Tuesday, August 26, 2008

The words are coming out all weird

Day eight in Wimbi, much like those proceeding it and undoubtedly subsequent ones. Except today we thought we spotted dolphins as we headed out for our dive; we took some fabulous photos, and some dreadful ones, too. We've convinced ourselves we may have the bends; my calf is all weird, slightly dizzy, but I think that's low blood sugar after one too many last night. NEVER dive hungover - you use up far too much air, and get utterly paranoid about decompression sickness.

The sky is clear, the sun is shining, and for the second time in a few days we are losing friends to other parts of the continent. We've had a wonderful experience getting to know people in the past week, which we shunned, to be honest, the first couple of weeks. In contrast we've barely met any locals; the language barrier makes a massive difference here, as we just can't converse. We're trying a bit more Portuguese, but the sounds are so unfamiliar, it's difficult to make them come out, particularly when Spanish sounds are what I reach for first.

It's a strange place, this one. It's utterly, utterly beautiful - you would not believe how clear the water is - much more so than that stuff coming out of NYC's taps. The sand is white, not too fine or silty. You can swim in the morning and evening, right by our lodgings. People here are incredibly enthusiastic about it, but still can't quite believe you've heard or it, or why you're here. Ex-pats all stick together, certainly. It's nice to overcome some stereotypes they hold - they insist you shouldn't hitch a ride with black Africans "because they'll charge you" - not so the very kind gentleman from Maputo who gave us a lift into Pemba this afternoon. They also all insist on the incredible danger of the roads, and drive home drunk, without seatbelts. It's... astonishing. I've not seen a single white person wear a seatbelt.

It's been so interesting to be here, surrounded by them, while reading a most remarkable book - The Grass Is Singing by Doris Lessing. Absolutely astonishing, particularly as it was her first book. I was planning to read it while on the train between Joburg and Cape Town, but suddenly felt the impulse to read it, and am so glad I did - it is horrible, but captures something really powerful about race and power relations, while being incredibly directly written - not at all flowery or ornate, but clear prose. It particularly stands in contrast to my first reading of To The Lighthouse, which I was a tad disappointed in, I must confess; there was simply no space to breathe, no respite from the sentences piling on top of each other, or so it felt to me. Where she was describing things, rather than thoughts, I loved it; otherwise, I was not so keen. I also read Call Me By Your Name, by Aciman - one of Adela's favourites, and it was also wonderful. So this holiday really has been full of great reads. Anyway, my point was - lots of the language and attitudes of people really are on the same continuum as the horrors written in this book. It accurately captures something about white Africans, from my observations, even if they are not at the extremes of the attitudes in the book. But it also has wider implications, commonality, about gender and society and marriage. Fantastic. Ms Scutts got it for me, so a big fat public thanks for that!

Time to dash. Not that anyone dashes anywhere here. It's gloriously slow-paced - sometimes it's infuriating, but most of the time, refreshing, particularly as we really have nothing to do. Cape Town will definitely be more active, so we should enjoy it while it lasts...

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