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Great comment, Melo.  I had a similar experience, c. 1973 when I was kicked out of college and wanted to see the world from outside a European consciousness.  Having already felt I needed to unlearn everything I had learnt in school I was ready for a jarring experience and headed off through Europe hitch hiking and sleeping rough.

A one a and a half day wait for a lift outside Madrid has ended up with my meeting a trucker at a trucker café and he offered me a lift to Morocco - his destination.  He was a Swiss guy who had had some kind of (drug related?) near death experience in India which ended up transforming him into a Minister back in Switzerland.

The police on the boat over to Morocco insisted my long hair be shorn and some deck hand was only too glad to perform the service for a considerable fee and no aptitude for the task whatsoever!

Hitching around Fez, Marrakesh and Casablanca was a similar experience with one three day wait for a lift and many frozen nights amongst the orange groves.  I met up with a gang of youths in Marrakesh and we spend some days frequenting souks, cafes, smoking hash and drinking sweet mint tea.

I was somewhat taken aback at the open homosexual advances (towards me) and the sexual frustrations of men with no access to women and no prospect of doing so unless they had an income and two supportive families.

I wandered one day into finely cultivated gardens where I discovered a warm waterfall and had the most delicious shower of my life.  As I was walking away I notice soldiers amongst the workers in the gardens and tried to look, as much as possible, that I belonged in the place.

I discovered afterwards I had wandered into a summer residence of King Hasan and I would have been lucking not to lose a hand had I been discovered as a trespasser.

Otherwise there was no sense of fear or hostility, only an abiding obsession with money by any back packer I came across - perhaps the very "European" (or even more so, "American") trait I had been trying to get away from.

In that I perhaps felt closer to the locals than the travellers, but linguistic barriers always made true friendship difficult. That, and the fact there seemed no prospect of my finding work anywhere.

I returned to "Europe" to work in a warehousing job in London to replenish depleted coffers and link up with some "alternative" communities I had become aware of in college.

The experience probably changed me more than any education and yet still I feel remote from African culture - an experience reinforced by 6 Months spend in South Africa some years ago after the fall of Apartheid (but not its economic and political consequences).

I plan to return to Malawi and South Africa in a couple of months time but have no illusions about being much more than a tourist.  I have some friends to revisit and some promises to keep and Africa will always be a remote fascination for me - A place I would love to live but do not deserve to make home.

Index of Frank's Diaries

by Frank Schnittger (mail Frankschnittger at hot male dotty communists) on Wed Aug 25th, 2010 at 11:09:22 AM EST
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