Not That I’m an Afro-Haired, African Literature Reading Kinda Babe

I have had my nose stuck in a book all week, ever since getting to the conference. Spell bound. Every free moment relieved of its freedom by further creasing the spine of the book. Current read, Kintu. I inhale it day after day. Sometimes I worry that perhaps I am not socializing enough. Networking. There’s pretty impressive individuals in attendance at the conference.

Sometimes I do. Try to network that is. I put down my current read in favour of a conversation.
“Hello, I’m Kathleen.”
“So do you work in data?’” My default opening line for the week.
Sometimes their story will not be as interesting as the one I have bookmarked. My thoughts wander and I wonder…’What next? What happens next?” I long for the moment I can get back to my book.

A game of chance, to pick a conversation over a book.

I wonder where I fall. Which I choose more often. Likely the book.

Four days into the conference, I am so close to getting to the end of Kintu. I dedicate the bus ride to the conference venue to finishing it. Eager to know how things end. My seat mate gets chatty. He talks the whole way. Okay, we talk. But I am not much engaged. Still groggy with sleep and irritable at not being able to read, I am not much of a conversationalist. My mind often wandering elsewhere…’How does the book end?’

When we get to the conference venue, I duck out of sight to the very back of the auditorium. Stealing away to put my curiosity to rest…’How does the book end?’

It ends with a full stop.

My curiosity satiated, at last. I then realise that this means I shall be without a book all day. In between books, I hate this state of limbo where I don’t have a current read.
I need to use that in a conversation somewhere.

“What are you currently reading?”
“Erm…actually, I’m kinda in between books at the moment. The ending of my last read left me raw and fraught with sadness. I had become attached to the protagonist. Things did not end well for him. I’m taking my time before starting another book, giving myself some time to recover from that.”

I had the foresight to carry my next intended read of course, I brought it with me to Tanzania. I just left it at the hotel. Now 40 minutes away. 1 hour, 20 minutes for the going and coming. A lifetime if you consider that I am unfamiliar with the city. I accept my fate.

Robbed of the option of either a conversation or a few pages of my current read, I suppose today I shall be a super networker.

I remember my Kindle!

I excitedly fish it out of my bag, find it is out of battery. Just my luck. This speedbump puts an end to that. I charge the Kindle but do not reach for it once it has enough battery to come on. The longing for a filler read lost. That day…I talk more than I have in the past 3 combined.

Day 5, final day of the conference. First day of my current current read…Ghana must go!

I am a little later than usual, so I miss the first bus. The early bird bus. I discover the second bus has much fewer people and no radio to steal the stillness of my thoughts. I wish I had been late on the first day, that I had discovered this well kept secret, the second bus.

Halfway through the first page…

“Excuse me, hi.”
I look up…
“My name is Valerie, this is Eva.”
“Hey guys, I’m Kathleen…,” I say, while reaching for my bookmark and firmly lodging it into the embrace of the book with the finality of one who knows when their morning commute has been spoken for.

We chat. The girls want to know how I seem to be doing so much with my life. I am flattered. I wish for the other bus, the radio in the background would make me a little less self-conscious. As it stands, I feel as though the whole bus is listening to the narrative of my life. My response to the question…”Well, how did you become a data scientist.” Of all questions, this one. How to express the fact that most days I feel like I am still figuring this thing out, this being a data scientist.

They are students at DeKUT. I share. Hope they are encouraged to be and do more. I tell them a little over a year ago, I was still doing my undergrad as well.

“You seem to read a lot as well,” one of them says to me, reaching for the book laying in wait on my lap. Every time I have seen you at this conference, outside of sessions, you always have this book out.

I have gained a reputation it seems, for having my nose firmly lodged in a book. I love it.

She notices I am not too far along, “Did you finish the book you’ve been reading all week?”

She asks me about it, my previous book. The title. The author. An African book. She glances at the one now in her hands. Reads the synopsis. In the silence, my mind does a few somersaults, over thinks…

“Not that I’m an afro-haired, African literature reading kinda babe. I actually read loads of fantasy and fiction books. I read all kinds of books really.”

I launch into the fact that I’m doing a reading challenge, on a mission to read 50 books by the time the year is out, this one being the 26th.

Really, I am now just trying to hide the fact that I offered an unsolicited explanation for the kinds of books I have been reading. ‘Why?’, I wonder. Why did I feel the need to add that footnote…

*not that I’m an afro-haired, African literature reading kinda babe.

Quite literally, am I not?

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