It feels like it's taking an especially long time for me to get into this trip. The problem is that I suffer terribly from homesickness – I always have done, ever since I was little – and putting myself in a strange country with a strange language in a strange continent is a sure-fire way of bringing on that constant sinking feeling.
Homesickness aches, quite literally, just behind my solar plexus. It's a longer-lasting version of the sudden realisation that something really important has fallen out of your pocket, and you have no idea where it is. Take this sinking feeling and roll it up into a stiff ball, and you've got homesickness.
I shan't harp on about it, but it's important to note that the first few weeks of this kind of trip are tinged with the distraction homesickness causes. Everything manages to remind me of home in some way, whether it's music, food, possessions or people, and it can be hard to see through the haze into the fascination of the country surrounding me. But, as with all heavy knocks, time will no doubt prove to be a great healer, and soon enough I'll start looking at home as a fond memory rather than a longing; I'll remember the good bits and realise that I'll be back there eventually, but first there's a whole continent to explore.
It still amazes me how difficult it is getting over the wrench of leaving home. I remember feeling blue for the first few weeks of my last trip, but it's so long ago I can't recall the exact details, which is probably a sign that we all adapt eventually. I know it will get better and I know the ball will slowly unwind, but in the meantime I'm occupying myself with little things like reading my guidebook and changing my travellers cheques into the local currency, CFAs (the Communauté Financière Africaine Franc, pronounced 'see-fay', is the common currency of Benin, Burkina Faso, Côte d'Ivoire, Guinea-Bissau, Guinea, Mali, Niger, Senegal and Togo, and as the African equivalent of the euro the CFA is damn useful, even if they missed the opportunity to call it the 'afro').
I'm also planning my route through Africa and getting regular fixes at the internet café round the corner, which charges a whopping 25p for half an hour's access (not bad value as long as the electricity supply manages to keep up). It's amazing how even a few words from home can make things feel better, and it won't be long before I look back on this period with a fond nostalgia of its own. I'm making friends, I'm making plans and soon enough I'll be making stories, and that's when I'll manage to switch from being a frightened little boy who doesn't want to go back to school into the traveller I'd become by the end of my last trip in 1998. It doesn't half hurt getting there, though.