A few weeks ago, just days before leaving Bujumbura, I lost a crown during an otherwise innocuous meal of stewed bananas and rice. It seemed like a dire omen. You know you’ve been in Africa too long when your first thought, upon spitting what looks like a tooth into your napkin, is, “Whose tooth is that?”
It was remedied easily enough with a visit to the dentist here in Kigali – the same dentist, incidentally, who treats His Honorable PK himself. Sadly, I couldn’t get a comment on the state of the Presidential Chompers. I was assured, however, that the president is “a very good patient” – no surprise to those of us who have endeared ourselves to the man’s winning smile through the years.
This kicked off a surreal three-week stretch where, instead of preparing for my impending trip to DRC, I’ve been in and out of doctors’ offices and pharmacies, having electrodes suction-cupped to my chest, offering up my plump juicy veins to the nearest needle, and searching for strange cocktails of prescription meds. This was not the triumphant, valedictory tour of Kigali I had in mind.
Part of me feels like I’m atoning for some forgotten sins committed on a booze-filled night in Bujumbura. Yet today, finally, I’m in good enough, patched-together shape to get the Chris Vourlias Fun Train back on the road. The only difference, of course, is that instead of enjoying a few weeks of free-spirited adventure in the wilds of eastern Congo, my top priority is to find a local witchdoctor who can work his juju to reverse whatever curse has been cast upon me.
So it goes. T.I.A.
My last thought before trundling off to the bus station comes from C.P. Cavafy, that beloved Hellenic bard, who always inspires me, after a prolonged spell of foot-dragging, to hit the road in search of my own Ithacas. The bags have been packed; the Chris Vourlias Memorial Traveling Library will be entrusted to the capable hands of my Honorary Custodian in Kigali; the laptop will be shut down for a well-deserved, 3-4 week sleep; and I, with just a few pens and pads in my backpack and a bundle of American bills wadded against my genitals, will be off in search of adventure. Kigali, it’s been swell. See you in Gisenyi.
by C.P. Cavafy
When you set out on the journey to Ithaca,
pray that the road be long,
full of adventures, full of knowledge.
The Laestrygonians and the Cyclopes,
the raging Poseidon do not fear:
you’ll never find the likes of these on your way,
if lofty be your thoughts, if rare emotion
touches your spirit and your body.
The Laestrygonians and the Cyclopes,
the fierce Poseidon you’ll not encounter,
unless you carry them along within your soul,
unless your soul raises them before you.
Pray that the road be long;
that there be many a summer morning,
when with what delight, what joy,
you’ll enter into harbours yet unseen;
that you may stop at Phoenician emporia
and acquire all the fine wares,
mother-of-pearl and coral, amber and ebony,
and sensuous perfumes of every kind,
as many sensuous perfumes as you can;
that you may visit many an Egyptian city,
to learn and learn again from lettered men.
Always keep Ithaca in your mind.
To arrive there is your final destination.
But do not rush the voyage in the least.
Better it last for many years;
and once you’re old, cast anchor on the isle,
rich with all you’ve gained along the way,
expecting not that Ithaca will give you wealth.
Ithaca gave you the wondrous voyage:
without her you’d never have set out.
But she has nothing to give you any more.
If then you find her poor, Ithaca has not deceived you.
As wise as you’ve become, with such experience, by now
you will have come to know what Ithacas really mean.