Ryszard Kapuscinski (1932-2007)
You know that get-to-know-you game, where someone asks you if you could spend a day with anyone, living or dead, who would it be? Kapuscinski is probably in my top five.
Where would we go? I like to imagine we would be somewhere on the Continent, maybe up in Gulu, on the balcony at Hotel Kakanyero, sipping ice-cold passion fruit juice. I could easily see us sitting at the be-checkered tables with the little metal chairs, fuzzy radio crackling BBC in the background. That's probably a bit too cliche. Instead maybe it would be winter, and we'd sit shivering on a park bench in some unidentifiable city somewhere in the northern hemisphere, peering over our scarves. I don't even know what I would ask him. I tend to talk constantly. Maybe this time I would just listen. Would he be speaking Polish?
Early on in The Soccer War, after his first assignment in Africa, Kapuscinski asks to be sent to Congo. He plainly states "I'm already caught up in it. I've already got the fever." I prefer his writing about Africa, which is blunt. Honest. Maybe I'd tell him about my affliction with Africa, so as to relate my experience to his. My bug likes to creep up on me with cruel subtlety - debilitating me one tiny cell at a time, until I'm in full-on "Africa mode" and can't much concentrate on anything else. Sometimes it looks like a social life (drum circle, African dance classes), and others it just looks like depression (why am I here, and, consequently, not there?).
Maybe I'd ask him what he recommends as a cure. He might inform me that it's actually an incurable ailment, to which I'd likely nod. And let out a nervous laugh.
Pack the suitcase. Unpack it, pack it, unpack it, pack it: typewriter, passport, ticket, airport, stairs, airplane, fasten seat-belt, take off, unfasten seat belt, flight, rocking, sun, stars, space, hips of strolling stewardesses, sleep, clouds, falling engine speed, fasten seat-belt, descent, circling, landing, earth, unfasten seat-belts, stairs, airport, immunization book, visa, customs, taxi, streets, houses, people, hotel, key, room, stuffiness, thirst, otherness, foreignness, loneliness, waiting, fatigue, life.