Sal Island, Cape Verde: An Unrealized Tattoo. 1.

We’re at the bar. The defunct bar. The one in front of Hotel Aeroflot.

I’m at the central table, munching on some chicken and engaging in conversation. Tony is talking about something- every so often he walks over to the grill, to tend to the pieces of chicken he’s barbecuing.

The afternoon is bright and sunny, and the weather is great.

As it usually is on Sal island.

Tony is saying something about squid season. He says it’s currently squid season, and that soon some guys’ll be going out to fish for squid in the ocean.

Hm. Sounds interesting.

I imagine squid has a special place in the hearts of Cape Verdean locals. Because amongst other things you generally don’t really need money to access squid meat. You just need to go out and fish, or something.

For me right now- sitting on this wooden bar stool, staring at the crystal blue Atlantic Ocean barely ten metres away from my position here in the shade, squid meat feels especially accessible to me right now.

Like I could walk right into the ocean right now, and straight-up grab some squid.

I don’t know. Maybe I’m just hungry.

I probably just need to accompany people on a squid fishing expedition or something, to get some of that calamari in my system.

But stuff like eg sausages? Imported stuff you can only get at the mini-mercados? All that stuff costs money.

And honestly, thinking about anything that requires me to have units of bank-issued currency right now- That- that just gives me a headache.

I’ve got no money.

The sorts of currency I possess, exist in other forms: I’ve got time. I’ve got my hands and legs to walk about and do stuff.

Accessing my needs via these channels – that feels way less stressful than having to think of bank issued currency as a factor intermediating between me my essential life needs.

Hm- You know, I might just go along on that squid-hunting expedition with the people Tony is talking about.


We’re still chatting.

There’s me, Tony, Danny and his wife who are on vacation (from the US, I think), Roberto, and sometimes Romano.

Tony has been friends with Danny and his wife- for like a number of years I think. They visit Cape Verde every now and then, and when that happens they meet up with Tony and co. They’re very nice people. They’re generally the ones bankrolling our supply of barbecued chicken right now.

I can’t complain: I live for free in a studio apartment here at the defunct Hotel Aeroflot. I spend my time generally trying to figure out my next steps in life – me being on a gap year from college in the US and all.

Again, I have no money. These wonderful people periodically set some chicken here up on a grill – about thirty seconds from where I wake up in the morning. They provide food, drinks and much needed company.

I’m not complaining. I’m not complaining at all.

Danny’s wife made fun of me one time. We were through with the chicken- and then not long after, I mentioned that I wanted to head somewhere to do something.

She looked at me and went, “Yeah go ahead. Eat and Run”.

Funny. Very funny. Great wordplay.

But I didn’t find it funny. Not at the time at least. I was actually pretty hurt. It spoke too directly to the reality of my financial situation. I didn’t even notice the wordplay until much later.

Haha. Hahaha. “Eat and Run”. Hah.


I’ve been thinking of getting a tattoo.

The thought has been very pronounced in my mind.

Like an impulse. Not a rushed spur-of-the-moment impulse, no.

It feels like something I absolutely need to do. Like something necessary. Like something vital – something that fulfils some deep-seated psychological need.

I don’t really get it.

It’s like there’s this groove in my personal space of thoughts, that I find myself periodically being sucked into once I’m in its vicinity.

Like:

Hm, I need to figure out what to do today. Mohammed says I can get some bread and coffee at the Baye Fall meeting later this evening. I need to go charge my laptop at some point – some documents I need to work on. Tony is saying something interesting about the tourist agencies on — TATTOOOOOOOO

Like this screaming voice that hijacks my thoughts every now and then.

I don’t really understand the feeling.

But I’m not fighting it.


I’ve been thinking about what sort of a tattoo to get.

Gertrude Stein’s Tender Buttons has really been on my mind over like the past year or so.

I got introduced to it in freshman year of college – in Multimodal Communications class.

It’s supposed to be some sort of abstract art, but with words.

So- similar to how abstract visual art generally doesn’t seem to have obvious denotative suggestions, but rather depends on some sort of mental state/contextual understanding that you project onto it to give it meaning, Tender Buttons does not make sense when you read the literal words in its pages.

It has sentences like “The change in that is that red weakens an hour”.

Sorry, the change in what?

It generally requires you to think about words and the intention behind a sequence of words in a different mosaic-esque sort of way, to make some meaning of it.

Stein’s intention behind the work was to enable the reader “understand without remembering”– something like that. Like you’re reading English words you come across every day, but these words elicit images in your mind that remind you of nothing you’ve ever encountered before.

I think.

Honestly with art sometimes I can’t tell if something is profound and surreal and shockingly non-intuitive, or if the whole thing is a scam and everyone’s just having an “Emperor’s new clothes” effect.

Regardless, there’s a specific line from the book that has been resonating in my thoughts since Berlin.

“All this and not ordinary, not unordered in not resembling. The difference is spreading.”

It has honestly felt like some sort of a spiritual mantra to me in recent times. Like a bible verse I clutch tightly to and build my life around, because it makes me feel safe.

That’s what that has been like.

I’ve been thinking of getting that as a tattoo. Around my arm somehow.

I’m still trying to figure out how to do it exactly.

Hm.


Image: Sal Island. Hitching a ride to Santa Maria with two UK tourist guys on the hood of their quad bike.

An Oakland Morning.

There’s an event happening today. This morning. In Oakland.

I think Maria was the one who told me about it.

She, Laura and a number of other people were planning to go. I like to go hang out with them in the next room from time to time. They’ve got this informal co-living commune thing going on in room 510 next door.

Laura and Corey placed their two beds side by side to form one larger one- Walking into the room at like any random point in the day, you’ll find like four people snuggling and cuddling in different positions on the bed, and more around the room.

Maria, Laura, Fiona, Magnus, Jakob – the general gang. They’ve also got this UWC thing going on- a good number of them were classmates at UWC Costa Rica I think.

It has this interesting communal hippie-ish sort of vibe, I think it’s interesting.

Maria made a post about the event on our student Facebook group a number of days ago.

It surprising to me how well-informed these people are, about stuff happening around. It’s like they know where to go, and they know where to get all of this cool information.

I would have never even known about this event. I’m still trying to make sense of this whole America place, but it feels like these guys already know their way around somehow.

Anyway it’s great to be able to benefit from their worldly experience and familiarity with the social scene. We’ve got a Facebook group chat for the people interested in going for this event. We’ve been planning excitedly towards it.


I am behind schedule. I am waayy behind schedule.

Everyone else left like an hour or so earlier.

I’m still trying to properly wake up.

I need to get dressed and stuff. I need to not be just getting up from bed.

Ahhhh demmit—

It’s a CreativeMornings event.

I have no idea what CreativeMornings is, but I looked online and it seems to have a pretty cool vibe. Today’s speaker is someone called Aisha Fukushima.

I have absolutely no idea who that is either. But Maria and everyone else were very excited to go hear her speak and stuff, so I guess she has to be cool somehow.

I begin to put myself through the motions:

Out of bed, Quick shower, Get dressed, Head out.


I just got to Oakland.

Recently emerged from the subway trains that rumble back and forth across the Bay, their cranking and screeching muffled within the depths of the dull-green seawater as they shuttle between San Francisco and West Oakland.

I’m walking along a major road, looking around and taking in Oakland’s ambience. It is my first time here. It seems much less busy than downtown San Francisco, where our dorms are. The streets look neat and quiet and somewhat empty.

At some point I realise that I’m not sure how to proceed. The route to the event location didn’t feel all that complicated at the dorms- I took a few glances at it on Google Maps, and I felt I should find my way there without an issue.

Now I’m not quite sure what’s going on. I think it’s partly because I had absolutely no idea what Oakland looked like, prior. And so there’s a good amount of new information to take in.

I have the event details on my laptop. My laptop is in my backpack. I did all of the scheduling on my computer, with the dorm WiFi.

I do not have a cellular plan on my phone, so now I need to find WiFi.

I look around for a cafe.


I’m in a cafe by the road.

The waitress is a very nice Black American lady. She’s being very nice and smily and welcoming to me. Hmm.

I’m also dressed pretty fancy today. I’ve got a patterned brown Yoruba buba on, layered with a fancy tweed winter coat whose collars I’ve turned up.

Turning up the collars makes me feel very cool. It gives a similar vibe to Benedict Cumberbatch in the Sherlock TV show.

I quickly open up my computer and connect to the cafe WiFi.

Okay, what does Google Maps say I do now..

I’m subconsciously berating myself.

At the time I put on my clothes this morning, I was already over an hour late for the event. Now I’m here- God knows where exactly, trying to figure out how exactly to get to the venue.

Everyone else has been at the event for like hours now, while I’m still here ahhh—-


Eventually I get to the location.

The frustratingly elusive location of the CreativeMornings event.

I head up the stairs and walk into what looks like a reception/waiting room.

There’s a woman standing by a table- she seems to be sorting out some stuff, I’m not sure what.

I approach her and ask where the event is taking place.

She says it’s in the next room, but that no one is allowed to go in at this point. That the entry is closed or something.

I think it’s some sort of an interactive event, and so having new people join in when the participants already have a rhythm going, could be disruptive.

Now I’m even more curious about what the whole thing is about.

I try persuading her- try finding ways around the metaphysical policy wall separating me from all of the hair-raising excitement that is obviously happening in the next room.

Nope. Nada. No success. Nothing.

She insists that there is just no way to join the event at this point.

It’s too late. I’m too late.

Eventually I give up on trying to persuade the lady, and decide to head out.

The unpleasant sensation of unrealized anticipation lingers in my mind, as I walk back out into the streets of Oakland- taking in the the fresh morning air and soft sunlight, wondering what this new city is like.


I am at a restaurant, sitting at a table and doing some work on my computer.

Maria and the others are probably back in SF by now, I don’t know. I’ve been absorbed in Oakland sightseeing in the past hour or so. I’m no longer thinking about CreativeMornings and Aisha Fukushima and all of the missed excitement.

The restaurant is a really interesting one. Fancy. It’s very white. White walls, white furniture, general white theme.

It’s in the vicinity of Lake Merritt.

A waiter recently brought my order. It was a strange listing on the menu that I didn’t recognise. Felt I could try it out.

The major component of the dish looks something like cut-up sushi rolls, but it has this smooth, light brown meat thing in it, that has a tang to it.

So I’m sitting in this interesting cafe around Lake Merritt, doing some laptop stuff while nibbling on this unfamiliar dish with strong-tasting meat.



I recently left the cafe. Now I’m walking around and taking selfies with my patterned brown buba and fancy tweed jacket with upturned collars.

There’s a church nearby. I walk into it. It’s quiet. And serene.

The light streaming in through the stained glass windows gives the room a surreal, transcendent ambience. I’m walking along the central aisleway, running my fingers along the pews and admiring the woodwork.

I find the altar entrancing. I’m moving along the curves and edges with my eyes, tracing out the interesting details of its remarkable wooden craftmanship.

I don’t know how long I spend in the church.


Now I’m hanging around Lake Merritt. I think it has interesting vibes. There’s some sort of an amusement park or something nearby – I’m hanging around one of the installations. Swinging about the metal railings and generally being silly.

There’s a lady sitting by the lake. Black American. Somehow we get talking. Her name is Ameena. I’m not sure how it’s spelt, but she pronounces it “Ameena”. She recently graduated from a nearby college. I think she’s studying to be a lawyer.

It still feels somewhat surreal for me- this experience of having real-life conversations with actual Black American people. Before America, I only used to see them in movies and rap videos.

One of my high school classmates in Nigeria travelled outside the country for like a two-month holiday and practically returned as a Black American. He had the accent, the slangs, the walk, everything. Of course that wasn’t the real thing. But maybe it was like the closest experience I had prior?

Strange thing was that I think the guy’s holiday was actually even in Canada.

How do you go to Canada for two months and come back with a Black American accent? How does that even work?

We talk some more, Ameena and I. While we chill by the lake.

She looks like she’s sizing me up. I’m not entirely sure what for. As a potential boyfriend or something? I don’t know.

Looking at me from head to toe like:

“Hmm, let’s see what we have here. Hmmm”.

Looking again like:

“Hmmmmmm.”

Like she’s ticking through some mental checklist and trying to make up her mind on something.

Haha.

We keep talking. At some point she says she needs to head home. It is getting dark.

I say alright. I ask for her full name, so I can contact her on Facebook. She gives me her last name. We say our goodbyes, and she heads towards what I think is a nearby subway station.

I myself will soon be on my way back to San Francisco. The air is getting cooler and the sky is getting darker. Electric lighting in the vicinity is beginning to reflect off the glassy surface of Lake Merritt.

I walk around some more, and take in what I can of Oakland in the dimming evening light.


Now Playing: Memories by Petit Biscuit


Image: View of the Bay Bridge in San Francisco, from somewhere around the Ferry Building.

Udaipur: In Search of an ATM.

I am walking through the tranquil streets of Ambamata and Malla Talai, looking around and taking in the ambience of the environment as I search for an ATM. I’d like to withdraw some money.

The air here in Udaipur is humid. More humid than in Lagos. Strange. For some reason I thought Lagos (or Nigeria) was as humid as it could get anywhere. Strange. I stepped out of the airport and was surprised at how dense the air was to breathe in.

That’s one of the ways I realize I’m in a more humid place. I step out of the airport (sometimes the plane) and I have to consciously adjust my breathing.

Tomorrow evening I’ll be playing pool with a friendly Indian guy I’ll meet in the common room of Zostel– an Indian network of backpacker hostels.

He’ll tell me that Udaipur is in some sort of a climate bubble- and that in spite of how humid it is right now, it’s surrounded by a desert just outside the mountain range that encircles the city.

Hm. Interesting.

He’ll be teaching me the basics of playing the game of pool, remarking humorously that he should probably have spent more time studying in college and less time playing pool. That his life would be considerably different if he had.

Hahaha.

Life and decisions and questions, and that tendency to wonder how different your life would be if you had made some decisions differently in the past. Especially when some people are of the opinion that maybe you didn’t make the best decisions. Even if you disagree with them, their concerns still make you ask questions sometimes.

Honestly I feel like that’s everyone’s situation – to some extent at least.

At the back of my mind, I’ll be marvelling at this subtle jesting awareness of the fact that I have somehow become of the pool-playing age.

I have generally always thought of pool as a game played by older people – by full grown men whose idea of fun was walking around a green table and having full grown men conversations, because they felt too mature to dance and let their hair down.

Yet there I was, being effortlessly inducted into the rituals of pool playing.

I’m definitely in the pool-playing age range now. Haha.


I’m still walking around Malla Talai.

I’m yet to find an ATM. Google Maps says there should be a number around here. I’m just yet to find them.

A tall Indian man is walking in my direction. He has a necklace of bright yellow marigold flowers around his neck. I’ll see marigold flowers like everywhere I go here in India. They are so abundantly prevalent.

The tall Indian man has a red bindi on his forehead.

Hm, hopefully he can let me know where a nearby ATM is.

“Hello? Hello Sir?”

He stops to look at me.

I ask where I can find an ATM nearby.

He says I need to return to the main road. And then branch right. That there are a number of ATMs along that route.

He says there are no ATMs along this road. That I’m in a temple.

Wait what? Temple?

I had no idea. I recall that when I branched into this path, I noticed a number of people dressed in bright red yellow and orange colours, with strings of marigolds around their bodies. There is also the sound of singing and musical instruments coming from further down the road.

I had no idea all of that meant I was in a temple. The sign was in Hindi so I could’t read it.

I thank the tall Indian man, and turn around.

Hah. Look at me. Searching for an ATM in a temple. Haha.


I am at a Bank of Baroda ATM. The logo is bright yellow/orange, almost like the colour of the orange marigolds that seem to be everywhere in this place.

I bring my debit cards out of my wallet.

I have a good feeling about this one.

I’ve tried to withdraw at about three different ATMs along this road, with no success. So far, they’ve all just been giving me ambiguous errors.

It is my first time in India. I have no prior experience with the banks here. Given that, the expectations I have for my experience with an ATM machine is based on the most random things:

Oh I like the colour of their logo. Hm. This one should work.

Hahahaha.

I try the first ATM card.

Random error.

Ah. Bank of Baroda. With the bright orange logo. Why you fucking me up like this.

I try it again.

Different random error.

I try the second card.

Random error.

I try another machine. I try to withdraw a different amount.

Random error.

Okay now I’m beginning to get actually concerned.

How do I withdraw money in this place if my debit cards do not work at the ATMs?


It’s getting dark. I should get back to the hotel.

If it gets completely dark, I doubt I’ll be able to find my way back without becoming even more frustrated than I already am.

And I do not have any cash for public transportation.

Okay. I should get back.

Thanks to the conference organisers, I have one more expense-paid night at Radisson Blu. I haven’t begun to need money yet.

Tomorrow. Tomorrow, we’ll figure this out.


Image: Somewhere in Udaipur.

Reflections.

The room is suffused with a soft orange light.

There is music playing somewhere in the background. It echoes around the walls.

I’m sitting on a chair. It’s a high-seat chair, like a bar stool.

I’m sipping on a glass of chilled white whine. I poured it myself from the table up front.

There is no one else in the room. It’s just me, walking around, trying to piece together the happenings that recently took place here.

I’m taking slow steps around- walking between the tables, taking things in. There are half-filled wine glasses here and there. Bits and pieces of unfinished cake. Chairs turned at an angle so their occupant could leave.

I’m slowly nodding to the music as I head towards the cake stand. There are a good number of untouched pieces of cake. I help myself to them.

I catch a glimpse of someone who I think is the janitor. He’s wearing some sort of a black janitor apron. He popped in through a swinging door by the right of the cake and wine tables. I think there’s a store out back or something.

The janitor guy appears to have something of a frown on his face. I don’t know if the frown is for me. I don’t know what he’s frowning at.

I keep helping myself to the cake.

There’s an interesting looking single-sofa chair at one end of the room. It’s got an upholstered back and armrests, with smooth wooden legs. I think it looks cool. Fancy.

I walk towards it and sit down. It’s soft and firm at the same time. Soft enough that you feel relaxed, but firm enough to make you sit up straight at the same time.

I bite some more cake and sip some more chilled wine. I’m feeling pretty fancy.


I was one of the last people to arrive at the art exhibition.

Or you know what, no. I was the last person to arrive- I had to be. When I got here, a good number of people had already left. The artist was giving like the brief speech at the end where she was appreciating everyone for coming.

That was when I walked in.

It took a while to locate the place, I had to walk a considerable distance after getting out of the U-Bahn station. When I walked into the compound, I realized I had been here before.

I was here a few months ago. The college I’m enrolled at, was having an event. It was upstairs, in the hall on the first floor. There was dancing and brief speeches and talking and pictures and general fun.

At some point I was in a conversation with a classmate and her friend who had travelled in from the US. We were talking about something- something random.

And then my girlfriend came in from nowhere and grabbed me like “OoOhhH! So this is where you are! I leave you for five minutes, and this is what you’re doing- chatting excitedly with girls!”

Haha.

Later she’d be dancing with someone who used to be my roommate in freshman year. Jake. In between spins she’d glance at my face, searching for signs of jealousy.

Hah.

Later we’d be talking in a corner, taking in the interesting aesthetics of the room- the glossy wooden floors and ornate furnishings. She’d be telling me about how the room reminded her of an old couple she met somewhere. How it reminded her of their house, and how talking with them in that house made her begin to dream about growing old with a partner in such a cozy space.

I thought that was interesting.

At the same time I was contemplating putting a hand up her skirt. Or down her trousers- whatever she was wearing at the time. We were in a somewhat private corner. There were a number of sofas, and the area was separated from the rest of the room by a thick soft velvet curtain.

It was very possible no one would notice us there. I took some time to think about it, while she talked on about the old couple.

Hm hm hm, should I try to be responsible, or should I just go for it — Hm —


I’m still sitting on the interesting soft-but-firm sofa. I think this general kind of chair is called a Charlotte chair.

I’m sipping some more on the glass of white wine.

From my perch on the chair, I stare at the art pieces that line the wall.

I think they’re interesting pictures. The theme of the exhibition is “Reflections”, and the artist was exploring that idea in her photographs. Exploring edges and contrast in buildings and a number of other objects. Interesting pictures.

I’m a little surprised that the pictures are here on the wall, even after everyone has left. I’m not entirely sure how art exhibitions work. Is someone going to come pack them up later? I don’t know.

I also don’t know if this room is an actual art gallery. It doesn’t really feel like it. It feels more like a general-purpose room what was decorated and furnished for the purpose of the event. That’s why it feels strange to have the pictures still all be here.

I keep sipping on the wine, and enjoying the dreamy ambience of the vacated exhibition.

The room is still echoing with the music playing in the background.

The German janitor is probably still frowning.


Image: A different exhibition. A different continent.

PS: I’m running out of Berlin pictures. I need to plan towards some new trips.

Another Cafe.

I’m seated at a small table on the ground floor. My head is abuzz from coffee.

The room is warm. There’s the ambient sound of relaxed conversation around me, and in the distance I can hear the self-absorbed whirr of coffee makers.

I’m working on a Formal Analysis assignment. Some Statistics stuff. Statistical power, p-values, all that.

I think this cafe has a very interesting layout. It’s not such a large space in terms of ground area, but it’s got considerable elevation.

The ceiling is pretty high. High enough to allow for an additional floor of tables and chairs up in the air. This wooden storey lines the wall in an interesting U-shape around the room.

I tried working on the suspended floor. That was the first time I was here, I think. I spent a number of hours doing some readings and assignment stuff. I was seated at a cozy table along one of the prongs of the suspended “U”.

The setup felt immensely precarious to me. Walking along the wooden floorboards, they felt somewhat shaky. Like the entire structure was gently swaying from side to side.

I thought to myself, “This obviously can’t be indicative of a structural issue, because everyone seems pretty chill with it”.

It felt like it had been that way for like a number of years possibly. Like the sway was a part of the structure’s character or something.

I don’t know, what do I know about wooden structures.

It’s probably one of those structures that feel somewhat sketchy, but last for a pretty long time regardless.

I don’t know.


There were two waiters at the counter when I came in. One was a mixed-race black guy. Like, the sort of black guy that has hair with large curls, and dark-green eyes. He cut his hair short, but I could still tell from the texture. I thought he looked interesting.

There was him, and then this slim lady waiter- blonde I think. They were smiling and teasing flirtatiously with each other. Definitely having fun at work.

I’m currently typing at my computer.

There’s this Indian-looking guy sitting at the table to my left. He seems to be typing nervously on his phone.

I headed upstairs earlier, to see if I would come across a free table on the sketchy upper floor. I came across a classmate. She was also working on her Formal Analysis assignment. She seemed happy to see me.

I sat at the table and we spent a little time chatting while we worked on our assignments.

I think I’m gradually developing a crush on her.

At some point I realized I wasn’t really getting any work done. I was too distracted sitting with her. If I intended to get anywhere with my assignment, I needed to go sit somewhere else.

I fiddled with my computer for a bit, and then came up with an excuse to go sit elsewhere.


Now I’m making good progress with the assignment.

The Indian looking guy to my left- now he has someone else sitting across the table from him. His voice is a bit strained and anxious as he tries to communicate some ideas to his guest.

I think the new guy at the table is some sort of investor, and the Indian guy is attempting to sell him on a startup idea. I believe that is what is happening.

I keep working on my assignment.


It’s dark now. I’m like locked in- music streaming in through my headphones- vibing and working through the assignment questions.

Someone is standing next to me.

I take off my headphones and turn.

It’s the classmate. The one from upstairs. I think she’s done with her assignment. She lets me know she’s heading back to the dorms.

We smile and say our goodbyes as she walks out of the cafe.

Hm. Yeah.

Yeah. I definitely have a crush on her.


Image: Working on an assignment at the Chinatown branch of the San Francisco Public Library.

Muir Woods.

Someone’s coming up from behind us. Running.

We turn around to look.

It’s a tall American-looking guy. Maybe mid-to-late thirties.

He runs past us, wheezing very strangely.

I don’t understand the sounds he’s making. You’re also puzzled.

Is that a breathing technique? Some sort of extremely bizarre way to conserve energy while running through a mountain range?

I don’t understand. I have absolutely no idea what that guy is doing. It sounds like he’s having a medical emergency.

But he seems pretty fine. He’s running very vigorously – he doesn’t look like someone who’s likely to drop to the ground anytime soon. Which makes the situation all the more perplexing.

We exchange amused stares, chuckling under our breaths until he’s out of earshot. Then we make fun of him and ask each other what the hell his deal is.


We’re in the bus. Headed up to Muir woods. We’re going up this pretty steep hill – its a snaking winding road.

The bus was pretty full when we got in, so we’re sitting on the steps. I’m recording some footage of the passing scenery through the transparent door. I recently bought this Chinese GoPro clone online, along with a soft bendy mini-tripod. I’ve been taking them around and recording footage on trips – I’ve got a considerable number of stuff from our recent time at Golden Gate park.

We’re talking about random stuff.

At some point we’re talking about Ivan. I’m telling you about stereotypes people from my tribe in Nigeria have about people from his tribe.

I’m not sure how we got here.

I’m getting nauseous. The hill is getting steeper. The road is getting even more winding.

I feel sick. Now I’m not talking as much. I’m just trying to stay conscious till the bus gets wherever it’s going.


We’re walking through some sort of grassy plain. The ground is largely flat, and the grasses are short.

There’s an installation by the road. It looks like a concrete stub – or maybe a rock. There’s like a plaque on it that says “You’re at soso point along the soso Muir Woods trail“.

You’re telling me about your friends back home. About how sad everyone was that you were leaving for college in the US.

You mention the letters they wrote you – the letters you opened up to read on the plane – you say they made you cry and cry because you missed your friends so much already.


At some point we come across some sort of shrub. It has some strawberry-looking fruits on it.

You pick a few of them and begin to eat.

I’m watching suspiciously.

What the fuck are those. I mean- they look like strawberries, but no way I’m eating some strange-ass fruit I randomly came across in the middle of some unfamiliar forest.

No one grows strawberries in the parts of Nigeria I’m familiar with, and so I honestly cannot tell a legit strawberry from some poisonous ambiguous strawberry-looking semblance of a fruit.

You’re saying something about them being real strawberries- between bites, with your teeth stained red.

I cautiously take some from you, watching for possible signs that you’re about to suddenly drop to the ground.

Hm.

She seems okay. I should probably take a few bites. Hm.


We’re at a bus stop. A random bus-stop on the way to Muir woods.

There’s no one else here. We’re chatting and teasing and kissing and generally messing around.

At some point I comment about how tiny your feet are compared to mine. I comment that I could probably fit your foot, complete with your entire shoe, into my shoe.

We try it, and to our utter surprise it works. My shoe completely swallows up your foot and your shoe.

We’re laughing, and taking pictures of you and your gigantic shoe.

Haha.

There’s this Black-American looking guy that recently joined us at the bus-stop. He keeps looking at me strangely, I don’t know why.


We’re at the end of the Muir Woods trail.

We spent some time at a beach. It was interesting.

You said we should throw some coins into the sea. That we’d come back to get them someday.

You said it was something lovers did. Like a custom where you’re from.

It didn’t make any sense to me, but I thought it was exciting nonetheless.

There was a Mexican couple at the beach. Mid-thirties likely. They kept smiling and glancing our way.

Now we’re heading out into some sort of clearing, woozy with excitement from the past couple of hours. We’re to get a bus somewhere close by.

There’s an information board by the footpath, that outlines the bus’s schedule.

We’re staring at it, tired smiles on our faces, ocean waves crashing against the shore in the background.

Hm apparently there’s one more bus that leaves from here this evening.

And it leaves —

Hm hold on, it leaves in —

Wait what?

It leaves in like five minutes!

WHAT THE??

WHERE IS THE BUS STOP???

WHERE IS THE BUS??

WHERE IS THE FREAKING BUS STOP??

Oh no we’re going to be abandoned in this place.

We’re going to be left here overnight to be devoured by bears.

We’re running frantically in the direction of where the bus should be.

WHERE IS ITTT????


Image: Somewhere in Briones Regional Park, San Francisco.

Calheta Funda.

It’s morning.

The air is slightly cold. I can hear the muffled sound of ocean waves periodically crashing against the shingle beach not far away.

The ground is brown and dry. The desert sand shimmers in the bright Sal-island morning sun.

It’s a new day. I spent the night out in some strange concrete-block enclosement out here in the desert, off the island’s highway. It feels like a balcony, but on the ground floor. I’m not quite sure what to make of it.

It provided considerable shelter from the wind, so that was good. Rain practically never falls on Sal island, so I didn’t have to worry about a roof over my head.

I’m wearing my fancy rain jacket. The dark-green and brown one I bought at a thrift store in San Francisco. It has like ten different zippers. There are honestly zippers on this jacket I haven’t yet figured out how to use.

I’m actually not sure why I bought it – maybe I thought it would prove useful for winter in San Francisco. Maybe I thought it would snow or something. It didn’t, and I don’t think I used the jacket at all that winter.

It ended up becoming my camping jacket. During random night walks in SF, I would end up nestled up in the hills at Corona Heights- entranced by the interesting view of the city from above – the sparkly streetlights and the prominent visual outline of Market street.

Or snuggling up on a bench amidst interesting flowers at Golden Gate Park. The hooded rain jacket with endless zippers and pockets, proved immensely useful then.


I’m walking along the shimmering brown desert sand, wondering how the day will unravel. I see a tent up in the distance.

What, a tent?

I thought I was the only one here.

I walk towards it, wondering what’s going on.

Hello!

It’s a cheerful-looking Caucasian man who looks like he’s in his forties. He’s rolling up some stuff around the tent.

We exchange a few pleasantries.

From what I can make of his significantly-accented English, he’s Polish- He and his friend sailed to Sal island (sailed, Wow). I’m not sure where he says they sailed from, but apparently they had a pretty thrilling journey via the ocean, and it wasn’t entirely smooth. Interesting stuff.

He had to have pitched his tent after I fell asleep last night – there was no one around when I got here.

We keep talking. There’s this book he’s very excited about – some guide book for travellers. “Reise Know-How” or something. He has the edition for Cabo Verde – Reise Know-How Cabo Verde something. Apparently it gives a comprehensive outline of interesting activities in Cabo Verde, for travellers. I flip through the book – I find the pictures and the graphics very interesting. It’s all in German though, so I can’t make much of it.

We talk some more as he packs up his stuff and prepares to leave. I’d say he’s a bit shorter than average, but his camping shoes look a little large – I find the look somewhat comical. Chatting excitedly while he prances about in his big shoes. His elation is contagious, and I’m smiling throughout.


It’s a different day.

Night. It’s night. Night of a different day.

I’m headed back to Calheta Funda from Murdeira, where I went to get some supplies. The past couple of days have had their ups and downs. I found this really interesting small cave right by the ocean – just big enough for me to snuggle into. It felt really cool- curling up in a cave, surrounded by the numbing crashing of ocean waves, and staring out at the reflection of the moonlight in the water.

A few days ago I headed to Espargos to get some food supplies. All of my stuff was by the cave at the beach. Clothes, shoes, other stuff. It was to my utter dismay that I returned and realized that the tide had risen immensely in the hours I was gone.

My stuff was everywhere. My Vans sneakers were completely missing. I could only find one leg of my formal leather shoes. I had to walk dejectedly along the shoreline, rethinking my life decisions as I trudged along the black pebbles that populated the beach, picking up whatever of my belongings the ocean had heartlessly strewn about.

The tide rose and the ocean threw your stuff all over the place- some never to be seen again. Who do you get angry at? You can’t exactly begin to pump your fist at the indifferent ocean, can you?

As I head towards where I have my things, I come across a pickup truck. There are two people in it. They look like European men. From the company logo on the truck, I know the guys in it are a bunch of surfshop entrepreneurs from Santa Maria. Sal has got a number of great beaches, and so there’s the trend of surfing enthusiasts from Europe with access to capital, setting up surfing and kitesurfing schools for tourists.

As I walk by, I say hello to the surfer guys. We exchange pleasantries. The man in the driver’s seat is eating something from a bowl. He says his wife prepared it ahead of his road trip.

“Good wife right?” He looks up from his food and smiles at me.

I laugh.

We exchange a few more pleasantries as I head on my way.


It’s a different day.

I just woke up. I’m looking around, wondering how this new day will unravel.

There’s someone staring at me. It’s a dark-skinned man. He looks suspicious. Like he’s wondering what to make of me.

I wave and say hello.

At some point I walk over to exchange a few sentences.

He’s Senegalese. Or Guinean. Or Gambian. Honestly I’m not sure.

But generally there’s a specific kind of problem I have with these kinds of people: They never understand what I’m doing. They never understand my life.

The idea of “camping by the beach” makes absolutely no sense to them.

They generally do not understand why anyone would spend the night outdoors, by choice. That’s just how the (non-Cape Verdean) African people here tend to think. I don’t know why.

I think another factor that makes things more confusing for them, is that I’m black. If they see a European person spending the night outdoors, they’ll probably think “Okay there’s just a white person doing white person stuff, nothing to see here”.

They see me doing that and they’re thinking “Hm, what is this person trying to do? Is he trying to break into a nearby building? Is he trying to bury a body? Is he trying to ambush passers-by? What could he possibly be doing there? I think I should call the Police, I do not understand what is happening.

That is exactly the sort of misunderstanding that leads to me getting picked up by the police here. Officers at the Santa Maria station know me by name now. I alight at the station from their Police van, and the people inside are like “Oho, he’s here again”. Hah.

I’m conversing with the Senegalese/Guinean/Gambian looking guy. He works as a security guard in the area. As we talk, I see the suspicion on his face gradually melt away. He progressively warms up to me.

We keep talking. A lady walks up to us – she’s asking him some questions and asking about me. There are a bunch of kids behind her. And a dog.

He says she’s his brother’s wife. He probably doesn’t mean literal brother. Maybe “fellow Senegalese/Guinean/Gambian person”. Probably.

He offers me some food. He’s eating bread and something.

We keep talking. I take a bunch of selfies with the lady and the kids and the dog.

Thankfully there’s no misunderstanding today.


Image: Somewhere in the desert of Sal island.

Rainy Night in Rajasthan.

I don’t understand your relationship. I do not understand you guys at all.

Like, at all.

It’s like 1 AM. Or 1:30 AM. Thereabouts.

We’re sitting at a table in a dimly-lit restaurant.

It’s this strange open-air restaurant that looks like someone set up chairs, tables and a kitchen in a roadside space intended for a fire station.

Is it still raining? I’m not sure. We’re sitting next to a concrete wall on one end, so I don’t hear anything to my right. Around me to my left, there are voices of people chattering in Hindi. Or maybe Rajasthani, I’m not sure.

There are Indian voices here and there. Someone exchanging pleasantries with the cashier at the entrance. Groups of Indian guys discussing in a local language. A waiter yelling details of an order at the guy making food in the kitchen.

I’m low-key wondering why this otherwise normal-seeming restaurant is open and is this active at 1:30 AM, but right now that’s just one of the things that feel strange.


I’m munching on my bowl of Pulav.

I think the bowl is weird. It seems like stainless steel, but the thickness feels strange to me. It feels like it was made out of the exact same sheet of metal as a bunch of stainless steel spoons. I’m not sure how exactly to explain it. The metal just feels the way a steel spoon or a fork does in your hand.

It’s strange. I feel like I’m eating from a bowl that really should be a number of spoons.

Very strange.

He responds to my comment on his relationship.

“Yeah- when it comes to money, that’s a different matter. We think of things differently when money is involved.”

I’m still pretty perplexed.


About an hour ago we were at their lodging in Old City – in more central Udaipur.

He was telling me about how his Kenyan girlfriend could get pretty possessive of him. Not wanting him to get too close to Indian girls. Apparently he was still sneaking around though – he said someone still gave him her number earlier in the evening. An Indian girl. That he had to save it under a male-looking name, or something like that. To throw off suspicion.

About thirty minutes later we were standing outside Glanza– a nightclub/bar on the outskirts of Udaipur. We were both very drenched from riding on his moped through the unexpected rain – giddy from jumping up in the air when we hit speed-bumps on the highway. Speed-bumps we could barely see coming through the blinding army of stinging raindrops that assaulted us.

We were standing in a more enclosed area, drying ourselves out and getting some respite from the downpour. He was telling me about some drug-dealing trouble he got in, back in Jaipur.

He said people did different things to earn money. He said there are a good number of married Indian women who aren’t sexually satisfied in their marriages. And so they pay younger men to have sex with them. He said he did that every now and then, and that it paid well. That they really liked black guys. He said there was even an app for it.

In my head I was like Okay, don’t even bother telling me the name of the app pls. That’s enough info right there, thank you very much hah.

I personally prefer more fulfilling and inspiring ways of earning money.

It just seemed strange to me that his possessive girlfriend who always tried to keep him away from Indian girls, was fine with him having sex with older Indian women for money.

“Yeah, she knows about it. She’s okay with it.”

Hm.

I heard what he said, but it did not make sense to me.


He was on a call about five minutes ago. We were sipping on beers, waiting for our food to be ready.

I was in a conversation with someone a few days ago who mentioned something I found very interesting. He said a good number of Indians enrolled in PhD programs in public Indian universities, just for the accommodation. He said tuition in government universities was so subsidized, that people enrolled in Doctorate programs just so they would have a place to stay while they worked on something else – possibly studying for International exams so they could travel out of the country. They wouldn’t attend class, nothing. Just make use of the school lodging. And he said it was normal. That even some of the lecturers had done that.

I thought that was really interesting, and I brought it up while we waited for the food. He just completed his Master’s degree at a private university here in India. He came from Nigeria for school. I was curious if people also did that stuff at private universities, or if there was some other variant of it there.

We were discussing that, when the call came in.

He answered his phone. It was his girlfriend.

When we headed out for food and beers about an hour ago, she said she was going to a nightclub.

She was now calling him from the club.

Oh. He’s asking for that? Tell him he’s going to have to pay extra for that.

Hm. I’m not sure what “he” is asking for. I’m not sure what “that” is.

But I have an idea.

Someone at the nightclub is requesting for paid sexual activity with her. She’s calling her boyfriend for negotiation advice.

They discuss on the phone a bit more, and then the call ends when they come to some sort of an agreement on what to do.

Our food is here now.

I’m munching on my Pulav, scooping up interesting spoons of rice and vegetables from the strange steel bowl that should be spoons.

He’s sitting across the table from me, munching on some unrecognisable Indian dish. Hearing my perspective on their relationship.

I do not understand you guys at all.

Like, at all.


Image: Somewhere in Udaipur.

Towards an Objective Test of Machine Sentience.

Abstract:

This paper discusses the notion of sentience in machines, and proposes an approach to analyze it objectively.

It draws insight from studies in Affective Neuroscience which map Functional neuroimaging data on a subject’s brain activity, to their emotional states.
It then outlines a procedure to obtain useful information about possible sentience in a given machine/AI model.

It is hoped that this research inspires more work aimed towards structuring an objective test of sentience in machines.

View Paper on Researchgate