Sunday, November 16, 2008


Also culled from my journal:

"It truly appeals as paradise."
(Rs and Ls are interchangeable in Malawi)
I was sitting next to Kamata Banda in his living room stuffed with knicknacs, ceramic dogs and more than one unopened bottle of salad dressing.
For display. You know.
Kamata Banda lives on the shores of Lake Malawi. And not in the way that I live on the shores of Lake Malawi. He lives on the beach. Sitting in this living room you look out onto the ultrafine sand beach littered with boulders sprinkled in aquamarine water, with verdant forest to the right and the great hulking body of Kuwirwi mountain descending straight into the water, like a giant Malawian diving into the lake.
Perfect. Ten.
"It truly appeals as paradise."
Kamata Banda was not talking about the view from his living room. He was talking about Los Angeles. I had just given him a photo book of my one-anda-half-removed hometown, since publishers don't seem to think there's a big enough market to publish glossy picture books about Arcadia.
Beautiful? Can be. Lively? Undoubtedly. Paradise?
Not the word I would have chosen.
"You know, many people in my country would look at this place and call it paradise."
But that's like him telling me LA is like heaven on Earth.
As Malawians say, we are both used.
We are both used to what we see every day, as is only natural among live human beings, whether we like it or not. It also helps that our communities are polar opposites in many, many ways.
Thus this place stopped being punch-to-the-gut exotic. That aquamarine lake strewn with boulders and ultrafine sand beaches? That's just my bathtub. Sometimes with snorkelling. For a long time now I haven't said to myself "I'm bathing in the lake!" I just strip down and lather up, and get really annoyed when there's too much sand on my bar of soap.
Concieted? Sure. So is complaining about traffic.
"It truly appeals as paradise."
It's funny, cause I don't even know what he is saying with that.

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