How My Africa Appeared in Israel

IMG_20170829_070215.jpg

2017 November

Africa. A magic spell, which has been meaning a fulfillment for more than ten years of my life. It was never a plan. Rather a dizzy flair and an intuitive thrust for a necessary motion.

For so many years, I couldn't say anything more than "I want to volunteer in Africa." But I only shared it with those few who loved me enough to tolerate my madness. I could not share it with anyone else – I would start babbling abstractions and swallow the words. It meant so much that it did not fit into any sentences – only into the essential vitality.

 

I Want

I knock with my fists

I fall

I bleed

I suffocate

I burn

I rise with smoke

I root myself out

I grasp with my nails and teeth

I scream

I squeal

I NEED.

I. NEED. I. WANT.

 

To Volunteer  

To grab myself by the neck

To pull myself out from all the usual routines by my own will

To devote my time and effort to the chosen meaning, even if it is as simple as earth dust, even if it will hide in the simplest everyday tasks (or the ones which only look like that)

To give myself away for a defined (or not) time, at which I won't measure my effort by any means other than by people who will be receiving that effort

To learn to leave the entire excess, all that is not necessary

To trust in that time

To trust in myself

To master the freedom of giving myself away by looking at the other

By my wish, and my wish only

Responsible only to myself

Owing the possible reproach for a caliber of a challenge only to myself.

(In) Africa

Where everything is different

Where heavy rains are pouring in the spring of the soul, turning the desert roads into rivers

Where you need to learn how to approach the previously known truths in a new way

Where you have to take a shell off a foreign culture, to go through its roughness and softness so you could grasp at least a smell of daily life within it

Where you have no other option but to trust. Trust new culture, new people you meet there, and, finally, your own compass – moreover, to be open enough to reconstruct it

Where you get to know the different perception of day and night

Where you have to open your eyes many times; to open your eyelids even wider than your current eyes let. Maybe to even find new eyes

And... there has to be hot and lots of sunshine; definitely hot, so my hair would curl as crazy because of all that sticky sweat and happiness

***

In August  2017, I unexpectedly went to Israel to travel. I hope one day, I will know how to thank those who dragged me out there by my ears.

The ice was cracking long before the trip. While traveling, the heat flooded through my spine and then...

The First Crack

Negev desert, South Israel

A tent is hugging a riverbed of a dry river.

A nomad, calling himself a Bedouin, wipes his hands off the cut-off jeans, which are barely hanging on his hips, and starts mixing the bread dough in a metal bowl. Numerous pits, scratches, and a pale shining of metal in the light of a bonfire make the bowl look like a flat careless earthly moon.

Who knows, is he really a Bedouin? A son of a Gypsy and a Jewish woman, born near the border of Bulgaria. External question mark. Internal exclamation point: he is a Bedouin. You can see the wanderings flowing through his veins as well as mutually respectful bond with nature.

He was slowly circling the moon bowl, a water canister, and a teapot, which was silently mumbling in flames. And I felt that it is – that he has – absolutely everything, what he needs.

He did not feel obliged to explain anything to anyone. He was not afraid of silence. He was not scared of the quiet, despite being surrounded by seven correctly social Europeans, grinding the corners of their awkwardness. We are his guests. Shouldn't we be chatting or endlessly smiling at each other?

Is he silent because of the language barrier?  Or maybe it's fatigue after his day trip with camels? Soon my antennas (all adjusted towards him and him only) catch a signal: "You, yourselves, are the barriers." This silence is his unconstrained natural state – simple as that. Acquaintance through word – what a funny concept it is in the desert! Look, listen, and smell – just as all the locals, regardless of the number of their legs.

I hungrily climb into that silence, curling up on the mattress in front of our Bedouin. We are under the African acacia. "Locals call it shiita" – he catches my gaze, fiercely tied up to the tree. Yes. This, this particular one, exactly[1]. The same one, the best one – African. Tonight it grew here for me, personally.

Others went to sleep, and the night slowly opened to us – one word after another.

Through the undisturbed peace of a voice

Through the continuous smoke of a rolling tobacco

Through discovering a philosophy, picked up piece by piece from various beliefs and religions on the way of (to?) life

Through the affair with nature

Through the careless vibe, which made me smile

Through the simplest things, which finally let the night just be.

Oh, shit! Africa is not a physical land! It's an old mattress under a holey canopy, the moon bowl, and the desert, free from certainty. It's all I really need today: a minimum in possessions, a waterfall of life through my chest. My Africa can also be here. I want to root in together with This African Acacia.

 

Here comes the sunrise.

"You know, we are considering to start a volunteering program here sometime soon…"

 

Have you mentioned volunteering?

 

The Second Crack

Roofs of Jerusalem

I was struggling to breathe. Lying on the floor of my life, I was trying to grasp some air through the gap at the bottom of the hopelessly shut door. That day we were sitting on the roofs, crying our souls out.

Then a force of a whirlwind opened a wide and unique window. Effortlessly. A window to the authentic, almost secret life. To the neverending hunger of motion. To the power of meeting the Other.

Along came songs and dancing. They dropped the tomorrow right at our feet.

Along came wakening stories.

 

Stories about a completely different routine

About a different calendar and rhythm of a week

About life, driven by an abundance of symbols, so intuitively connected to the cycles of nature

About the community, braided by strong links

Stories about... volunteering as a natural part of life

Wait, what?

There was also a story about India. About the nightly wanderings with motorbikes in yet another desert. A storyteller was slowly drawing the scene about how he was desperately begging a man he accidentally met in the desert to sell a synthetic blanket printed with brightly colored flowers.

 

He needed that blanket because he didn't reach his travel destination and was afraid to freeze at night, in the middle of nowhere. But that man strictly refused to sell it. When the beggar finally gave up and turned around to go, the man ran after him and gave the blanket away, for free.

We are listening with our ears upright, crouching under the same blanket from the desert in India.

My friend sticks her bare feet into the ashes of the bonfire and loudly, yet calmly checks the contact with reality: "Now. I am sitting next to the bonfire. Somewhere outside Jerusalem. Six hours to our flight home. Wrapping up onions. Into the foil."

I nod expressively – her contact fits mine perfectly. I am not wrapping up onions – I am trying to remember how to light up a bonfire without any paper, using just a can of tuna. To light up. A bonfire. Using. Just. A can. Of tuna. Somewhere. Outside Jerusalem.

If my friend wouldn't be so tangible and just as touched by that experience as I was, I would think that I was alone who dreamt of the deserts' intersections in the synthetic blanket, printed with brightly colored flowers.

Dear Africa, once I finally find you, I will be able to crouch under you anywhere.

***

After being crushed by these happenings and my history before them, the spine of my weakness to follow the dream got broken twice. That is, irreparably.

This is how the journey of the fox ended. This is how the journey of the fox has begun.

 

[1] Wordplay: in Lithuanian šita [shita] means This / this one.

IMG_20170830_233234.jpg