Diasporas, pt. 5


“Hey, I got Chinese takeout! Have some!”
–“Thanks! Where’s it from?”
“Just around the corner from here.”

The next day, I walk around the bend. The restaurant’s name? Fortune House, the same name (in English, but not in Chinese) as my dad’s former restaurant. It may have only been day one of my trip, but it made me immediately homesick.

It’s been absolutely mind-boggling to see the constant presence of Chinese people in the three Guianas. We’re members of the same diaspora, but we just ended up on opposite sides of the globe. Our daily language, the ones we live in, are completely different, mutually unintelligible, and yet the immediate knowing glances when I walk into the door of a Chinese business immediately leads to a conversation in the one thing we share.
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 Sani Pass to Maseru, Lesotho

“How do you know Lesotho?”

I didn’t, actually, beyond the fact that it’s a country completely surrounded by South Africa. But boy, this is a fascinating place.

Lesotho (li-su-tu) packs a punch despite its tiny size, and doesn’t feel at all like any other country. I first did a daytrip to the village of Mafika-Lisiu (di-si-ew; the orthography is weird) from the northern Drakensberg, just past a remote border post and relatively inaccessible. Enamoured by the rolling fields of purple cosmos flowers, the resolutely traditional but friendly people, the fact that it’s the highest country in the world (its lowest point is at 1400 m, and most of the country is above 1800 m), and the story behind its survival as an independent state — the largest of the four enclaves in the world, ahead of San Marino (within Italy), Vatican City (Italy), and Monaco (France) — I resolved to return, minus the unwieldy daytrip tour crowd of 20 people.

Besides, given my frustrations with South Africa’s lack of public transit, returning to a land full of minibus taxis and leave-when-full vehicles was more than welcome, and a last hurrah to being in a part of “African” Africa. I don’t know why Lesotho gets skipped over for its reputation of being difficult for independent travellers — it isn’t terribly so, and deserves far more visitors than what it’s got!
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Cotonou and Ganvié, Benin

After 3.5 hours of waiting in Lomé for a taxi to fill up, I was finally en route to Cotonou. Never mind the fact that I was the first passenger in the car because the taxi driver pretended to be a passenger for an hour before he revealed himself as the driver. Never mind the excruciatingly upbeat and… morally questionable, non-sequitur Christian music he played for at least an hour ad nauseum — something along the lines of “You are stressed from work or exams? In the name of the Lord Jesus Christ, I command you to be free!” *canned cheering* “You are gay or suffering from sexual immorality? In the name of the Lord Jesus Christ, I command you to be free!” *canned cheering* (How do you go from exams to that?!) Never mind the chaotic border crossing, the bad and very dusty roads, and the fact that it took another 3.5 hours to get there. None of that was the problem. (At least this taxi wasn’t overfilled. It was comfortable, for once.)

The problem was one I knew would happen, but there wasn’t anything I could do about it anyway.
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