The drive along the R355 was dusty and long. Flurries swirled, but nothing stuck to the dirt road. They had, however, already had two tyre punctures. One was repairable thanks to a special kit, but the other tyre was shredded.

Forest and River only laughed as they replaced the tyre. “Every year,” they said. “This happens every year.”

Ntando couldn’t believe they put up with it. If she had the kind of money to spend on tyres and AfrikaBurn tickets, she wouldn’t be going to some festival where you have to bring your own drinking water and there are no showers. No way. She would go to some place that had comfortable beds, indoor plumbing and room service. But when she confessed this to the pair, they’d shaken their heads.

“It’s about the process of letting go,” River said. “Looking at what a person really needs and appreciating what we already have.”

“Yeah,” Forest had said. “We get so attached to stuff, it’s crazy. But at AfrikaBurn, everyone looks out for one another and people are giving each other things just because it feels right. It’s this energy of coming together, with our arts and talents and strengths and vulnerabilities. That’s what makes it awesome.”

Try growing up in poverty, Ntando thought, then you won’t have to worry about owning too much stuff.

“Totally,” River said. “And we take off the masks we wear in our everyday lives and let our true selves come out. We can be who we really are, the people ordinary society tries to scrub away.”

Ntando didn’t understand this mask nonsense, either. I am always who I really am, she thought.

“Caw!” cried the Raven, and he gave her a small nip on the earlobe.


River nodded. “Animals are sensitive to our thoughts. Whatever you were thinking, your bird is feeding off that, letting you know if you are right or wrong.”

Ntando gave the bird the side eye. But as she rubbed her ear, she thought of Vuyisa. They’d never spoken of their attraction to each other. They’d never talked about whether they’d ever dated back in high school. They’d never discussed if they were heterosexual, bi or gay. In fact, in high school, Ntando avoided even thinking about any tinglings from being around another woman. Too dangerous. Things happened to girls who came out. She’d stuck to her books.

And now I’m at university. First in my family. That’s OK, isn’t it?

“Caw!” the raven said, moving on to her shoulder.

If I ever see Vuyisa again, I’m going to tell her how I feel. That the kiss wasn’t me playing around. That I care about her. A lot.

The raven brought his head near her ear, and gave it a rub.

“Brilliant,” River said, nodding her head and grinning from ear-to-ear. “You’re totally making the connection.”


Tell us: River and Forest believe that in our everyday life, we present a different self than who we really are. Do you agree?