Beth Camp Historical Fiction

Tuesday, October 23, 2012

October 23: Travel Preparations

We leave for Africa in four days.
Travel books warn: Carry cash
for the hotel, the airline.
We stand at our bank, watching the teller
count dollar bills. No credit cards.
Once, between flights, I slept
spread out atop my luggage.
So we will sleep in Dar el Salaam,
no cab ride into town at midnight.
I sew secret pockets for shirts and pants
of nondescript colors.
We will travel alone for eight days
before joining our group.
We are older.
We are ready.

When I first met my husband, he explained he couldn’t really settle down, for he loved to travel. I was hooked, for better than libraries was the draw of seeing the world.

My husband has a facility for languages. He talks outrageous politics with cab drivers, the policeman on the corner, the shopkeeper. The closest I came to this kind of encounter was in San Cristobal de las Casas, in southern Mexico, just after the government negotiated peace with the revolutionaries. A woman in the corner grocery store we had patronized for two months spoke to me out of the side of her mouth. What was it really like in the United States, she asked. Could she truly find work if she crossed the border?

Because I taught, each summer gave us opportunities to travel. We were not wealthy; we took buses and trains. We saved up airline miles. But travel requires certain preparations, and I am a coward. A friend boarded a subway in Mexico City. Within minutes, his backpack was slit with a razor. He lost his wallet, his shoes, and his glasses.

We explored a beautiful colonial port town in Montevideo, Uruguay. As we walked downhill to the sea, I was a little ahead, camera out, when I heard a grunt and turned to see Allen, crumpled on the ground, a young man racing back up the hill. I chased him, screaming Spanish curses I didn’t know I knew.

Street musicians outside our hotel
in Salvador, Bahia, Brazil

In Salvador, Brazil, where the smell of feijoada, a fish stew, carries on the air as you pass Mama Rosa’s restaurant; sometimes your back tingles as you walk along cobbled streets. We stepped on a side street. Two men rushed after us, a mix of Portuguese and English, “Don’t go that way.” We turned back to our hotel room, La Sirena, in a city of mermaids and samba.

When we flew back from Costa Rica 24 hours after Allen’s stroke, a volunteer met us at between planes  and walked us through customs, her bright face unforgettable; her litany of words, a prayer; I was not afraid, for we live in the world, not apart. Past, present, future, we are all connected. Tanzania, Zanzibar, its people, its history are calling. We leave for Africa in four days.

Octpowrimo (write a poem a day for October) is nearly winding down. Today's poetry prompt was to write about a challenge. Read what others have written HERE. Morgan also challenges us to actually record our favorite poem from this month and post it (a skill I've thought about and never tried). Maybe later. The bulldozers are pretty busy outside our apartment this morning! And I'd like to read what others have written. May your day go well!


  1. Oh Beth you took me there in your words. Though I have traveled some I have always been afraid to travel in some areas because I knew I couldn't blend in with my pale skin and red hair which isn't so red anymore. I want to travel more and let go of that fear. Thank you so much for sharing your journeys and the challenges.

  2. Thank you, Morgan, for giving all of us such helpful, evocative prompts. And making a recording? That was a challenge!