June 18, 2004

An Intrepid Traveler

As I am attempting to pack for my year-long adventure, I am torn between practicality and material attachment. I want to travel light-that is bring just what is needed to survive in Senegal; but am also desirous to bring little, futile items that remind me of home: a winter scarf that my mother gave me for Christmas, a book on interior decorating that I dream of at nights, Japanese dolls that remind me of my travels. I am also required to bring items that are essential to my survival in Senegal, items that frankly I would rather leave behind to make more space for my various face creams. These include awkward plugs for my computer and camera, a year’s worth anti-malarial medication, ridiculously large sunscreen tubes, and several folders of indispensable administrative papers. In packing, I am reminded of a remarkable woman who, despite having grown up with few possessions, is nonetheless confronted with the same decisions.

Beryl Markam lived in Kenya in the 1940s. She wrote her biography in a book titled West with the Night. When her father’s farm goes bankrupt, she decides to stay behind and work as a horse trainer in a neighboring town. Later on, she learns to fly a small plane, a feat uncommon for a woman at the time. She is later commissioned by hunters who need her skills as a pilot to locate wild animals. She also flies rescue missions to save those daring explorers who crashed their plane or ran out of food before the end of their journey. As she prepares for yet another flight, she contemplates over her possessions:

"Meanwhile, haven’t I got two quarts of water, a pound of biltong-and the doctor’s bottle sleep (1) (should I be hors de combat and the Siafu (2) hungry that night)? I certainly have and, moreover, I am not defenceless. I have a L├╝ger in my locker-a gun that Tom has insisted on my carrying, and which can be used as a short rifle simply by adjusting the emergency stock. What could be better? I am an expedition by myself complete with rations, a weapon, and a book to read- Air Navigation, by Weems.
All this and discontent too! Otherwise, why am I sitting here and dreaming of England? Why am I gazing at this campfire like a lost soul seeking a hope when all that I love is at my wingtips? Because I am curious. Because I am incorrigibly, now a wanderer."

1 Morphine
2 Biting ants

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