eastwind memoirs 04 – THE BEDOUIN GIRL

eastwind memoirs 04
The Bedouin Girl
By Bernie Lopez, eastwind@replyctr@gmail.com


The Filipino author hitchhiked 25,000 kilo­meters, drifting through 18 countries in Europe and North Africa for 3 years. This is a true story, dialogue reconstructed, excerpts from an upcoming book on the eastwind memoirs Wings and Wanderlust.


in spain, you could be jailed for smoking grass
but you can drink yourself to death on scotch
it is a beverage to them
in morocco, you could be jailed for drinking scotch
but you can smoke yourself blue on grass (keeff)
it is a cigarette to them


         Wings and wanderlust are partners. I took a boat from Algeciras in Spain to Ceuta in Morocco. Morocco marked the beginning of Phase Three of eastwind­, the great leap to the unknown. Experience made me seek the essentials and discard the peripherals. Fear of the unknown was replaced by the eagerness to take risks. Self confidence was the gateway to true adventure. Danger was antici­pated rather than avoided. I wanted to kiss the ground because it was my first time in Africa. But I decided not to make a fool of myself.




         I met a chubby California girl, Cherry (not her real name) who played fantastic American folk songs on her guitar. We became instant friends and ate dinner together often. Only, one time, she suddenly shooed me away. She pointed to someone coming, her big Moroccan boy friend who always got jealous and violent. He had a nasty look in his face and was approaching like a steam roller.
         I had two choices. I could run, but he might run after me. Or I could just stay put and keep my cool. Finally, I jumped for­ward to greet him with a big smile, “You must be Cherry’s boyfriend. She says you’re really cool.” The ice was broken. He shook my hands. Whew, close call.
         They spoke in perfect French. Cherry was my interpreter.
         “Tell him that I am a musician like you,” I told Cherry.
         “Where is your guitar?” the Moroccan asked.
         “Nope, no guitar.” I said nervously.
         “Let me hear you sing. Go get your guitar, darling,” he said to Cherry.
         A played a simply Filipino tune. Cherry applauded “Great, just great.”
         The Moroccan was impressed. It was Cherry who gave me the idea to travel with a guitar. I would buy one in Las Palmas soon. Cherry and I had long talks. I probed into her inner life. I was curious what women drifters were made of.
         “Aren’t you afraid of being raped here?” I asked. “I mean, I, a man, am afraid. What more you, a woman? It’s very dangerous travelling alone in Morocco even for a man.”
         “Not really. There’s a secret to it. As a woman who travels alone, there are creative ways to get by,” she bragged.
         “Really? Like how?”, I asked.
         “Like a Moroccan boy friend. I sleep with him but I don’t get raped. He protects me. In fact, he is too protective. He gets very jealous and violent. But that’s alright. Better than getting raped.”
         Cherry and I smoked a lot of hash with a Moroccan friend, Ahmed. After all, society condoned hash and it was part of the culture – the days of hash and roses. Of course, I realize Western and Filipino societies do not approve, with some exceptions. When in Rome, do as the Romans do.
         Cherry and I never spent money on hash. Ahmed just brought the stuff. Ahmed was friendly to backpackers and that made me suspicious that he might be a pusher. I was warned to be careful of traps. They would give you some hash, then tell the police. Keeff was harsh crude grass, but hash was pure and stronger. Foreigners could be arrested for possession of hash, but not Moroccans.
         But I didn’t care. I smoked with Cherry and Ahmed anyway. It was not good to be too cautious on the road. On the road, danger was an end in itself, otherwise, why travel at all. Sometimes I sought danger instinctively. I wanted to go on the brink and find out what it’s like.
the taste of danger excites the soul
there is no logic to it, only excitement
you cannot intellectualize excitement
you have to live it
danger draws the adrenaline
to untrodden heights
which is food for the thirsty soul
desperate to escape the absurdity of life
         Cherry had been on the road for three long years. That was quite a feat, compared to my four months That made me respect her a lot, although sometimes I felt she was cheap giving her body to men only to get free food and a free place to stay and to avoid danger. But that was survival on the road for her. Who was I to judge her? Cherry stayed in the desert with the Bedouins for three whole months. She lived in a tent with nomadic Bedouins who travelled with their animals across the inhospi­table desert.
         I said “Wow, that was something. They didn’t rape you?”
         “Why do you always ask about rape? You think all people here are just into rape? Gad, you’re a racist. Are you obsessed with rape?” she was actually angry.
         “They didn’t?” I ignored her sarcasm.
         “They didn’t. They are one of the most beautiful people in the world. A Bedouin family took care of me like I was their own daughter. They loved me and I loved them. It was heaven in the desert. I loved the desert. And they were the true ancient nomads of the cruel desert, masters of the Sahara.”
         There was a pause, “Better than my own family.” she said as her eyes started getting wet.
         “Ah, so, that’s why you’re on the road. You’re escaping from your family.”
         “Yeah, why not. My alcoholic father would maul me and my mom when he was drunk.” she quipped.
         We fell silent as more tears came. Like I, running from a career and from New York, the spiritual desert, Cherry was running from her family, and ironically, she found refuge in another type of desert, a real one, the Sahara, and another type of family more loving. I told her about my New York caper and my kind of desert. We had something in com­mon. She held my hand and put her head on my shoulders. It felt good to have an instant friend on the road, a real friend, even just for now. A few days are like years if you have good friends. I looked around for her boy friend.
         “Don’t be afraid. He’s not around”, she laughed.
         “People become drifters because of pain, not because of dreams”, I told her.
         “Drifters become tough and numb. Look at me. I get a boy friend not because I love him but to protect myself. Kind of using him, isn’t it? But I learned more from the Bedouins in three months than from my entire four years of college back home.” she mused.
         “Theoretical wisdom is nothing compared to experiential wisdom. Drifting can open up and warm your heart, like the Bedouins did.” I retorted.
         “Yeah, you’re right. After the drought, the deluge.”
         “After the storm, the lull.”
         “Like a roller coaster ride, right?” her hand went up and down like a wave.
         Eastwind headed south, intrigued by the stories of the Bedouin girl, crossed the edge of the vast Sahara to Laayuoune in the Spanish Sahara, then a ship to Las Palmas in the Canaries, the winter paradise for Northerners.


you must jar your ordered life
if you are to really live
order is a form of disorder
if it enslaves the spirit
disorder challenges you
to improvise quickly by reflex
disorder fosters order and harmony
within your searching spirit
order can bore
just as disorder can excite
order can limit your vision
disorder can open up the horizon
a galaxy exemplifies
order within disorder


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