Unica Haim Ruta Maya Coffee is grown by a cooperative of Mayan farmers in the highlands of Chiapas. Ruta Maya Coffee is 100% shadegrown, organic coffee, certified by the OCIA. 218 West rough Street Austin TX 78701 512 472 9637/ 000 510 CUBA cublta.com / nnamaya.net that didn’t mean that anyone understood what their neighbor was saying. In the Central African Republic my bush-taxi \(a truck, really, carrying goods passed a man leaning against a tree. The villager looked exactly like a brother leaning against a lamppost on a street corner in Chicago or L.A. He had that same style the same insouciance that same cool in even metaphysical heat, that black Americans are famous for. My first reaction was a desire to call out,”Say, blood, what it is? Your old lady kick you out of the hut, or what?” One evening the bush taxi stopped at a village for water. There were a dozen huts and a well in the center of the village, between two tall trees. In the background, the villagers’ animals walked past like pedestrians on a grand avenue. Everything in the village was pretty like a postcard, except we weren’t there for the scenery. When you came to water, no matter how you felt, you drank. You had to drink for that day and drink for the next day, also. Tomorrow there might be no village and no well. “How far to Bangui?” one of the passengers asked the driver. “One day,” he answered. “Perhaps two.” The driver’s reply had to be converted to reality. In the bush you needed an algorithm for any time someone told you how long it would take to do something or how long it required to go somewhere. My own personal formula was to multiply by two and add four. If the driver had said a few hours, that would have meant a full day. But the driver said one day and that meant one week. Maybe two. ater at a roadblock in Cameroon, on the old Slave Coast, a police man pulled me off a bus. Of all the passengers on board he chose to roust only me. He started to search my gearhe was sure that he was going to find a gun. “I know these Americans,” he said when the driver asked why he was hassling me. The poor dumb cop had probably never met an American before in his life, but had seen enough television to make him suspicious that this nigger had a gun. The result was the African policeman’s very good imitation of a redneck Southern sheriff. My trip to Africa was a little like taking LSDcomplete with hallucinations and, eventually, flashbacks. For me, the continent became a kind of multi-layered experience, full of sunlight like a continuous camera flash, and bright, violent colors. Over a period of months there was, of course, illness, unexpected encounters with dangerous wildlife … and more illness. On the plus side, there were babes in multi-colored wrap-around skirts. But as the heat took its toll, even an erection took too much energy. And however exciting the journey began, when the light became too bright, and the textures got too rough to touch, it was time to go home: home to the urban jungle,America.The leaving of Africa, as it turned out, was the best part of the journey. My departure from paradise revisited, was in a town called N’Djarnen.a, in a country called Chad. It was late too late to find a hotel room. Sleeping on a bench outside the Catholic mission was the only practical alternative to getting up on my feet and moving. Until that night my experience had been that mosquitoes generally attack at daybreak and at dusk. Chad’s variety bit from dusk to dawn. The next day, at the American embassy, my visit caught the U.S.Consul unprepared. Chad is the kind of place you only go. to if you have a really really good reason. The Consul just kept looking at me with this unspoken question on his lips: “What are you doing here?” That became my question, too. It took almost a week to get a ticket out. In the meantime, the hotel was forty dollars a day, as much as the previous week’s travel. Still, it was good to lie down in ail- conditioning and not have to move. The Chadian bureaucracy was as hungry as the mosquitoes. In order for me to leave, three different police officials \(including to stamp my exit visa.The reason for the attention to detail was, of course, that each officer needed the few hundred francs that travelers were forced to pay. When the plane finally lifted off, that was a disappointment, too. It was an Air Afrique flight, with plenty of extra seats for stretching out. But when we were in the air, the captain announced that we were making a detour to Nigeria to pick up more passengers. There was no rest after that. In minutes, the plane was full of Muslim tribesmen on their way to Khartoum, the first stop of their pilgrimage to Mecca. Dinner was served somewhere over the central African savannah. My stomach wouldn’t even hold tea. Discreetly, my hand pushed the plastic-covered dinner tray onto the table of the elderly Hausea seated next to me. He pushed it back. He didn’t say anything, but his eyes told me, “I may be an uneducated villager from what you call the Dark Continent, but I’m not dumb enough to eat airline food.” At that moment we became blood brothers. We became as one, in our mutual Negritude. Contributing writer Lucius Lomax covers Austin and the World for the Observer Besf of the Old & New! All fhe latest in Organic & Nafural foods and THE TEXAS OBSERVER 23 40001010. we’
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