Ok so it’s a title of an album, but it sounds like something a rockstar would say and more than that it fits with the general mood of the morning. It’s 10am, it’s hot and there is nothing but the warm stickiness filling the air as I wait for the girls and more importantly, my coffee to arrive. There’s something about this place that has touched me deep inside. It’s not the weather, the beer, the unfailing smiles of the people I meet or the cheap cigarettes, but something that I can’t quite put my finger on for love nor money. Perhaps it’s the wannabe rockstar in me but I feel like someone here, rather than no-one; not just another mzungu in Africa, but the person I was always meant to be all along.
I’ve been single for as long as I can remember, and that’s not to say forever, but rather a supposition of how my memory has not served me well over the last few years. Talking about love, sex and women in general, is not just a cliché, it’s a full time job for me nowadays. No woman, no cry, Bob says to me over and over in my head like some stuck needle on a 10 second loop of forever; good friends we have, and good friends we’ve lost… along the way: and ne’er a truer word spoken. It’s apt that Bob is providing the soundtrack for my life now, the cool reggae beats of the Wailers fill my mind on a daily basis. I’m sat here, as I seem to every weekend, with a group of my friends, and as always, they are girls. Never one to call myself a successful player, but I have found myself surrounded by the most beautiful people I meet, and today is no exception. Tine and Lisa are from Denmark, and this is another situation I’m getting myself into. Is there room in my life for all that I’m pushing into it at the moment? Is there room in my bed for all these girls that I seem to be collecting? Ha, if only that were a statement of fact that should be something I worry about: no it’s not space in my bed that I’m worried about but time in my life and the hope that one of them will spring forward as the one to be with. Most wazungu won’t be here forever, so putting any eggs into any basket seems like a waste of time. What is it about me that made this thing happen, this thing of all things, to have been successful, as it were, in the art of courtship and romance? For once, you know, it’s nice to be noticed, to have interest in a way I’ve never had before; and to be interested back. These things can’t be paid for, they have to be earned. I’ve done my hard slog over years gone by, I think I deserve a little ‘me’ time. Being single for the best part of the last decade has given me ample time to reflect on what may have been with previous girlfriends, and consider that I should reposition my aims to that of the highest: perhaps I am looking for a wife after all, and if that’s the case, will she be European, African or something else altogether? The answer, my friend, is blowing in the wind. Ah, another Bob with words of wisdom for me.
So on to more pressing matters… back in the village I have a new job, as barman for Dilly’s little place halfway up the track from Marangu. Politics aside, the management has let the place slide into disarray over the last few months, and I’ve been charged with injecting some fresh energy into the establishment to hopefully rejuvenate the dwindling customer numbers; at the same time keeping my Swahili in check and meeting some more new people in the area. About five minutes walk down the track from my house, a small opening in the road leaves space for two small buildings that at first sight offer nothing over any other in the area: somewhere for the locals to sit and drink mbege (locally brewed banana beer that is best avoided by anyone who values their liver) and a bit of Afro-beat that swoons out of the door in an inviting and pleasant kind of way. Bringing politics back into the equation, Dilly, although one of the jollier and happier people around in Mshiri, is not as liked as one might first think. His and Katy’s business affairs with the charity and then his upwardly mobile outward appearance to those around have raised a few eyebrows and given the residents a bit to talk about. I’m no expert, but certainly marrying mzungu hasn’t helped him, but is far from his crowning last rights, I’m quite sure that the people of Mshiri assume that Dilly is siphoning money away from our good donors in England and elsewhere and using it to better his own life at the detriment of the rest of them. This, I am sure, is not the case. He comes from the old-school Chagga ways of doing things, where free enterprise and hard work are rewarded with the benefits of success. He doesn’t believe that the current way that young people make money is good for Tanzania, nor anywhere in the world, and along with Katy, has helped to make the education system here a better one for all that use it, and being the enterprising man that he is, he has his finger in many pies. Most if not all of his school friends have either passed away or gone on to better things as doctors or professors in law or medicine and left Dilly as one of the most educated and well-spoken elders around. Perhaps jealousy, perhaps a misguided sense of pride, but most likely just an envious want for more; he has had better days but his businesses are largely successful, and along with him I hope to help his bar, Per DM, to once more become the bustling place it used to be. It’s not a small place, probably big enough for 50 or more people to sit comfortably around and drink the night away, I was in fact surprised that he has no customers as it really is a nice place to be, and well kitted out for somewhere so remotely inaccessible.
In a completely different way to, say, the remoteness of John O Groats, this place has something to offer that the cold Northern Reaches of Scotland just do not. The view of Kibo and Mwenze are one thing, but the cool breeze and calm trickle of water through the nearby streams and waterfalls provide a backdrop that is so hard to compare to anywhere else I’ve ever visited that one has to see it to believe it. There is no place I know of anywhere like this. Just 40km down the mountain is one of Tanzania’s bustling small towns in the form of Moshi; where I currently sit to lay out this scenario before you; a fairly typical African town of perhaps 80,000 people that reeks of a tourist hangover from colonial days and still has that hope of something about to happen, but rarely does. It’s a cool place to hang out, yet still has problems. One of which for someone like me with my dreadlocks is the constant attention I draw from the locals and the ever present threat of being mistaken for someone with money. It’s my white skin that does it and unfortunately always will, but I hope learning Swahili will go a long way towards fixing that at least some of the way. I want to be accepted here, I want to make it my home not just for the time being, but for as long as I continue to enjoy the challenges in front of me and finding new ways to be myself and enjoy the African way of life.
So it’s not with a small sense of irony that recent times have lead me back to some of my old ways of thought as a child, and although there is little to compare here with how life is back in Europe, there are a few things that are the same the world over. Late nights in Moshi town normally end up at a club or bar bustling with the tourists spending their money and it’s in these fine drinking holes that my hangovers get born. Last night saw a spectacular cocktail of Amarillo, Sambuca, Beer and of course the now obligatory ciders go down my neck and we ended up at La Liga, probably the biggest club in Moshi and one that should you find yourself in, it’s hard to remember that you are in Africa. Widescreen TVs, a loud and decently mastered sound system (a rarity in these parts) and a busy mixed crowd of locals and wazungu alike make it feel like you could be back in Europe, and the prices are far more akin to what we’re used to as well. Where a bottle of Savannah (the only cider I have found here) costs Tsh 2,500 in a supermarket or smaller bar, they are Tsh 5,000 here, and everything else is scaled up in price to match. Quite why Bree and Rachel and the other girls continue to come here week in week out is beyond me, as they seem to get nothing but hassle from the young black well-to-dos that frequent the place, but seeing them all dancing and laughing does still make me smile, and I do wish I was a bit younger and could enjoy myself a bit more there. I am I’m afraid, not into the popular music of Africa. To put it simply, it’s just European cast-me-down cheese that fills the clubs in Bristol and other cities that nobody I know goes to at all. Meat markets, some call them; out here it’s no different. I’m absolutely desperate to find some drum and bass, some decent techno or a hard and fast dub sound that can make me want to get up and shake my dreads about, but so far it’s not been forthcoming in any way. Perhaps a trip to Nairobi is in order, but in any case, I will find it. I can’t believe for a second that Drum and bass has missed Africa altogether. After all, back home along with RnB, Hip Hop and Reggae it’s known as black music, and where else are there more black people than Africa?
I fear that I have perhaps started to miss the point of why I came out here in the first place. My work in the computer centre is slow but rewarding, but with everything else I’m getting involved with, yes I am branching out, but it’s not what I expected from this place at all. I’m now a bar manager/worker, teacher, IT consultant, network and firewall administrator, mountain biker, full time Rastaman and if truth be told, probably part time alcoholic. It’s more fun than I’ve ever had before, I’m working longer hours than I’ve ever done before, and have friends from so many walks of life that it surprises me when I think of where I’ve come from that this was even remotely possible just a few months ago. As I’ve said before, I have absolutely no plans to come home, I am already home, I just wish I had done this years ago. I’m free, finally, and reaping the rewards of all the bad things that have ever happened to me, and becoming the real person I should have been all my life.