Africa calling: Cape to Cairo begins

Yes, the time has come to hit the road again, and this time for an extended trip along one of the most fabled and classic overland routes: Cape to Cairo across 15 East Africa nations.

I've been dreaming about this trip for a long while, but after moving to South Africa in early 2009 I sort of slipped in a dangerous comfort zone that made me procrastinate for months. Up until two weeks ago I was still unable to decide whether I should stay or go, afraid of missing out either way: on one side I had this great journey in front of me, but on the other it felt silly leaving South Africa right when the World Cup band wagon is coming to town.

In the end, unexpected and rather dramatic changes in my personal circumstances turned out to be the encouragement I needed, after which a decision was easily made. I am leaving Cape Town tomorrow, Wednesday 12 of May, and will cross the border into Zimbabwe on Friday 14, a day before my 29th birthday. What a great present, huh?

From there I'll follow a somewhat windy route via Zambia, Malawi, Mozambique, Tanzania, Rwanda, Uganda, Kenya, Ethiopia, Somaliland, Djibouti, Eritrea, Sudan, and Egypt. Or at least this is the planned route, but I know that changes will happen along the way.
Estimated arrival time is December, then I feel I should spend winter in northern Africa or southern Europe before making my way up Italy and get back home by spring 2011.

I am working on a new publishing project while on this trip, and will soon post a link here to a new blogazine that, at least in my vision for it, will be interesting in content and cutting-edge in design.
I am travelling light this time, with no mobile phone nor laptop, and will carry only my compact camera with me. I will be uploading images on Flickr and posting the occasional update on this website, so stay tuned and keep an eye on my movements.  

Only those who risk going far, know how far they can go.  -T.S. Eliot

Hustling my mind: of choices, writing, and other things

So in the end my short story didn't make the cut and won't appear on Issue Zero of 48 Hour Magazine...bummer. Click here for a list of all contributors. The actual magazine will soon be available to buy from MagCloud.

And here's my short story, have a read through and please let me know what you think. It's a first, (self) published attempt at fiction — inspired by real-life events and people. Enjoy. 

Hustling my mind: of choices, writing, and other things 

The author didn’t know what to write.

He had been thinking about the subject the whole night, probably in a very dreamy, unconscious way, but surely he had. In the morning, after the alarm he had set for 6am, and which he had snoozed a few times, went off again at 8 o’clock, he was still sleepy. This time he pressed the stop button instead, but seconds later his eyes opened wide and he thought: “Why don’t I write about this, about my struggle to write anything true because I haven’t experienced enough? Not enough prostitutes, late night drinking, sleazy taxi drivers, gambling…not enough hard-edged journalism, cynicism, nosing around, and asking uncomfortable questions…I didn’t come across hustling per se, but I could write about my desire of writing something nonetheless, and describe the places where my internal struggles have taken me. Yes! That would be bold and true writing…wouldn’t it?”

Then he closed his eyes again.

The little demon of sleep that sits on people’s eyelids, and keeps them shut in the morning when one really ought to be up, was pleased. He, as usual, was doing his job properly and with immense gratification, assured of the strong pull that a snug bed and the warm body of a woman have on a man’s mind. But something today was obviously nagging at the author more profoundly. A big seismic event took place under the feet of our little naughty friend. He was surprised.

The author opened his eyes again.

“I could write about getting up after a late night, bummed that this project came up all of a sudden and I now find myself with this big conflict, really wanting to write this piece on one side but….why? Well, because it’s interesting, it’s innovative, it’s unique, it’s Issue freaking zero, and it’d be great to be in it. Ok, that’s my ego talking, but it feels good right now being here writing what I’m writing, which I don’t know how it’s going to turn out, but it’s a start. Too personal? Maybe.

“The alternative that buzzes in my head and that makes me uneasy is the fact that I have other, more urgent stuff to write, but it seems like I hit a block of some sort. I wrote a couple of hundred words over several days and still can’t finalise even one single piece. I’m really sad about that because that project is interesting too, but it feels like my heart is not in it.

“Are my readers still there? I wonder, because I am writing about stuff that I know, you know? My issues as a person and as a writer. Ego and Self. My Shadow, ever present, but…”

The author stopped. This whole long stream of consciousness that came up and out of his mind is good stuff, true stuff, if fits the motto: Be bold, Be free, Be truthful. Is it art? Will he be universal while talking about a microscopic truthfulness…?

Then the phone rang.

The author hesitated because he was in the middle of a sentence. Mentally hustling a set of dice — because he was very curious after all and wanted to know who the fuck was calling at this time — he decided to answer.
“Wrong number probably,” he thought, and then hit the little green phone icon on his cell phone and said: “Hello?”
“Hallooo?” somebody said on the other side.
“Yes, hello?”
“___________”, an Asian-sounding voice said in an unfamiliar language.
“Sorry, I think you have the wrong number.”
“____________! _____________.”
“Yes, this is Dani, I’m afraid I can’t understand a word of what you’re saying, you have dialed the …”
The man hung up.
“Typical,” thought the author, but now his mind went back to the task at hand.

Again he wondered whether his readers would enjoy this little story: and how about the magazine’s editors before them? Let’s see: autobiography, about writing, personal subject matter, stream of consciousness…
”Still,” he thought. “It is linked to the theme, I know that, you know that, surely lots of people will feel that.
“And all that I written so far comes from a very true experience of mine: depression, darkness, writer’s block, and then help, therapy, hope, new strength, trial and error. Three pages every morning, it doesn’t matter what you write, or how you write, but only that you write. It is sort of a diary, but tackled first thing in the morning instead than at night, and never re-read again. It’s worked so far in unblocking my creative self, but still haven’t written anything worth publishing. Is that my goal?”

The author caught himself thinking aloud and stopped again. It felt like lines were getting sort of blurred here between author and subject of the story, the narration of the former, and the thoughts and words of the latter. “Is this ok?” he thought. “Will people get it?”

Besides, in talking about the morning pages he had been writing (almost) every day in the last couple of months, he had gone over today’s limit — three A4 pages that is — and now his pen was sitting somewhere in the middle of the fourth, or just before.

“I wrote four, sometimes five pages before”, he said to himself. “That’s not an issue, but I’ve stopped because I really am not sure on the direction this story is taking. Where did I start and where am I going to finish?”

He still had in his mind images of dice, coins, chance, and randomness that he and Jon had discussed the night before: follow coincidences, dare your lucky star, toss a coin and let it decide for you.

“Shall I do that now? Heads or tails to determine whether this story carries on or stops here?”

He hesitated.

He felt he was more afraid of a yes, a nudge to carry on rather than a halt. Because he didn’t know what to write. But he knew it would be a splendid way to end or continue his story. Very edgy. He wondered whether Luke Rhinehart had actually rolled any dice at all while writing his novel The Dice Man

“Ok,” he thought after a moment, and got up to get a coin, a R5 coin, big and heavy, a golden disc surrounded by a band of silver. On one side a great African buffalo, its head down and thrust forward as if charging an invisible enemy. The word RAND stood out below the bovid, striding the line between gold and silver. That would be his tails.
He turned the coin in his hand and looked at what would be heads: the New South Africa’s seal, a big stylised bird, its long beak looking west, crowned, and with its wings spread wide and upwards, sitting on an elaborated coat of arms, a shield with people (natives?) in it, and spears, and a few barely legible words under it: !KE E:  /XARRA //KE. Khoisan.

The nicest coin to hold, as South Africa is not as lucky as other countries, Britain for instance, when he comes down to coinage.  “I miss Pounds,” he thought and then he tossed it in the air.

Oh yes, the buffalo will mean continue writing, clearly because the charging buffalo represents the stubborn determination of carrying on, even against all odds and one’s will. The national insignia on the flip side will mean stop writing, right there and then, because it’s the only other option left.

The author tossed the coin. 


48 Hour Magazine - written today, published tomorrow

I have just submitted a short story to Issue Zero of 48 Hour Magazine, an innovative experiment in publishing. The deadline for contributions is in less then four hours — 4pm PDT — so hurry if you're thinking about it.

The concept strikes for its simplicity: a professional-looking magazine is put together in less then 48 hours, from getting stories written and pictures shot, to edit and layout, print and distribution. The first 24 hours after the common theme is announced are open to contributions from anybody in any medium, then editors will spend another 24 to have a glossy magazine printed and ready to be bought on demand from MagCloud.

The topic chosen for the pilot issue is HUSTLE: "where the quick-witted trickster meets the Protestant work ethic." It looked fun so I took up the call. And so did over 1,200 other people, writers, poets, photographer, illustrators, chefs, and pirates I presume.

I can't wait to see the final product. And look forward to Issue 1 already.  
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