Africa

Pills at the Bottom

By Beth

Today there are few turquoise pills in my little orange canister. My heart skips a beat. I can actually see to the bottom.

For many, the lack of pills could mean a few things. Maybe medication is over, a long rehabilitation process (yay!). Maybe it’s time to buy more of your prescription (minor boo). Or maybe, as it is in my case, those pills are your daily malaria doses, and just a few left means you’re leaving soon.

It is frustrating. There is still so much to do. Yet time passes and there is no stopping it. It is amazing how quickly a place that is so different from anywhere I have ever lived has come to feel like home.

I shudder at the thought of not having my homemade yogurt and papaya every morning. Not hearing the boys yell to each other

Me and the boys at the waterfalls of Bombaim

from different sides of the house about what women are the craziest, what beaches are the best, and who should stop sleeping on the damn couch and go to his own damn bedroom. The constant background murmur of Brazilian telenovelas. The fresh fish (aptly named “con con” because of the splashing sound it makes jumping out of the water and back in), breadfruit, fried banana.

Going to the little stand down the street for an enormous, cold beer after a long day. The raspy voice of my boyfriend, Kilson, yelling “Elisa!” on the other side of our gate as he waits to take me to the ocean, for a walk, for a snack. The warm ocean water as it soothes my body like an enormous bath the minute I dive in.

Having lunch on Ned’s deck everyday, talking politics and current events while shooing away Fred and Jessica, dogs that could sure teach their peers a thing or two about begging.

View of the ocean from Ned's deck

Driving in Dany’s car with his music pumped up, wind in my hair, bounding over potholes and dust-covered roads in our ever-powerful Toyota truck.

I’ll even miss the things that drove me nuts. The lack of commitment. Ned tells me never to ask a Santomense a yes or no question, because they will always answer yes in fear of letting you down and then never go through with it (my USA friend Johnson says this is the salesman’s golden rule, and something I should bring with me back to the States- never ask a yes or no question). The way Kilson and I make plans and he stands me up because he doesn’t have gas or money on his phone, and the reverse way how he’ll find me at work on days that I tell him I’m busy. The “pssss” sounds that come from men speckled on the street, trying to get my attention (which my friend Milton tells me only now that it is not rude or insulting like it is in the States, but just a simple way of trying to say hello to someone beautiful, and the correct response is to just smile and wave).

I’ll miss the way the teachers at the São João school sometimes think I am all-powerful, full of money and able to grant their

Teaching class

every request at the blink of an eye. They know that I will do anything for them. I’ll miss how teachers are allowed to show affection toward their students here. I’ll miss being able to put a hand on my student’s back when talking to him or her.

I’ll miss the way an entire community takes unique responsibility for every single child on the island. How if you see a kid playing on a high wall, you yell at them and send them home, regardless of whether you know them or not.

And I’ll miss the parties- the thick, hot Kizomba nights, swaying back and forth with the easy guidance of Kilson’s hand as we take it to the dance floor, then recovering the sweat loss with Sagres, Super Bock, Sumol; meeting friends, and their friends, and their friends, and hearing the ocean crash not far away from deep Angolan beats that beckon us back into Africa’s rhythm…

Beth Santos
Founder and CEO of Wanderful, creator of the Women in Travel Summit, enthusiastic lover of ice cream, picnics and art.

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1 Comment

  1. i love the pic of you obviously trying to teach while all the kids are staring at the camera. in the competition between strange foreigner teaching and camera’s, camera’s always seem to win.

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