Thoughts before arriving in West Africa (2014-11-16)

“I’m not racist, but …

… what is that White man doing here? Why doesn’t he stay in his own country.”

Fortunately I’ve not been party to this yet – only the occasional stare directed towards, I assume, my purple toenails. It’s one of the things rushing through my mind however as I get closer to my destination.

I’m waiting in the main airside zone of Casablanca Airport, a long crowded reasonably thin area. Over the speakers comes the somewhat out-of-place sound of panpipes, interrupted with the occasional garbled flight announcement in Arabic, French, and possibly English – it’s hard to tell. My sleep deprivation isn’t helping – it’s 10pm local time and I’ve been travelling without much of a rest for 30 hours; an overnight coach followed by a day walking round a cemetery, and I still have another 7 hours to go.

I’m starting to get conscious that I stand out –just my presence here is notable. It’s no longer just the toenails, it’s the whole visage – a tall, hairy, pasty-white man in baggy, worn-out short-sleeved shirts and jeans surrounded by smooth shorter dark-skinned figures in suits, or at least smart shirts and cardigans. I do strongly feel an interloper, and I haven’t even arrived yet.

I’ve never been to West Africa before. I know it will be different to what I’ve experienced so far; louder, more intense, more basic – at least in some of the country areas I’ve planned on going. I know the culture is strongly ‘inclusive’ – as an Introvert I fear this will be well outside my comfort zone.

I’m also pushing my limits in other ways –apart from the first two nights, which I had to book to get the visa, I’ve not arranged any accommodation, and my usual websites of choice are mostly drawing blanks. Even for someone as ‘last-minute’ as I tend to be, the idea of just turning up in a place and asking for a room does fill me with dread –more because I find comfort for my Introvertedness in arranging things beforehand, so I don’t have to speak to anyone more than absolutely necessary.
I’ve no idea even about arriving at the airport – in theory my hostel are supposed to be sending a driver to meet me but I never received final conformation. Hopefully there’ll be someone waiting for me with a scrawled sign that says ‘barefoot backpacker’ but who knows. I’ve never been met at an airport before by a stranger who knows my name; maybe I have trust issues.

Maybe Ghana will be easier than somewhere like Kyrgyzstan; at least English will be widely spoken and I’ll know what things say. And if I can manage blindly in a country as alien as that, Ghana should be a breeze in comparison.

Maybe I just need to ‘let go’ and enjoy the moment.

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