Shakespeare in Africa #2: Bad Choices that Led to a Beautiful Life and The Coffee House Where I Found Hope for Humanity.
I’m on my way to attempt to launch a Shakespeare Troupe with kids in a rural village in Botswana, Africa. But right now, I sit in seat 23D over New Jersey pondering my bad life choices and wondering why, on every flight I’ve ever taken, there’s a German woman next to me who’s been all over the world. This flight is no exception. “Ana” in 23C has been to Botswana and thirty other countries in Africa. Listening to Ana pauses my overactive brain. She looks a lot like the wife of the relative from Stuttgart who turned in my grandmother for communist agitation in ‘36. Maybe she’s their daughter. I decide not to bring it up. Then I smile, proud of my improved sense of discretion.
My racing brain slows down the further away we get from Los Angeles. Now my thoughts go from panic over packing to …bad life choices.
Thoughts over New York: What was the point of my first marriage? Why is he still in the same West Hollywood apartment after 19 years? Why didn’t he go back to Staten Island? Or re-marry? Such a bad life choice. I let him convince me to leave New York. Should I have stayed in New York? … Nah.
“Would you like a beverage?”
I stare at the Styrofoam cups at my eyeline. Cups for you and me to sip 8 ounces of unnecessary beverage, then toss. Where do they go and how many thousands are discarded in a day? Who decided on Styrofoam? Bad choice. We are such invaders on this planet. I’m 9 and a vegan. I’m worried about cows and where the world’s trash goes…I recall my dad’s response that “someone is running things and they have it under control and everything is going to work out.” I knew he was wrong then. You see, I need to by cynical, it keeps the pain away.
Thoughts over Greenland : Who lives on that ice? Are there kids in Greenland? What’s it like to be 18 here? Do they stare into cell phones there? Should I start a Shakespeare Youth troupe here? If everything is going to melt here, maybe this is where I should live. Sounds like a good choice right now.
Thoughts over Britain: London is losing its iconic skyline…a ferris wheel? High-rises? Britain controlled the world for five minutes — and in that five minutes, borders changed, tribes disrupted, the future altered forever. Bad choices, Britain. Look at you now. Look at all of us now.
“Would you like a beverage?”
“Not until you stop using Styrofoam.” Um…Did I just say that? Good or bad choice? I realize “choice” is incorrect. We all have choices, what we make are decisions. Then it hits me. What if it was every single bad decision from the very beginning — that got me here, in seat 23D, on my way to Botswana, Africa?
Hope for Humanity found in Frankfurt Coffee House
I’m onto something. If I can think this way, I won’t carry the world on my shoulders anymore. I leave the airport for a long layover and Frankfurt is snowing. I grab a train to Old Town and walk for hours on cobblestones. I’m seeing with newish eyes. Light shimmers on the snow, colors seem brighter, the air in my lungs is crisper. I feel every cell in my body on this walk over the bridge. I land in a coffee house to write about it in my journal. It’s warm and soft. I sit on a purple velvet sofa, dumping my heavy bags and sipping espresso. Suddenly I feel…hopeful. What’s happening?! The colors and fabrics, the lighting, warm tones…but it’s something else. SOUND. Everyone is talking. I’d forgotten this sound in this context. People are talking to each other over coffee.
With the exception of Shakespeaere rehearsals in our theatre, my days are quiet. If I’m writing in a coffee house, no one talks! We stare into screens. Starbucks is a library without books. Talk in Groundworks, you offend the budding screenwriter next to you. Not here. I’m in awe as I listen to multi conversations in multi languages. It heartens me – Germany is filled with people conversing, smiling, responding. If people still talk in coffee houses it means revolutions can still be plotted. It means not everyone is on Snapchat. It means we still matter to each other. If I never make it to Africa … I can still go home with this new hope. I feel good about people for the first time in years. I get it. I have a choice: cynicism and isolation or hope for humanity. Today in the coffee house in Frankfurt, hope for humanity is my decision.
I’m relaxed. I’m in the moment. I know how I want to think now. Life is an adventure. Every day. The Troubleshooter in my brain got wind of this and feels the need to crash the party. In a gentle tone… Can you please….see if you got an email from Air Botswana? You should have been alerted to check in. Damn you. I search on my phone. Nothing. I can’t think about this, nor can I solve it. Time to return to the airport.
On the plane now. I meet my Frankfurt to J-burg seat partner. “Petra” has been to Botswana and 20 other countries in Africa. Petra laughs when I ask her about Air Botswana. She laughs when I ask if I can check in online. She laughs when I tell her I have 30 minutes to transfer at J-burg. Petra is German. She laughs as she says, “You are learning the African way: Make all the plans you like! Just be ready for what happens…”
I let my German seat partner laugh all she wants. I have a beautiful life. If I made a bad decision by in booking two African flights back to back, well…it’s only going to lead to a future miracle.
Next Up: Shakespeare in Africa #3: How to Be a Different Person.