That, above all else, is this bear’s favorite pastime. Sin duda. If I visit your ‘hood and you ask me what I’d like to do, be prepared; ‘let’s saunter’ will be my answer.
I know what you’re thinking: Sauntering? Oso, what kind of psuedo-poetic bullshit is that? We call it walking. To which I respond with four simple words: no, no, no, no.
Walking is a form of transportation, an activity which takes you from point A to point B. Sauntering is none of that. To saunter, as my kindred homeboy Henry David reminds us, is rather for ‘mere idlers and vagabonds.’ In other words, my favorite kinds of people.
To saunter is to submit to the purest of intuition and serendipity. It is idle walk, which I will always prefer over idle talk.
Dhaka, it must be said, is not a city for saunterers. Every step of every block some homeboy on a bicycle rickshaw will pull up alongside of you and query, ‘boss, where going?‘ The problem (in fact, the beauty, the very definition) of sauntering is that this question has no answer. The saunterer shrugs.
Sauntering is not an activity easily understood in a Bangladeshi context. The most aggressive of rickshaw cyclists do not pull up alongside you, but rather pull up right in front of you to cut off your path. That is one surefire way to piss off a saunterer. One young not-so-gentle-man tried that maneuver on me three times in a row, to which I was compelled to warn him: “homeboy, you try that one more time and we gonna be practicing our kung fu.”
Antananarivo, on the other hand, is a saunterers’ paradise.
Hold up … let’s get some soundtrack going here …
Isn’t that nice? That’s Mr. Bob Baldwin singing Tsy Haiko. OK, so firstly, Between 5 and 7 p.m. Antananarivo is abuzz with pedestrian activity. Streets become streams of unrushed walkers lined with banks of candle-lit informal economy. Anything you could possibly want to buy is all of a sudden right by your side, but only between 5 and 7 p.m. Day turns to dusk turns to night. The retreating sunlight plays games with angular buildings, tired eyes, and flashing white teeth.
I join the stream, the comfort of strangers, the silent rhythm, the agile steps – right foot, left foot – floating down the stone pathways that fall down from Tana’s steeple-capped hilltops.
The art of sauntering lies in self-confidence, of choosing your path without hesitation and without regret. And of always remembering where you turn.
Why do I love to saunter? That’s an easy answer: good shit happens when you saunter. Beautiful faces cross your path, melodic music slips out of the creaky wooden doors separating you from choir practice, market fresh scents accost you, dusty alleyways lead you to bocce ball games and free shots of horrible whiskey with new friends. The more you trust your intuition, the better it gets.
I am writing this, among other reasons, because I can’t endure the thought that it is time for me to pack my suitcase once again. That a 5 a.m. flight awaits me. That tomorrow will be a new country, a new currency, a city I’ve never been to and know nothing about.
On my last day in Madagascar I had the honor to hang out with five of its cyber-celebrities: Miss Pati Pois, who represented Foko in Brussels; Jogany, the queen of Malagasy cyberspace; Diana Chamia who received much deserved attention for her single-handed determination to help Baby Kamba; Karenichia, who might very well be the OG of Foko bloggers; and Monsieur Stéphane, a man who, in the streets of Antananarivo, needs no introduction.
Diana, Jogany, and Pati Pois
We had lots of fun. I was happy, in the groove of Malagasy life, which seems to always happen just as I’m about to leave. Hopefully I will be back sooner than later. Lots of sauntering awaits me.