Moving on and on and on

As I take an evening walk along the boardwalk in Slipway, I catch sight of Dar es Salaam flickering across Msasani Bay whose vast expanse, unruffled and modest in its ways, sends a mildly cool breeze towards me for my delight. In the minutes that pass by, I am lost in my own agonies as I absentmindedly gape at the sunset over the tranquil ocean. I meditate with the panorama; the turquoise blue ocean slowly swallows the sun. It is a pretty and romantic sight, but I sit cross-legged, alone, in an iron bench, and I am full of myself.   

As he finds me musing against the reddening evening sky, Vlad, nimbly walks along the parapet like a cat and jumps on me jubilantly like a child who just won in hide and seek. I feel my heart losing its grip for a moment and laugh off at my startled reaction. We grab a cigarette and amuse ourselves in the serenity of dusk, sharing how our weeks were spent since the last time we met.

He had gone to the bushes in Ifakara to work in timber company. He sure is glad to be back in civilization again. He feels that he is now ready to explore rest of East Africa before he sets his sights in Brazil where he wants to settle down. I just arrived in Africa and it’s too soon for me to dream of a lofty retirement plan. As the night falls on us, we grab a quick supper and lick ourselves pistachio flavored ice-creams.

‘Do you want to share ice-cream with me?’ a young lady coquettishly extends her arms.

‘No’ Vlad replies curtly.

‘You can buy these over there’ I point at the parlor. We suddenly realized that we did a ‘Dumb and Dumber’ on her and we chuckle our way out of the Italian African complex and into the side of the road where bajajis were parked.

For expats in Masaki, the streets are full of mischief. One is always alert and careful. One always knows someone who was mugged, robbed or set-up in a bizarre affair involving fake cops. Vlad wants to take a walk to my apartment, but I insist we take a bajaji.

‘Thapa’ he admonishes me ‘You are always careful’. I shrug it off. I don’t want to engage in a conversation involving street safety at the moment. Having received hours of security briefing and completed three mandatory courses in security before I commenced work, I knew that my safety basically depended on me even though I had some special privileges granted through virtue of my employment. I just didn’t want to depend on it. I am my responsibility, I was resolute.   

‘You see, I always walk angry’ Vlad explained, ‘I walk with a loose gait, arms flailing like I am about to pounce on someone. No one dares to mess with me’. It somehow made sense. I let out a cackle.

A new sense of comfort engulfed me that I was going to share a couple of days with this confident man. He wanted to save some dough and I was more than happy that I got a fun-loving companion to share the apartment with. We drove through the humid night as the wind stroked against our friendly countenance and welcomed us to its warmth. Its June- supposedly a winter season. As we take a right from Sandvik street to Chole Road, a cloud of dust raised by a convoy of garbage trucks covers us. This stretch of road never fails to remind me of Kathmandu. The city I have a complicated relationship with – a bad romance. The dust makes me miss home. Whenever I pass through this dusty road a feeling of nostalgia arises within me like these dust particles are my friends and family while it swarms me with its jollity and warmth. Typically, I find myself homesick, but I manage to keep my cool about it. However, such dusty roads which has been a part of my life for such a long-time downs me into a melancholic and terrified state.

I imagine the globe. I can see home hunkered below snow-capped, rough mountains; girdled loftily by lush green hills and then I see myself, standing small and humbled in mighty Africa.

I land in Mwanza, a colonial styled port city on the shores of Lake Victoria. The sight of the largest freshwater lake took me back to my childhood days where the grass was green, and the boys were pretty.

When I was in boarding school and I took geography as an optional subject- well, it was either geography or optional math. We had to give a test to qualify as a student of optional math. During Dashain holidays, my father sat me on my butt for a whole month and taught me about law of sines and cosines, and trigonometry functions. I have never seen a man who loves mathematics so much. I always lacked aptitude for mathematics. So, when I went back to school, I deliberated a plan to fail. I looked at the question sheet and never had I ever felt so powerful in my entire life before. I felt like Hercules, the mighty and brave and of course sometimes vain. I knew how to answer all these questions- math! I used to merely pass in this subject but now I had the power to fail. Not to succeed but to fail and to do it deliberately and with confidence.

My father was pissed and it sure was fun to see him pissed at the time. He sometimes brings up the topic and we always share a good laugh together- So, the ink finished huh? So, geography took me to places, to capitals, cities, lakes, jungles and calculating time by looking at my friend Sashi’s shadow. And here I was flying across the lake, reliving a speck of memory in a 12-seater Cesena, ruminating how far I had come from those delightful boarding school days. I can feel the air making love to the aircraft in its own sensual undulations.

A curl of red dust whisked at my face as soon as I landed in Kibondo. The land is flat like a flat screen television. A somewhat familiar smell of earth prances around my nose. I immediately feel at home for some reason. The people are kind and welcoming. I travel around Kigoma, and the red soil always finds my feet. I share laughs with the locals and fool around with children as they smile and tease, scurrying off to the nooks and crannies in gangways, jumping off alleys and taking photos with me. They have their own poses; hands flailing in the air, Natraj like stances and funny faces cramming through my phone cameras. I hadn’t shaved in week and my tousled dark hair sagged in the air. I was probably reeking like a hippy in Kathmandu and I even wore a white Thamel trouser.

‘They are following you around because they think you look like Jesus Christ’, a bantu man announced and then gave a hearty laugh. I assumed a friendly smile, bowed down to the children and slapped a Namaste. They ran nimbly and giggling bare feet to tell their friends that I was in town.

Five months pass easily. I am excited. I learn a lot. I am nervous, which is good because I am on my toes. I saw the countryside, met different people and observed their culture and way of thinking, circadian and otherwise. I feel I know Tanzania more now. It is a beautiful country and I think of exploring more. But I am worn-out.

I feel my mojo slowly burning down and my appetite for life whisking away in the drudgery of routine work. I absolutely love my work, but we all know that love is never enough. Love is simply not sustainable. One needs more than love to live a satisfying life- an unequivocal passion of something else. Sometimes such passions are simple, sometimes they are extravagant. Sometimes it is just there warming one’s heart, sometimes, one has to force it down the throat. I feel my passions are almost empty. ‘Do something, something more, you fucktard’, I tell myself. I feel myself turning into a mechanical sort of being. Wake up. Cigarette. Milk. Granola. Work. Coffee. Rice. Miskaki. Work. Coffee. Cigarette. Work. Home. Xbox. Sleep. Repeat.

I’m a highway star. I am high maintenance.

I marvel at the starry night. The stars conceal the darkness of the night. I want to pluck a star and keep it in my pocket for luck. I am running out of coffee. Maybe I should cut back on coffee. It keeps me impatient most of the time. I head into Shoppers to get some tea leaves for a change. People throng the billing counter with steel carts full of grocery products. Before I know, I am one of them. But I am zoned out today. I observe more. I am more aware. I am relaxed and lazed. I can see a woman has cart full of nothing but canned food. An old man with Rastafari vibe is gazing at dairy products. The freezer next to him is full of ice cream. I want ice cream.

In another isle, I check out cheap gin and alcohol. I take some time observing the hues in of alcohol in wonderful bottles. I like how alcohol bottles are shaped. The ones with rum mostly take my breath away. But I don’t prefer rum. It’s too macho for me. I grab a gin that says- a delicate blend of 12 natural ingredients giving smooth, refreshing taste with a hint of citrus.I desperately want some smooth and refreshing in my life now. Citrus is vitamin C. It fights cancer. Suddenly, a little girl taps my leg. I look at her inquiringly. She asks me if I could grab her a Kilimanjaro six-pack from the top shelf. I am not sure if I should. She looks barely ten years old. I wonder what will follow if I do. She thanks me and jogs playfully towards her father who is buying some apples. He takes the beer and simply puts it in the cart. I am disappointed. I was expecting at least some element of surprise or some sort of telling-off. I carry on with my shopping then come back home to realize I’ve got more grocery than I need. I feel guilty. Not of the money spent but of the food that I will consume unnecessarily- most of them frozen, oily and good for nothing ones. I light a cigarette to take notes of my decadence.

Seneca is in my head.

Difficulties strengthen the mind as labor does body. I hastily begin to skim through Meditations by Marcus Aurelius. The book has been my guide for right thinking for some time now. I like the idea of right amount of stoicism. And after an hour later, there was light. In a paroxysm of stoic ideas, I brought a reconditioned bicycle. Now such troubled thoughts are spent on the motions of bicycle pedals. It’s wonderful that most of our emotional and mental agonies and all sorts of wretchedness of the mind are solved by simple solutions. All I needed was a bicycle. To sweat it out and begin anew each day as I blast Pink Floyd through the streets of Dar es Salaam. 

“Lost in thought and lost in time while the seeds of life and the seeds of change were planted. Outside the rain fell dark and slow, while I pondered on this dangerous and irresistible pastime. I took a heavenly ride through our silence. I know the moment had arrived, for killing the past and coming back to life”

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

  

 

 

 

 

 

 

On Avocados and Sweat

I tell myself not to turn into Josheph Conrad. If its not accommodating, then make a home out of it. Every time I concede to wistful lust of Africa, I reprimand myself being such a pussy. A pussy is warm and tender. I can’t be warm and tender now can I? I need to be strong, adventurous and arrogant like a dick. 

The country is immense and the people are kind but I still have not quite found a profound sickness that suits to my temperance. It’s the mojo that I have lost that I am grieving over. I am in need of a heart. A heart that can bear my sporadic self-professed darkness which I keep going back into where I find comfort and where I find it homelier than home thousands of miles away that’s cuddled between the dust and green hills which almost never bars the sight of snow capped mountains. Oh what a relish! I wish to see those mountains again. Not because it appears splendid or grandee but I need the feel of my old ways. To find my way into the mojo that I have seemingly lost.

I abhor my own body. Its crowded with sweat, flies, beef and avocado. I feel it wants to give way to the anguish that such climes bring forth but I hold myself tight and think, this too shall pass. How many of my brethren have been here, I wonder. A man from the Himalayas in Africa! That’s quite a sight in servitude and suffering. I tell to my most un-Serb of a Serbian, ‘Vlad, brother, I feel the sun but I don’t feel the warmth’. He replied back sheepishly, ‘You need to do weed man’. He he is wise. He lives in the jungles of Tanzania doing who-knows-what sort of research pertaining to trees. He gives me warmth for he is as outlandish as I am. I am pretty sure that he thinks first and then he feels the thought rather than opposite of what most people would do. That’s why he is wise. His mojo is intact. 

For the first time in my life, I got asked ‘Have you climbed Everest?’. It was quite a feeling. That of nostalgia and the feeling of being a Nepali residing outside the country I so much hate. It was quite interesting for me because never had I knew such a calamity of loving my country. A series of fleeting facebook memes about ‘Don’t you fucking dare ask a Nepali that’ passed through the neurons of my brain which usually filters down any feeling of love, desires and bad memes automatically.

But in sooth, I was quite happy that I was pressed with such a ridiculous enquiry. Aha! This is what an expat feels like in lands far far away. The feeling that my little brother always laments of but I always had failed to understand him. I usually end up shrugging his stupid feels but here I was empathizing with him. He has always been known to be an emotional bloke. He’s quite our baby. But so am I. I don’t dwell on bothering’s of real time situations. I once cried watching a movie trailer on Youtube.

So, here I was thinking over where I am physically standing in context of globe and I was quite amazed that now suddenly a paroxysm of fear and uncertainty held me to my guts. The fear of being really alone as a citizen from Himal and the uncertainty of if I can really accommodate myself into this strange land. I knew I can adapt but to find oneself homely is another thing. I live in an apartment and I pay a hefty sum for it but it still feels like living in a hotel. Living in a hotel is perhaps more accommodating than having to do all the things that I never quite ever did in my life, like cooking, doing laundry and dishes, checking the electricity meter, shopping for groceries and looking into weird sites for expats who want to be friends is beyond me. It sounds like a first world problem, but what am I to do if I have always lived like a vigilante till date in my own country. Lately made myself so homely at a restaurant (which my dear friend and brother owns) that the waiters would ask me where I was if I even missed a day. So now I here I am associating Everest (which I have actually never seen except in photos) with homeliness.

Its quite strange to even think of home at the moment. It never felt like home all my life. I don’t even miss Nepal. I don’t think I will ever. But this creepy new feeling that Nepal is fucking awesome never ceases to amaze me. I always complained and whined and cursed about everything. But now people ask me ‘How’s Nepal like?’ I can’t believe of the things I say to them. I am hyping up the bloody country. It’s certainly not because I am homesick or that I rather enjoy my life in Nepal than in Tanzania. For the first time, I am actually describing (not analyzing) Nepal and I am finding it hard to stomach that it’s actually a really good place to spend your life in. It’s hard to digest something that you truly believed to have sucked your whole life. And now suddenly that it doesn’t suck comes in with the epiphany that nothing in life is constant and in its entirety. Just like happiness and sadness. No one can be entirely happy or sad.

A dear Neapolitan, Stephano is at home in Tanzania. Not just his fluency in Swahili but his temperance is that of a citizen of this wonderful country. He probably just hates it here as he hates it in Italy. He knows who he is and knows what he doesn’t want. Well, he will be a first time father this July and will probably loose his mojo for a brief time but he will surely regain it back effortlessly. ‘I have been in your stage in life and have had my fill of it. It’s not that I don’t like parties and weed but there are more important things in life’ he admonished us like an older brother. He is used to sweats and avocados. He has his mojo intact. His mojo reminds me of my own strength and perseverance. How far I have come. How through the vicissitude of teenage angst and existential crisis, I managed to retain my hope for humanity and accept that beauty of human consciousness which glides in crescendos and diminuendos of the good and the bad. To accept both and move forward is truly a feat for any individual living in our times.  

It’s merely been a month here in Africa and I am lost in the wilderness of entitlements that expats living in Masaki probably dwell upon. The land is a far cry from rest of the country but I cannot avail from thinking that it is disengaged from rest of Africa. The only thing African about the peninsula is the climate. As I promenade through the much embracing blue beaches of the city or sojourn in touristic islands nearby, it makes me forget how much I am detached from Heart of Darkness that Conrad so magnificently yet preposterously went on about. Stephano warned that one can easily forget one is in Africa. By that he means that I shouldn’t forget that I am in another man’s territory where I am more than welcome but that I shouldn’t forget about my roots back home and live modestly. That is to say, smile more and show more gratitude. It is very good for one’s soul too.  I think its high time get back my mojo, drink a lot of water, consume a lot of avocados and accept the sweats.