I've noticed her quietly sweeping the floor early every morning before the guests awaken. Cigarette butts, bottle caps and trash from the party the night before gives her something to clean, I suppose. She doesn't seem to engage in any pleasantries with the guests; mind you, she's not allowed and could lose her job I've been told.
"Where do you live?" I asked politely one morning. "Would you like to see?" she whispered, "It's very close." Several hours passed until I spotted her again. She gave me a quick glance and an inconspicuous nod - it was time to go. I nervously followed her past the guard station, through a 10-foot gate equipped with razor wire and onto a muddy trail through the banana trees. Finally she smiled and seemed to relax. Unknowingly to her, that trail led me through a thin veil of cultural fog, opening my eyes onto a world that has left me outwardly quiet and reclusive ever since.
Her house was sun-cracked and made of the same mud caked onto the bottom of my sandals. Her small home was sparingly decorated with Christmas tinsel and exposed tree limbs that acted as necessary structural support. She invited me in to meet her mother, brother, sister and 4 children. It was awkward at first, or, rather, I was awkward. I sat on a bench near the door and from my vantage point the interior faded into a darkness through which I couldn't see…
There are several ways to see Africa. One of which is to peruse through the pages of Lonely Planet and hit the highlights; rafting, hippos, and the incredible landscape should not be missed. This is a trade-off, however. The truth is, traveling like most visitors do in Africa is not unlike a reality you already know, and very likely you'll be surrounded by a culture you simply know too well. Interesting as these weary adventurers may be, they may be very far from Africa...indeed.