Top: ZARA | Skirt: Handmade by SUWA designs | Heels: Quiz| Clutch: Mango | Photography: Hinywi

“I hope you find what you’re looking for.” – The Traveller.

This post is continued from the first post [here].

My first weekend in Lusaka was fabulous! I put on my playsuit and dancing shoes, and headed off for the night with my childhood best friend B. We went to a spot in the capital called Sky Bar (it took me two more visits to realise the reason its named this is because it has a massive outdoor balcony area with the perfect sky view. It’s worth a visit for the view alone.)

The place was vibrant and filled with music and people. It was arranged in a bar setting with a large dance-floor space in the centre. Tables were scattered around the edges and the big guys sat around these and smoked cigarettes while the ladies adjusted their heels on the seats. Popular music filled the room lending its energy and rhythm to the crowd in the bar, and my eye was drawn to a group of young friends in the corner engaging in what appeared to be a dance competition. I watched them for a short while, their energy was contagious and their dance moves captivating. The rhythm flowed through their bodies to their feet as they mixed traditional dance with modern moves. I was excited watching them and could feel my body catching onto the rhythm too. My hips began to sway side to side and my waist rotated to the music. I took it all in and gave myself to the moment. Every time I looked around, a sense of immense happiness overcame me. Here I didn’t have to explain or search or wonder. I saw myself reflected back in every face on the dance-floor and my body in every beat of the rhythm. I smiled at the beauty of life. I was home.

B made arrangements for after-party chills. She took me to a chill spot at one of the city’s 24 hour malls where a small group of people had gathered. We introduced ourselves and began settling into the group conversation. As I sampled the different conversations happening around us I caught onto a young man sat opposite me talking about racism. He was a tall, white, Australian guy talking about how he witnessed South African farmers being racist towards black people on his trip there. I was immediately interested. This white guy a stranger, had something to say about his observations on racism in Africa. What were they? Who was he? I turned to listen to him finish his story.

I found out the traveller was born in a small town in Australia and had left at quite a young age to discover the world. He talked of  his adventures to Pakistan and India. He told us about the countries he had visited in Africa – Kenya, Uganda, South Africa and others. He said he didn’t need much to travel, he carried a backpack with all his belongings and worked odd jobs whenever he could to support his livelihood.

I was fascinated by the freedom. Imagine, to pack one’s bags and set off for foreign land with no fear at what was left behind nor hesitation at what lay ahead. What a dream! I asked The Traveller his opinion on the different countries he had visited and whether he was ever afraid during his voyages. He said that he had learn’t one thing across his travels, that no country was as bad as they said it would be and every country had as many ups as the perceived downs. I asked if he missed his home. Although I could begin to grasp some understanding of physical freedom, I was struggling to understand emotional freedom – the idea of not being attached to anything or anyone enough to live without them. Surely that was difficult?

The Traveller took a moment before responding, then he said that he knew his mother missed him, with guilt in his eyes. He added that he would be visiting her later in the year, but he could not stay. The people in his small home town could not grasp the idea of life let alone joy in ant of the places he had been to. Their minds did not see beyond their own comfortable, safe white walls and this is something The Traveller could not cope with.

I couldn’t help but notice the privilege he had to enable him to live and travel around the world in the manner in which he did. I said to him:  “As a black woman, I cannot imagine travelling to half the countries you have mentioned, hitching rides to my next stop and stopping locals for odd jobs to fund my meals.” I mean it’s a struggle just walking home in England from the bus stop after a certain time of night, I still have the rape alarm mum gave me at 15. He agreed that it would be difficult for me as a woman AND as a black person to travel in the style with which he did without an increased fear of safety. So we went on to discuss white privilege.

I don’t believe in coincidence, I never have. I believe this trip had been ordained and planned out for me from y breakdown before arrival, to my meeting with The Traveller on my first weekend. I grew up in a small town in Yorkshire, England and have been surrounded with racism in one way or another since I can remember. I’m highly sensitive to my environment, so it does still affect me, and sometimes it builds up to this heap of helplessness that entraps me and my blackness to a silent acceptance. But let me make it clear that I do not NEED a white person to reaffirm my view, experience, or a societal condition I know to exist. BUT nonetheless, it did something for the wall i had built inside to hear this young white man acknowledge the existence of white privilege and further go on to add that he had personally witnessed it in Africa.

The traveller described a trip to South Africa where he had worked on a white farmer’s field and the farmer would openly express his hate of black people. He described the internal conflict he experienced, disagreeing with the farmer but having to stay for his keep. I let him continue, looking back on this conversation, perhaps it was as much therapy for him as it was for me? Anyway he opened up about his love life to me, he said that most of his friends had labelled him as ‘the guy who likes black girls’. He said they didn’t understand that race was not the preference but humanity was. When they talked about his ex-girlfriend who was black he would tell them:

“I don’t like her because she is black, I like her because she is beautiful.”

At this point, most people around us had left for home. It was the early hours of Sunday morning and we had been talking for hours. I broke the intense focus and realised almost everyone I knew was gone. So I stood up to leave as well and The Traveller walked me to my transport. We had both got more than we could have asked for with our meeting. If the universe saw it fit to bring us together once again then we would accept it. We didn’t exchange any details not even our full names. As we walked away from one another he stopped and said to me :

“I hope you find what you are looking for.”

To which I responded:

“You too.”

After all, we were both just nomads looking for home.

MC

 

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