who get a sense of purpose from “helping Africans.”


Knowing a lot of black South African women whose passports I envy, I told her that these women do not just travel, they also run companies, edit newspapers, head universities and do other things that some people cannot, for some reason, ­associate with black women. This, said one Mr Sylla in ­Guinea Conakry, is “bizarre.”


So much so that he was frothing and yelling murder, accusing me of “espionage.”


These comments offend me; I have to justify myself to strangers when I do not even believe in justifying myself to my significant others. I also feel awkward and slightly irritated when teenagers pat my back to ­congratulate my courage when all you need to travel is a bit of money and creativity.


I am also up to my neck with non-African whites mistaking me for staff; as in, “excuse me, is breakfast ready?”


Their eyes are apparently blind to laptops and furious typing, which do not scream cook/receptionist/cleaner to me.


I am undecided about where to stand regarding old German couples asking for a picture of the darkie at leisure.


This said, I get where their “shock” comes from; black South Africans do not travel, much less in Africa. I’m generalising, but it does ring true.


It makes me stick out like a sore thumb. This is what I felt like in Cintsa in Eastern Cape.


Cintsa, like much of our coast, is breathtakingly beautiful and worthy of the “slice of paradise” foreigners call it.


Yet again, I was the only darkie staying at Buccaneers’ Backpackers. It was made more glaring by the town’s apartheid-era placement of whites on the beach and darkies hidden behind the mountains. It makes paradise feel like hell.


I did not like being the only black person enjoying paradise while others my hue were there to work. It was not just tedious but also lonely. Especially after the workers and the four souvenir sellers I hung out with went home.


So, please, dear darkies, can we start making travel a regular feature in our lives? It does not cost an arm a leg as some people think.


Going to Cintsa cost me much less than a Brazilian weave with its R5?000 price tag. I have crossed borders using the peanuts that some people spend as fortunes on designer accessories.


Prada, Gucci and Burberry will not go out of business just because you stop being a ­marketers’ dream instead of using your money to buy lasting experiences for yourself.


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