DEAR AFRICA AND SOUTH AMERICA

world mapAccording to WordPress statistics this blog has had visitors from 14 countries, 13 when I first conceived to write about the missing continents. It’s interesting to go to your stats page and see the referrers, the number of views vs. visitors, and most thought provoking for me- to see the countries where visitors are popping in from. The 14 countries really excited me for two reasons. I have family in America, Israel and the Philippines and it’s nice to see when they are popping in to read. I have friends, from real life and from blogging friendships in Belgium, Britain, Ireland, the Virgin Islands, and India- and likewise, I see when they’ve taken a moment from their day to see what I’m going off about.

And then there is the surprising, somewhat imageless nations for me, and the totally anonymous visitors who emerged from them and then retreated back into their computers from say: Russian Federation, Ukraine, Canada, Australia, Greece (Greece is far from imageless to me because I laid low there as a 15 year-old runaway for all of a week before going back to Israel. But the rest, minus Montreal, sadly unimaginable.) Most likely, they were WordPress bloggers who followed the blogroll to my site, or found a link to my blog through some other means, or least-likely googled some concept or even me, which led them to my blog. No matter. I enjoy thinking of these visitors, passports in hand, crossing the border, even if by mistake or re-routed due to striking air traffic controllers, whether they read a single word or a whole post. The international aspect of the platform is fun.

WordPress also provides a tiny world map, lit up in the countries where your readers originate. The map adds to the fun, bringing the globe closer. It made a stark first impression on me for having two dark continents. I have not had a single visitor from Africa or South America. Had I had a visitor from Africa, I would have thought, ah, my friends who work there on-and-off through MSF or the UN have dropped in here during their travels. Hint, when you touch down next time, you know who you are, can you just quickly visit this blog? I’ll allow they’re busy in Africa for the reasons they went there, reasons only 75,000 times more important than these words.

But I couldn’t help but meditate on the countless number of books I’ve read from Africa and South America. African novels, from a variety of countries, have drawn me in for decades. I know I was assigned quite a few as a middle and high school student, perhaps starting with Things Fall Apart, and then J.M. Coetzee. My literary tastes kept me reading African novels again and again, as did my undergraduate degree in sociology. I actually studied Swahili in college for 2 semesters and was able to read Tanzanian newspapers. I’ve often fallen in love with an African writer to the point of reading everything they wrote in a fevered string of novels until I’ve fully consumed the body of work. This happened this year with Chimamanda Ngozi Adichie. It was the same with Nadine Gordimer, J.M. Coetzee, Bessie Head, Alan Paton, Dinaw Mengestu, Ishmael Beah, Chinua Achebe.

South America too has occupied my reading time plenty. I don’t love magical realism, but I do love Latin culture and history. The reading list here is also long and spanning decades of reading: Mario Vargas Llosa, Gabriel Garcia Marquez, Jorge Luis Borges, Federico Garcia Lorca, Isabel Allende, Julia Alvarez, Sonia Sanchez, Pablo Neruda….

My four year-old son attends dual-language school in Spanish and English, and finally I am studying again and refreshing the Spanish I studied for many years. Early next year, I plan to read a favorite old novel, in Spanish this time, maybe Julia Alvarez, and certainly re-read Federico Garcia Lorca’s poetry which is a tactile pleasure to memorize and recite:

El remanso del aire
bajo la rama del eco.

El remanso del agua
bajo fronda de luceros.

El remanso de tu boca
bajo espesura de besos.

The still pool of air
under the branch of echo.

The still pool of water
under a frond of stars.

The still pool of your mouth
under a thicket of kisses.

So, Africa and South America, consider this post an invitation. Could a reflection of how many of your great writers have filled my head, prompt a visit to these parts? I’ll keep an eye out for you.

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5 comments

  1. Phew, I thought it was just me that loves to spend time looking at the map and getting disproportionately excited when a new country adds itself to the list.
    I also have a gaping, South America shaped chasm on my map. Do let us know how you get on.

    Like

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