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March 5, 2013

From the Caribbean birthplace of V.S. Naipaul hails this one time merchant marine, who served always on ships under the flag of the noble Norway.

And it was aboard her ships-oil tankers, mostly- that Nelbwe was carried, abreast the seas of the world, to countries on every continent in which most of the world’s languages are spoken.

And in all these ports of call, following the four cardinal directions of the globe, there were prostitutes.

And in all these possible cultures and languages, there is not a single one that does not understand or allow for the conceptual and real possibility of exchanging money for access to a female body.

But it may have been in Aqaba, Karachi or Abadan back in 1970s, where after some heavy drinking in a British bar and a comment to a woman passing by on the street, that one of Nelbwe’s companion’s throat was slit, ear to ear, in a single sweeping slash with a knife.

In Durban, also in the 70s, Nelbwe was classified as “Coloured” by South African Immigration and Customs officials, and not “Black” or “White”.

And in Hamburg he never entered into the St. Pauli’s red light district because of certain episodes of violence in the street with African immigrants, or sailors like himself.

But it was in Rio de Janeiro -or probably on the outskirts-where Nelbwe came to behold the greatest shrine or temple of prostitution that he had ever seen-more epic than a small Caribbean island he had been to once that was itself one big brothel.

And in Brazil it was a whole camp, or city, at the center of which stood a building three or four stories high in which lived -or worked- hundreds of woman of all shapes, colors and licit ages.

Around the central building were only bars, restaurants and probably housing.

And in this community around the central building in the peak hours of activity, there were only men.

But it wasn’t until Nelbwe’s ship later reached an eastern seaboard port of the US, that he knew it was the most complete communion that he had in fact received from the Brazilian temple of carnal love; and because of his massively swollen corporal extremities-arms, legs and fingers-and because of his fever, the vessel captain decided to have him urgently hospitalized in a US Veterans Administration hospital.

And Nelbwe was temporarily left behind as the captain set course across the Atlantic.

And it was Nelbwe’s bout with a most savage form of gonorrhea that kept him in hospital and bedridden for two months.

And during those two months he was seen by 30 or more doctors as a human specimen of the power and wonder of sexually transmitted, tropical disease.

But it was also during those two months that one of his attending nurses, a woman originally form India, began to care for Nelbwe in other ways.

And she would eventually become Nelbwe’s second wife, and mother of at least one of his 6 children.

Because this is the thing about Nelbwe and his travels: there is just no denying certain things out there in the world and in people as people.

And it never quits.


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