The Haunted Mariner Of A Never Told Africa

“I lived in Africa almost half a lifetime ago. I was very young when I went, not just in years, and I returned home feeling prematurely aged. For months after coming back, like the ancient mariner with his gray beard and glittering eyes, I cornered anyone half willing to listen and try to describe what I had seen and done and been over there. I would tell the story……and the sympathetic nods would last about 5 min. before my quarry’s eyes shifted toward the exit……the experience proved as incommunicable as the need to explain was urgent. Family and friends waited for me to resume normal life, but I seemed unable to complete the trip back. Part of me remains stuck in Africa,….. I missed the intensity, the surprise, the sense that life was real and hard and lovely……”

(The Village Of Waiting. George Packer. Farrar, Strauss, & Giroux, 2001, pg 317-318)

I wish i was able to articulate thoughts and express my sentiments like Packer can.

Africa, oh French West Africa, you have been part of my soul and being for a lifetime. My life has been intertwined by the Atlantic Sea to the west, and the African sands to the east.

I’ve lived through hale to harmattan, deluge to severe drought. Africa is just part of who I am.  Africa is not a place I vacationed to, nor a short travel adventure of countries I tourism through.  Africa has been my home, and people of various West African countries are my friends and neighbours. I lived with them.

There is hardly a person in Canada who knows the African Andy. They have never seen Africa, and never heard about thousands of things that happened to me. Few have heard about what I did there.

Therefore, most people know less than half of me.  I feel unknown today. Invisible!

I have images, village scenes, experiences and peoples faces shotgunning in front of my eyes, as I stare off toward the horizion.

Today, i am the haunted mariner, with  the greying beard, starring off, wishing to spin a yarn. There is no friend to hear.

I heard an international worker I’d rubbed shoulders with has passed. I didn’t  know him well, but i feel as if my tribe got smaller.

I’m feeling melancholy.

Changes are coming for the Invisible Humanitarian. Some i am at peace about. Other changes, i don’t know how  they will settle in with me. Only time will tell.

But something is changing, and i am not at liberty to make it public at this time. My agencies board has asked me to let them share the news first.

Change is coming.

Here we go again.

Did I really live all those years and months in Africa? I have thousands of stories I want to tell, no, need to tell, urgently. Yet, there is no one to listen to my Africa, probably incommunicable anyway, and this pent up feeling kind of hurts inside today.

Packer understands.

There are real people i know and love. More than just pictures. Yet, great pictures for certain.


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