If I may interrupt the ongoing travelogue to fly wildly through time and space... there's this writing contest to win a trip to Argentina and travel writing mentoring, and the deadline
is in 12 hours actually I just realized the autoloading count down on the webpage is counting down from Melbourne time but in the time zone of the deadline as far as I can tell it is 28 hours to go so I can wait till I get home this evening I belieeve, though time zone shenanigans are making me nervous.
To apply, I must write a piece that limbos under the incredibly low limit of 2500 characters, on one of these topics:
"Making a Local Connection"
"The Last Thing I Expected"
"A Decision that Pushed Me to the Edge"
Coming up with a story that is both poignant and under 2500 characters has been hard, but I finally settled on "making a local connection" and adapting the character study I did of my interpreter Baro in Guinea. Even that seemingly very short entry is 3600 characters though!!
So anyway, here is what I have. Please any constructive criticism and advice is appreciated! Obviously I'm right up on the deadline so I'm gonna let it sit just for a few hours (currently on my lunch break at work, since I'm going out to dinner with my parents this evening (its their last day here!) I'll probably submit it at the very end of the workday so that this evening I'm not worrying about getting it in on time.
So here it is, currently weighing in at 2,467 characters (so keep in mind I can basically add only one word right now without deleting an equal amount to make room)! --
We’re sitting on the porch in the dark, just watching the rain and the constant lightning that flashes silently over the corrugated metal roofs of the other cottages in the village, when the long warbling call to prayer suddenly breaks out, from Baro’s phone.
“Come, let’s break fast.” He says to me with a smile on his stolid face. Other people are already coming by, someone hands us umbrellas, and we step onto the volcanic gravel of the village paths, while the rain pours down around us in big fat cold drops. Baro hobbles along with a pronounced limp in his left leg, we make a little informal procession under the umbrellas, around some cottages, between tall stalks of corn, past some round thatched huts.
Most days, if it wasn’t too wet, after th breaking of the fast Baro would tend his a teakettle over a little fire of coals, squatting just off the porch. He made it from loose leaf tea, repeatedly pouring it from the kettle into a tin cup and back into the kettle. He’d spend an hour or two at this, like a long slow ritual, as the moon slowly rose overhead. With no electricity, you become acutely aware of the phase of the moon, especially since Ramadan and fasting wouldn’t be over until the moon finished its cycle.
With nothing but the light from the moon and the stars, and the orange glow of the coals under the kettle, I would think about how very much like his nomadic ancestors Baro looked at this moment.
They say Guinea is the “watertank of Africa,” it is a beautiful lush green country in which two of Africa's great rivers, the Senegal and Niger, both originate. For two weeks I was based in this little village a long day's drive into the interior. During long evenings after work I'd sometimes walk along the surrounding forest paths, the gaggle of village children would all run around together, the adults would all collect on someone's veranda to chat on into the darkness. Baro, my interpreter, had a transistor radio which would give us reports of the outside world and burgeoning ebola epidemic all around us.
Baro came from dry Mali to the east, but had come to Guinea to escape politcal instability. Ebola wasn't in this village but it was in Guinea's capital; if the capital were to become too dangerous Mali would have to be my own way out.
Despite the turmoil of the outside world, here in the village the children played happily, the adults continued their daily routines. And Baro and I peacefully whiled away the hours.
Submitted! You can see it as submitted here, and moreover you can peruse all (5000+!) other submissions here. The search bar works great for searching for stories set in your favorite country (though people seem to have an astounded propensity to mislabel them with their home location), or search for words in titles, but I don't think it picks anything out of the body of the entries.