I’ve been busy working on a new romance novella this week so I haven’t had a chance to research a new blog topic. Instead, I’ve decided to share two excerpts from my upcoming travel memoir. The title still needs to be determined, so if you’d like to help me with that please see my previous blog post “Title for my Book.”
First, here’s the beginning of the book:
“If you’re going through hell, keep going.”
I realize running off to Africa isn’t the usual response to a broken heart, but it made perfect sense to me at the time. You see, I’d had an epiphany: quitting a man is like quitting smoking. You may know you should quit, you may even know it’s what’s best for you, but until you actually want to stop you never will. I personally found quitting smoking far easier than quitting James.
During those final days when I desperately did not want to think about him, even his name popped up all over the city. You can’t really get away from the name James. It’s everywhere. Especially in London, where (even though I am American) I lived at the time. It’s a tube stop (St. James Park), one of my favorite restaurants (Just St. James), and seemed to also be the name of half the population.
One night I went to a club in a futile attempt to take my mind off of him. Spotting a cute guy over near the bar, I sauntered over to him flashing a smile and tossing my blonde hair back off my shoulder in an oh-so-subtle move to get his attention. After he offered to buy me a drink, I introduced myself. Guess what his name turned out to be? That’s right, James. Were parents really unimaginative around the late 1970s? Or was this some sort of elaborate, universal conspiracy against the recently dumped to bombard us with memories of exes we wished to
As the relationship crumbled, I found myself moving beyond simply worrying about what would happen into sheer obsession. Instead of the reasonably mature 27-year-old I liked to imagine myself being, I had reverted into a tormented teenager with her first crush checking the phone every thirty seconds to make sure I hadn’t somehow missed it ringing or the beep of a text message.
So, quite clearly hopping on a plane to Africa made the most logical sense. After all, how many James’ could there possibly be in Ghana?
Next, here’s an excerpt of my first “bucket shower” in Ghana. The house where I lived had no actual showers, only buckets of cold water we could use. Since friends seem to always ask about that experience, here it is:
Padding quietly into the bathroom, I took one look at myself in the mirror, studied my swollen eyes and tangled hair, and decided I needed to brave that bucket shower before doing anything else.
I grabbed my towel and hung it on the towel rack, then stripped off my pajamas and glanced around for somewhere to put them. Lacking other options, I draped them over the towel rack too. Then I took off my glasses and perched them over my pajamas.
Since the heat hadn’t yet built up for the day, I turned on the tap and ran my hand under the freezing cold water with serious trepidation. Taking a deep breath, I took the larger bucket and placed it under the tap, letting it fill up before shutting off the water. Then I grabbed the smaller bucket, dipped it in the first, and dumped it over my head.
Fortunately I managed to bite back a scream as icicles of water slid slowly over my skin and stung my scalp. That sensation woke me up more than a huge cup of coffee ever had in my life!
Having long hair at the time that came just shy of my waist, I needed more water before I could use any shampoo, so I flipped my head upside down to let my hair hang forward (thus hopefully keeping the freezing water further from my body) and dumped another small bucket over myself. Droplets still splashed back to my neck and trickled down my spine, giving me goose-bumps.
Shivering, I shampooed my hair quickly, then gritted my teeth and picked up the small bucket once again to rinse. Mastering the rinsing technique took a while, since I had to use one hand to scrub at my hair to get the shampoo out while I used the other hand to slowly pour water from the bucket over myself. I eyed the conditioner warily before deciding I couldn’t take anymore that morning and could go without.
By the end of that first shower, I wanted to chop off all my hair for the remainder of the summer. Luckily, reason prevailed. And, as with everything else, the process got easier as I became accustomed to it. I also started showering in the late afternoon when the heat of the day made the cold water feel refreshing instead of torturous.
Rubbing myself briskly with the towel got the circulation going again and I started to feel warmer as I returned to my room to get dressed. Then I went downstairs to find a tall, larger-than-life, heavyset woman cheerfully cooking in the kitchen. She introduced herself as Auntie Comfort and joked that it was her job to keep all of us comfortable. Her welcoming hug did make me feel instantly at ease and, strangely, at home.