I seem to have developed an aversion to writing. Every time I tell myself that today is the day I will write, something convenient happens, like the electricity goes off for 24 hours on a stretch. That’s the power, I guess, of Africa. I’ll never run out of excuses!
Like the other day, I ran into a field of GIANT Ostriches. No I don’t mean those show-piece ones that some convents and churches have. These are huge – like I got lost in the Jurassic era. Man, it was surreal. But then, I’m used to running into dream/nightmare time surroundings/events.
It’s so easy to get yourself lost in the heart and soul of Tanzania – every corner has its magical jumble of alleyways. Each twist and turn of the narrow streets brings you something new – be it a school full of children chanting verses of the Quran or a football field with most engaging of matches or a beautiful old Arabic-style mansion with an overhanging veranda and a recessed inner courtyard or mountains, and such majestic ones at that, or a snack vendor with maize fastened over coal, fanning it with all her fury and at the same time clacking cups to attract attention or a group of old women, Bibis’, giggling about a joke and sharing some local gossip in their spectacularly coloured kitenges.
And then there’s the open market. It assaults your senses with occasional whiffs of spices mixing with the stench of fish, the clamour of vendors hawking their wares, neat, brightly coloured piles of fruits and vegetables and dozens of small shops selling everything from plastic tubs to auto-spares. I guess it became a transporter to another dimension because I chose to go before the heat and the crowds, when everything was fresh. Once you walk out after your trip around the 1 sq kilometre market, there’s always those mobile pedicure boys (bless them) ready to give you a foot rub and paint your nails in hideous pink and then make it feel like art.
I live on the Great Rift Valley. It’s this massive fault line stretching 6500 kms across the African continent, from the Dead Sea to Mozambique. It’s like somewhere in the past, the continent wanted to stretch itself out until it separated into two. As the land separated, large chunks of the eart dropped down between them and formed escarpments and ravines and flatlands and lakes and calderas and the thing that gets me most excited – volcanoes. In Tanzania, this is called the Crater Highlands and if you follow it to Kenya, there’s even a national park called the gateway to hell.
I mean, after all this time, there’s still so much that I haven’t seen. Like the beaches with their soft white sand and their turquoise water. I can’t wait to look across the tidal flats where children play on the beach and their voices carry to where I have just stepped down from the bus. And later, we will build sand-castles and when the tide comes in, we will catch a ride with the local dhow or go to swim in the lagoon. And then there’s that sunrise/sunset I’ve been meaning to catch from anywhere around the Lake Victoria.
You can’t convince me this place isn’t some fairy tale, dream dimension.