Tuesday, February 1, 2011

The Final Days, Part II

On Sunday morning I sat reading on a floating dock on the Volta after enjoying a proper English breakfast at the hotel. As a Christmas present, my dearest friend Clara lent me her copy of her favorite childhood book The Little Prince. I haven't told you this yet Clara, but I took the book to Ghana with me. I knew this was risky, one is never sure what will happen in Ghana and I didn't want to damage the book at all, but... I had a good feeling about it and decided to trust myself. Good news—all is well! So now that I've made that confession...

I carried the book all month, and I could have read it at any time, but sometime in my first week here I decided that I would wait until the end of the month to read it. Somehow that felt right. So finally, on Sunday, I read The Little Prince for the first time.

As I sit and reflect on an amazing month and wonder (not worry though) about how I'm going to take all of my lessons and experiences home with me, I'm borrowing from a particularly unforgettable passage in this book*:

He [the little prince] was tired. He sat down. I sat down beside him. And, after a little silence, he spoke again:

The stars are beautiful, because of a flower that cannot be seen.”

I replied, “Yes, that is so.” And without saying anything more, I looked across the ridges of sand that were stretched out before us in the moonlight.

"The desert is beautiful,” the little prince added.

And that was true. I have always loved the desert. One sits down on a desert sand dune, sees nothing, hears nothing. Yet through the silence something throbs and gleams...

What makes the desert beautiful,” said the little prince, “is that somewhere it hides a well...”

I was astonished by a sudden understanding of that mysterious radiation of the sands. When I was a little boy I lived in an old house, and legend told us that a treasure was buried there. To be sure, no one had ever known how to find it; perhaps no one had ever even looked for it. But it cast an enchantment over that house: my home was hiding a secret in the depths of its heart...

Yes,” I said to the little prince. “The house, the stars, the desert—what gives them their beauty is something that is invisible!”

I was so excited when I read this. “That's just like Ghana!” I thought; there's always an unknown. That's what I love about tros, and street food, and random conversation with anyone friendly... the mystery of the process and the outcome! The promise of unpredictability has charmed me like a wicked lover. It drives me crazy sometimes, like when I don't know what to expect for the price of a cab ride, so I'm at the mercy of the driver not to cheat me just because I'm white. But, after all is said and done, I'm addicted to the chaos, the lack of formula a for how this country works. Or maybe I'm enchanted by the invisible, indecipherable algorithm for life here. Either way, I love the mystery.

Maybe this what all traveling is. I'm not sure, I haven't traveled enough to know. All I know now, is that wherever there is beauty, there is also a secret.

Until next time I remain,

A Worldwide Wonderer

*excerpt taken from page 78 of The Little Prince by Antione de Saint-Exupéry