People ask me to describe the highlight of this trip, and my answer surprised me. The highlight was how I felt: peaceful and optimistic (most of the time). In cities crammed with people and overflowing with new sound, I was shocked to find the same calm I’ve experienced year after year on B.C.’s central coast and in the Arctic. Perhaps it’s the spirit of exploration that calms me, rather than the character of the place itself.
I was determined to write while I was there but equally determined to write whatever came, to set aside the desire for a charming sentence or a fully painted scene.
“Feb 21 – arrival!
Heat, smog, smoke. Many fires we can see from the air. Emily is there to meet us and to shield us from people wanting to take our bags, to drive us. We meet Blaise, their taxi driver, and he talks and talks. Through the night drive, hard to see, fires, may people out, dark shadows, vendors. Em and Emma’s apartment is clean and quiet. 3 large bedrooms, 4 bathrooms, beige tile floor. So clean and empty. Fridge, gas stove, water filter.
Good to meet Wise and hear his slow, low French. He cooks fish stew with peppers, beans, piments. Steamed plantain. Then the power goes out and we sit in the dark, spitting bones into a bowl.”
For the next weeks, very little that we expected to happen would happen.