I keep my interest in books a quiet happiness. Men and women I cannot name are able to acquire one or two for me, usually in exchange for some favor from the docks. A missing parcel here or there from the holds means I can read and write as I please.
It may seem strange to imagine an African writing in Portuguese, but there is nothing magical about it. My teaching began early; a kindly church member took it upon herself to show me how to read and write. Over the years, I stole books from the white Portuguese captains I visited, practiced my letters and drawing skills, and maintained a diary of my travels and experiences. The men and women who see me read are sometimes amazed, other times angry, but none doubt my ability.
Do what must be done, to thrive.
It was that love of reading that led The Lusiads to my desk. The first time I heard the poems spoken, I was enchanted. The words were at once a dream and a document, and I knew I must visit these places. de Sousa, my advisor and the ship’s soto-pilot, laid hands on a copy and gave it to me. I keep it with me wherever I can.
Chiampa there her fragrant coast extends,
There Cochin-China’s cultur’d land ascends:
From Anam Bay begins the ancient reign
Of China’s beauteous art-adorn’d domain;
Wide from the burning to the frozen skies,
O’erflow’d with wealth, the potent empire lies.
I’ll get the chance to see Asia, if the sea cooperates.