Has it feet like Water lilies?
Has it feathers like a Bird?
Is it brought from famous countries
Of which I have never heard?
Oh some Scholar! Oh some Sailor!
Oh some Wise Men from the skies!
Please to tell a little Pilgrim
Where the place called “Morning” lies!
V. S. Naipaul
The scars of civil war and chaos, a view in the shattered remains of the old Intercontinental Hotel, Monrovia, Liberia. To access the ruins of the old hotel one walks up a narrow path past the empty swimming pool where a collection of children play and enter a short entertaining process of heckling the Nigerian peacekeepers who protect the building. They lounge around in the rotting old lobby their equipment spread about them as though they themselves are newly arrived guests. After the usual talk and introductions they wave us through the protective cordon and we are free to wander about the vast crumbling emptiness. The war has left its mark. Before, in the flourishing period of the mid 1960’s the wealthy and the famous came here, from the Onasis’ to the Queen of England, all had visited and had at one time or another taken in the view from the top floor restaurant and dance floor. No one ever comes here anymore. The restaurant is smashed and broken, there are still a few shining tiles not removed from the concrete flooring, which preserves the original place where dancers once swayed in front of the band stand. Everything is gutted, pulled from its sockets, broken and smashed in a turmoil of anarchy hard to comprehend now as one gazes across the city, watching the hawks and eagles lazily drift amid the thermals thrown up by the Atlantic.
Scrawled on the back of an interview release form on route to Sao Paulo and a long return flight to Europe after four weeks travelling and filming throughout Brazil
‘The last morning, travelling through Sao Paulo State along rutted roads. At this moment homeward bound you recollect Brazil, its variation, its surprises. The van jerks and dips, brown puddles splash. In the distance you glimpse labourers and smiling children, dark floating colours against green fields where white coated cattle languidly cluster. Horses mottled and brown stand sedately by the roadside, small farms and estancias damp walled blues and reds hidden among dripping fronds of banana palms. Ahead where the swollen river bends the forest rises to a crooked bank of curving mountains, clouds of scurrying rain descend through the trees. Impressions flash through your mind. The great vastness of Mato Grosso its endless fields, studded forest and horizons; the shimmering sun-baked palm trees of Maranhão and Tocantins; enormous humidity of Amazonas and Para; the cool rains and mists of Sao Paulo. All images, all indelible. Jauntily hated gauchos canter cockily on horses down narrow streets of a country town. Beneath blue skies a laden lorry on a blood-red road. Women huddled in a crowd, split husks of coconut shells you hear them laughing and singing. Through fields of wavering heat workers walk languidly, children splash sandaled feet through pools of fallen rain, at night hearing the jungle breath. Straight concentric lines of Brasilia, crumbling ornate Manaus, Belem old colonial twist and mango trees, smell of sea and Amazon mingling, the flap and buzz of beetles against a gas light, village dogs sprawled in midday shade, rubbish dump steams in morning heat, vultures gather and jostle, crowded airport lounges the sound of students in full song, the bustle of city streets, a boat swings at its mooring, the blare of a radio, the easy swing of a hammock, rainwater dripping from corrugated rim, the rumble of thunder in the hills, jumbled colourful stack of favelas, red clay-tiled roofs, sweat running in rivulets, bare-footed boy on motorcycle, rusting TV satellite dishes in the jungle.’