Stories from a Misspent Youth in East Africa



1. I Didn't Have a Guesthouse in Africa

I didn't have a guest-house in Africa, on the edge of Masoko bay.

It was never mine, always his. His project. His dream. His life. We liked each other for a long time. Playing dating capoeira, circling eye-to-eye. I knew he was a nomad, I knew he had Africa in his blood—born and bred. But I was 23, nearly graduated. I needed a plan. He was my plan.

We split then made-up in the bone-cold drizzle of a Mancunian park in January 2003. He left, I stayed to graduate and six-months later I boarded KLM flight 2310 bound for Dar-es-Salaam.

That first drive from the airport, nose to the window: the dust, the caravans of women swathed in rainbow kangas—regal daily heroines carrying water-filled buckets of pink and green and yellow. The car lurching over fetid pot-holes, a loud beep. Aly, the forty-year-old ‘houseboy' running out; his body cowed in submission, his eyes sparked with cunning. Itchy, malarial heat. Our room with its creaking 1970’s air-con and the onion smell of ancient classrooms. Windows darkened by grime and wire netting.

My man and me. Six months apart now cramped together in a foreign house, in a foreign city, on the continent where he took his first steps, where his ears and eyes opened to the world, yet for me a place as strange as medieval myth—a place of cockatrices and dragons, beautiful and brutal, where people danced and sang wide-smiling to tinny hip-hop beats as the coffin-maker hammered next door.

To be continued.


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