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Post-Travel Processing: Namibia

“Oshili nawa (It is/good).” (1 Jan-7 Dec, 2009) Drunk and drenched, I lay awake another sweaty night in the stifling sub-Saharan intensity. Delusional, as much from reserve red wine and flat Coca Cola (epunyapunya) as too many months desiring to be understood without the capacity to reciprocate the understanding, I stared through the darkness toward read more..

 

“Oshili nawa (It is/good).” (1 Jan-7 Dec, 2009)

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Drunk and drenched, I lay awake another sweaty night in the stifling sub-Saharan intensity. Delusional, as much from reserve red wine and flat Coca Cola (epunyapunya) as too many months desiring to be understood without the capacity to reciprocate the understanding, I stared through the darkness toward my tin roof and counted down the weeks until I was to be released back into the Western world. In that minute, I perceived a voice, free of language, and clear as day: “You are not alone.” Sticky with my own wetness, and in a strained mental and psychic pursuit of belonging and intimacy in this distorted duration, I surrendered to my first awareness of the queer collective.

From a rural rearing in the Midwest coupled with a removed homorelational realism, it was in the topographical and cultural remoteness of a tribal Owamboland that a fuddled and muddled 26-year-old me would come to fumble and stumble upon the millennia of men-loving-men who had forever been: my gay ancestors. Their essence – an equilibrium of the masculine and feminine – coursed through my veins, and in that maniacal moment, I bore witness to their signaling of love’s universality. Apart from the dichotomy of gender and away from the deed of sex, and beyond the bounds of a concrete culture and a solid sense of selfdom, it was in my craving for mannish passion that I began communicating with a boyhood Adam. In this manner, I wrapped my spirit around the reality that not only can so many men alive today not act in accordance with who they are, but all too often we haven’t had access to an expression and example in which we might experience our exceptional selves. In relinquishing control, I ceded the concept of space and time, designations and limits, in order that this extendedly crazed juncture would alter my trajectory and instigate a calling.

I was in a process of an unparalleled growing up. Struggling against being present with an ambiguous boredom, and striving for anything but the uncertain second I was immersed in, I would peer into space until I approached nothingness. It was there that I could submit to everyone and everything.

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All bright-eyed about making my childhood dream of being a school teacher come true, I had actually banished myself from the backyards of Michigan with little in tow but all the optimistic provincialism I brought to making a meaningful difference in the impoverished-but-developing world through this privileged American willfulness. In this desert desolation, I would come to foremost adopt the value in disproportionate devastation. Yes – in being ostracized and insulated, I would adapt first to a deserted deprivation.

As “Tate Adamu” (Father Adam), I was responsible for the American government removing a Peace Corps volunteer and self-proclaimed sociopath from the country, only to take the heat – along with the blame – for a legacy of colonialism from some learners and community members, and almost all of my previously apathetic colleagues. Under that massive African sky – within its endless expanse – the clock stretched as far as the cosmos is wide as I committed myself to lesson planning and marking papers and… remaining. For what, I would resentfully speculate, but I sure wasn’t allowing my learners to lose two teachers. Or so I told myself. And my raging ego and inpenetrable pertinacity also weren’t about to renounce. What would ensue was an extensive crisis of identity and an eternity of isolation.

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When at school, and much of my time elsewhere, the learners were my life – but not long after the bell was rung I would discover myself increasingly longing for the closeness of a man. In the tempered torridness of the night and all through the suffocating days, I desired to be enveloped in sweltering maleness. From the batshit madness of downing libations while offering up ululations (“Lilililili!” – “Sir, that is only something for the woman.”), it was those solitary nights – stripped to my rawest, wearied senseless without the stimulations I was accustomed to – that had me seek a simulated togetherness at the shebeens when I was anything but collected. My distinctiveness, paired with an unquenchable thirst, unraveled.

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At the onset of the year I had footed to and from Outapi Town in flood waters under a scorching sun, 18 kilometers to and aeons from, in everlasting rain as food aid helicopters buzzed overhead and groceries burdened my back. The exertion of walking, walking, walking those short-stretched, long-paced peregrinations would find me exhausted in the waiting, waiting, waiting in being sidestepped and self-misled as I sat over 100 kilometers through villages in the bush to and from Oshakati Town after the overflowing had stopped. In my languor and desperation, ostensibly indifferently, I would place my hand on a nearby tate’s thigh. Just resting there, as the truck would jolt livestock so that we passersby would bolt ourselves, I savored his sinewy muscles as we balanced one another, accompanied by putrid breath and kwaito music that monopolized the radio with its monotonous redundancy. My fingers pressing down firmly to detect the flesh under the fabric. A lump upped to my throat from a wellspring of desolation in my depths as painful as pubescent pining.

I would never know this random man, and I would undeniably not approach the possibility of receiving him. I wanted to be home, but wasn’t even sure that one would be there for me after such a painstakingly transformative year abroad that transcended anything I ever could have predicted. Who am I, and who all are my tribe? It was in nocturnal, nominal aloneness that I had an elusive consciousness of my forefathers, who I came to feel have always been and will eternally be, and assuredly were with me now, as I was lonesome with others by day and loved by them throughout that never-ending Namibian nighttide.

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That onerous year’s overall journey would have me re-route – flubbing and fluffing into haphazard myths not handed over to me so immediately. And I would end up redirecting my affections in ways that were tribally accepted, expanding my definition of what it means to familiarize others with myself inside of a foreign construct – imploding my model of selfdom.

AHA! To transcend the ego one must become broken, and to transform oneself he must be unsettled! In this way, connectivity is developed and community is welcomed in realizing separateness for the illusion it is through the inclusivity of interconnectedness. Our forebears reached out to me in the “Land of the Brave,” and they revealed this.

So, yes – Throughout that watershed year I would brave my time to freely get what I wasn’t yet fully grasping. But the frontier went inward, so that the wonder of a varied external world highlighted a multi-faceted internal one. (It was this wonderment-cum-wanderlust that would find me wayfaring from a rugged individualism to an unsteady individuality that would serve to pave the way for further cultivation in Europe. Stay tuned…)

(While grateful to it for augmenting my growth, I also enthusiastically back the world-changing work of WorldTeach. Consider getting involved at worldteach.org.)

Add a Response 12 thoughts on “Post-Travel Processing: Namibia

  1. Dear Adam:
    What I like the most is the elegance of the prose without losing its sensuality. We all are the consequences of others but the real task consist in keeping the authenticity of oneself.

    • Dearest Gilbert – your words are so meaningful! Even when that authenticity comes out in bits and fits of personal messiness, right? 🙂 Thank you. Adam

  2. Adam, I love how vivid your descriptions are. You clearly learned one of my favorite lessons in “The Artist’s Way”: how paying attention to the details of life can be both inspiring and healing. Great blog entry!

    • Inspiring and healing – and endlessly universal, Louis. 🙂 I am eager for every detail (that connects to the other) of our next connection… Adam

  3. This story has all the undercurrents of a Graham Greene novel. I’m thinking here, in tone, of “The Quiet American.”

    Here you are, involved in asserting yourself and your values, and actually managing to purge a sociopath from your midst, only to find yourself, desolate and forlorn, blamed, and, interestingly, now carrying a heightened desire for man to man, skin to skin contact. I want to say that you shouldn’t be so certain that the man whose thigh you thought you pressed covertly, was so unawares. I think of times in my youth of encounters at the doctor’s office, a warm hand gently pressing my stomach, for example, and I could hardly get dressed fast enough to hide my erection. (many years later, I saw my medical records, and he’d written in his notes: “I know this boy!” With an exclamation mark!). Or the incredible erotic sensation of the barber’s touch, his crotch rubbing against my shoulder as he trimmed my hair. And all this happening in a small town in the midwest. This felt dangerous, but to think of you continents away, in the desert of your soul, sloshing miles through flood waters, and all along living on the razor’s edge, emotionally. Spiritually. This really is a harrowing tale. But like that Graham Greene novel, it’s a story of grace and redemption. Thanks for letting me in on it, so that I, too, can say, “I know that boy.”

    • Your comments continue to assist me in connecting the dots, Chris! Thank you for being part of the “processing,” and for pointing out the grace and redemption evidenced in these snapshots.

      I was so naive… I look back and remember a massive morsel of manhood rubbing against my arm at the barber shop and rather wish I would have had the wherewithal to do something about it. But my interpretation of the goings-on was so limited. I was so hungry… though there are tales from nights when I did act. They were smelly and sloppy and sensational affairs, but will have to wait for the book. 😉

      How wonderful to live in a location and an era when we can know one from the other. Men alive and awake to the world within ourselves… Adam

  4. Adam, Your personal insight is amazing and with sharing yourself so openly, maybe I/We can look inside and be true to ourselves also, Men loving Men. Again, bless you for your teachings

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