From the Nathaniel’s notebooks with Florence’s pictures.
How often do you take sea ?
Our window opens and the mist melts over the hills. Kivu’s lake. A scandal of splendor spreads out of our hotel room. Silence on the shore. In the near distance banana trees are shivering. Morning gazing we seize the world as if we were the first to observe it. Witnessing what paradise would have looked like like under the eye of creation. Nine o’clock on the Kivu. We under the sun. He warms our skins.
How often do you take sea ?
Breakfast under a cloudless morning. From here I can see the thousand hills made of dry blood. Their scarified sides and their scarred paths. Mountainous reliefs made of crushed skulls. Wherever you go I will always have one eye to observe the beauty of the world and one eye to remind myself of its darkness. One ear to listen to the birds another for hellhound’s barking. Wherever I go I am both present and under another sky.
Midday and the wind brushes the top of tea trees. A mellifluous smell spread on the humid atmosphere. Our legs are heavy. We are drunk on ourselves and descend the hill to reach the shore. Today we will observe the fishermen. Today we will take sea.
In the midday calm islets of green strewn across the polished surface of the lake’s waters look like a handful of emeralds thrown at a steel shield. The ravenale bends in the land breeze while the blue bird catches its breath. Facing the sea the world appears as a country without memories nor regrets : a country where nothing survives the coming of the nights and where each day, the sunrise, like the dazzling act of a special creation, has no connection with the day before or with the next that’s coming. The sea is a blank page. I observe it and i turn to you. I watch you, we remain silent.
We met not long ago and I’m starring at you. I know you will be down for it. Because you sometimes take the sea and often we took it together. You smile, we leave.
Looking for a sensation.
Beside the shore sailors are renting sports kayaks to tourists. We had a preference for an old basket with four oars : two for you, two for me. I had one with a broken handle which was vulgarly patched up with scotch tape. When we reached the middle of the lake my oar broke in two. We struggled to row to a hillside restaurant. For little we would have stayed stuck in the middle of the Kivu. There on the hillsides we met Bryan. With his motor boat he brought us back to the sailors. He got mad at them because their material was bad and they put us in danger. We had paid for an hour and sailed for about 30 minutes. Bryan helped us to get half of our money back.
He raised his voice to defend us. He will now be our hero. He took us on his engine to go around the lake. Sitting in the back of his boat we watch the sun reflecting in his eyes as he turns towards us and you notice his freckles because he’s handsome.
We were looking for a sensation.
In Kivu, I write “at sea” because from here one can’t see the other shore. I’m thinking about Hemingway, I’m thinking about Conrad. I’m thinking about Lowry. I’m thinking about Melville. I’m starring at you. You are closing your eyes and feeling the wind on your face. At sea we found our sensation : first we think we are taking it then we realize that it is the sea that is taking us. Around us it is vague. Inside us it is pitching. Everywhere else it is azure. We forget ourselves.
I look in the distance. Waltzing with the swell. As i close my eyes i realize I’m not more than a wave locked in a body.
For a moment I have no skin or face. The wind penetrates my pores and lifts me up. The Sun warms me. Between the sky and me the flesh disappears. Blue hour. We approach an island. Bryan tells us how it is called : Monkey Island. Baboons are nowhere to be seen. Our boat approaches the coast and we are screaming like monkeys do to call them but nothing is moving. So we move back towards the center of the horizon laughing and screaming like sagoons.
Here come the fishermen. You can hear them bawling. The fishermen of Lake Kivu between Rwanda and Congo speak a language they invented to understand each other. Some sing songs to give themselves the rhythm. Others whistle in cadence as they cry out. Their salaries are around nine euros per month. They live off the fishery and the money given by tourists who board their pods to admire the twilight during the evening expedition.
They come close and our eyes meet. When we take pictures of them they mock us and ask for money. Their bodies are muscular, moisturized, sculpted by effort, tanned by the reverberation, they are like Ephebe’s statues, some are very young, all are dressed in shorts, bare torsos. When they row their backs throw themselves forward very straight. They lower their oars on the flat surface of the waves, vigourus. They all do it in rhythm. With their muscles glistening in the sun. Repeating these songs of a memoryless time. I see you smile. We are impressed.
Night advances and we return to shore. Bryan suggests we have dinner in his village. We hesitate to follow him. I suggest you send our position to someone you trust. When we get there it is dark. The precarious night in the fishing villages. Huts are not lit. You have to look at the ground to avoid tripping over an electric wire or an old butchered motor. Finally we arrive at Bryan’s and order bottled beers. He tells us about him. He paints and trains children to run. Arriving at his place we meet about fifteen barefoot kids coming back from training. He sent them to run twenty kilometers. They are breathless, but brave. Bryan congratulates them and sets them free. They leave without paying attention to our presence.
In addition to the boat he cycles a lot. Swims and participates in triathlons. In his garage he shows us the bikes he keeps to train the youth team. Some of them being repaired. In his room he shows us his oil paintings. Views of the chatoyant lake with warm colors. You appreciate them. At his bedside table I notice a portrait of his mother. She is metis and he carter.
We eat cornmeal with very small fish in sauce. Drink and smoke. Bryan tells us about his plans, he’s no older than us. He finds ways out and saves money to pay off his boat. He tells us about bicycle races. Shows us pictures of him competing. He always has a smile and expresses a certain kind of freshness. Later he shows us our back to the hotel because it’s already curfew.
On our way back. At night we look up. Without the artificial lighting the stars seem to fall on us very slowly. We stagger back to the hotel, drunk of something… lighting the road with the flash of our iPhones.
That day I observed the world and it was neither beautiful nor dark. It was simple. Today I look back at the picture you took and i thank you from the other side of the shore.
Text from Nathaniel and pictures from Florence.