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Where are you go
The question I can count on being asked on a daily basis is, “Where are you go?” It’s a simple question, which has a seemingly straight forward answer. The question is a good way to initiate a conversation with a stranger, and I’m certain that it’s rooted in genuine curiosity. Lately, my reply has been, “Nairobi.” The locals all know where that city is, and while it strikes them as strange that I’d be cycling to Kenya when there are perfectly good buses, they find the answer to their query to be plausible. Today, I decided to change gears.
“You, where are you go?” I was asked by a young man wearing a Muslim skullcap.
“Nairobi.” “Ah. Yes.”
“And then on to Cape Town, South Africa.”
There was a long pause as he stared at me, trying to decide if I was having a bit of fun at his expense.
“South Africa?” he repeated.
He laughed and called his friends over. He relayed my answer to them, and they all stared at me and smiled at my strange foreign attempt at a joke.
“Where are you come?” one of the group asked.
“Cairo, Egypt,” I replied. They all smiled and shook their heads. I figured that I ought to offer them some evidence to back up my claims. I hiked up the leg of my cycling shorts and they were confronted with the undeniable proof of my hard earned tan lines. I pointed at my pale white thigh. “Cairo.” I traced my finger across the stark border created by my riding kit to the dark tan above my knee. “Ethiopia.” Their earlier disbelief was replaced with looks of astonishment. Clearly, I could afford to fly. Why would I bicycle? I was asked a new question, one which is harder to answer. “Why are you go?”
I’ve been told that an interesting class distinction can be made by considering attitudes toward food. If your host is poor, they ask if you had enough food to eat. After a middle class meal, the question becomes, “Did you enjoy your meal?” At an upper class gathering, the quantity and quality of the food is unquestionably good, so the question will be, “What did you think of the presentation.” The circumstances of our journey invite a similar comparison. To a man who owns little more than a mud hut and a few goats, the concern toward travel is if he has the resources to complete his journey. A person of more means will hope to enjoy a safe and quick journey.
Contrast that with our expedition which is all about the journey, and not transportation. I suspect that many members of our group have asked themselves some variation of the question, “why are you go.” It’s a question that each of us will have to explore on our own and the answer will undoubtedly evolve as we make our way south toward Cape Town.
If, at the end of our journey, I have a satisfactory answer I will be sure to share it with you.
— Gabe Altman
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