Out Of Africa


funny ramen noodles

My blog has one reader from Burundi. She’s not a regular, but she reads maybe once a week. I have no way of knowing if it’s the same person every week or not, but I like to imagine that it is.
Even though I won the geography bee in seventh grade, I knew very little about Burundi, so when I was looking over my blog statistics, and I saw that I had a semi-regular reader from Burundi, I had to go look it up.
I learned that Burundi was one of the poorest countries in East Africa, and had suffered a series of genocides and civil wars that devastated the local population and economy. It’s been the focus of a UN rebuilding process since 2006, but it’s slow going.
My computer broke soon thereafter, and I wasn’t able to read any more.
I have a habit of never throwing away expensive pieces of technology, or at least always having one backup. I have all the iPhones I’ve ever owned scattered in boxes about my apartment, and I have a rats nest of power cables that would probably be better at bludgeoning intruders to death that charging any device. It only took a few minutes of rummaging through my bedroom closet.
I knew I had an extra computer some where, I just had to find it. It only took me a few minutes of rummaging to unearth the treasure I was searching for: my white, plastic Macbook from 2008.
The memories.
This little workhorse carried me through the end of high school and all the way through undergrad. Its documents folder is full of classics papers, Latin translations, and German workbooks. There’s a whole section of poorly-crafted stories from my early days, malnourished and deformed creatures who flinch and hiss at the light when you open the folder.
And the pictures. It’s like stepping back into high school. To undergrad, back to Birmingham, Alabama.
It was magical. Like opening an old box and finding treasure from when you were a kid.
When I was younger, the decree would sometimes come down from on high that we needed to clean the house. Invariably, my dad would go clean the master bedroom, and the rest of us would have to do the whole house by ourselves. It wasn’t big, but it was the principle that upset us.
At some point, though, we’d all find our selves in the red bedroom, huddled on the floor around several old shoeboxes. There were pictures in the shoeboxes. Thousands of them. We’d look through, and I’d see my dad’s navy friends I always heard stories about, or vacations I couldn’t remember, or family members I only met once.
It’s weird to think that your parents had lives before you were around.
I wonder if old computers are going to be my generations shoe boxes. Old pictures, old homework assignments, old dreams and fantasies, old games and videos. We’ll clean out our closets and stumble across these heavy pieces of plastic, and our kids will go “wow, that thing rested on your lap? Did it cut off your circulation?”
We’ll show them it didn’t, though it did singe the hair off.
Eight years. It seemed like forever.
It seemed even longer when I tried to get on word press. My computer was running browsers that were too old to use the word press web app. Worse still, my operating system was too old to upgrade the browsers. Worse still, I couldn’t upgrade my OS without paying for it.
Shit.
I felt like I was trying to use a brick as a flashlight. No matter how hard I tried to flip a switch, it was just a brick.
I didn’t have Final Draft. I didn’t have Scrivener. I was crippled.
You build your life around a profession. You spend every waking moment thinking about it, you sacrifice good paying jobs to give your dreams a try, you lay it all out on the line, and then your tool breaks. My computer. The one thing I needed, and it’s gone.
It was such a betrayal, like finding a spider in the shower. What was once safe and comforting now has poisonous things in it. Using this old computer felt weird. It felt dirty, too much like I was stepping back into my past, turning into something I used to be and loosing all forward progress. I didn’t want to do it. I didn’t want to have to write in Microsoft word again.
And then I thought about my reader in Burundi. I wonder what she uses to read my blog, or the lengths she went to to even get access to a computer.
I thought about her, and the civil wars, and the ethnic cleansing. I wonder if she lost any family members. I thought about the rampant starvation, and I wondered if she was hungry. I thought about disease, and wondered if she was well.
My friend works for a company that, among other things, repairs macs for studios and production companies. He’s taking a look at the computer tomorrow. He thinks it’s just a corrupted disk image.
Until then, I’m back in 2008.
I’m using a plastic computer held together by duct tape that can’t even access my favorite websites, but I’m going to soldier through it.
If my reader from Burundi can do it, then I owe it to her to try.
It’s probably not as bad as all that, though. I like to imagine a leisurely afternoon stroll through Bujumbura, the streets alive with insects, the humidity oppressive. Spices waft on the breeze that blows across lake Tanganyika. Dogs bark in the distance, but not in a frightening way. No, it’s comforting.
She wears an orange dress and sandals, and she waves at everyone she passes. They all smile and wave back.
She gets to the café and sits down with a cup of coffee, and loads my blog.
I hope I don’t disappoint her.

p.s.

i wrote this on my phone. I hope it turned out okay.

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