I saw a seal on the bus the other day. He was a peculiar seal, dark of skin and sitting upright, a fine fuzz of white fur covering his rotund head; dual cellphones were clutched constantly in his flippers. Beep. Beep. Beep. For hours. I didn't know that seals rode the bus, or that they had African wives that fed them cashews. They do, I saw it. I wonder what that seal would have said if he had made a slight turn left, and saw me staring at him. I was transfixed, his whole face seemed to jostle and shake as he chewed. The temple pulsed, moving up and down rhytmically; his ears moved in time with his jaw, quivering as if under the duress of a gentle breeze.
OK, I'll admit that he may not of actually been a seal. However he certainly did have a likeness to the seafaring mammal. And, perhaps the man in front of me didn't look like the closest thing to an Afro-asian since Tiger Woods, but he did have a striking likeness to a certain Chinese friend of mine. The lady next to me was touched though, I'm sure of it. Every time the the bus driver touched the brakes, she was up and around; peering nervously through the mid-seat crack and encrouching on my space like a fleet footed doom was approaching.
The point is that I enjoy people watching, and unfortunately for others I excel at being callously detrimental in my assessments of people I've never met. I used to hate long road trips. I've come to the conclusion that it was probably because I had nothing worth thinking about when I was younger. Now I enjoy a more enlightened way to move. Don't try to sign me up for Mensa or anything, but I've come to a stage in life where I have the ability to sit back on a bus ride, look out at the passing landscape, and spend copious amounts of time just thinking. It is always pretty unimportant thoughts: future plans, the rare insight, and often a handful of ideas that I think might fit into my blog; as I was looking at the seal, I was imagining how I could write about him.
On this particular bus trip, that returned me from Moshi back to Dar Es Salaam, the one particular thought that was in my head went like this: I am ready to leave East Africa. It's not that I don't like the region, I do. It's not that I havn't had the time of my life, I have. I suppose it boils down to the Mzungu status that haunts one through this continent. I'm tired of the totes and artists and safari drivers. I'm tired of haggling for everything because the white man has the money. No one ever wants to talk to you just for talking, and if they do they're the one out of ten and you still treat them like a jerk because you just can't take the risk that they're not trying to sell you things.
I'm slowly becoming reclusive; a recluse. Perhaps if my tan was darker you'd be checking under the piles of clothes in your kid's room looking for me, my bite poisonous. I'm folding in on my self like a precisely crafted oragami crane. I havn't the patienece for the grifters and sellers, the 'hello rafiki's and the 'karibu brother's. I just long for the places where you meld in to the background, taking for granted the diversity of home that collages you indecernible from the next. Perhaps, I'm not a friendly person, not inherently. My attitude to new people is a multi-factor variable, and situation plays a big part.
The only place I didn't feel this way was Uganda. When I was in Uganda, the "buy my art Rafiki" was a more sincere "Hello Mzungu, how are you?". Yet, I have no plans to circle back there now, and the guns seem to be blaring in the Kampala streets even if I wanted to. The pearl of Africa still has its problems to sort.
It is thus with a mix of sadness, yes, sadness, and the feeling that now is the right time that I fly out of Tanzania. Tonight in the early hours of the morning, I head to Egypt. Although I know the pestering in Egypt will be as bad as anywhere (probably worse), the change of scenery, the shorter duration and the rendevouz with my younger-older-sister makes me excited to go.
My time in East Africa has been nothing short of amazing. I will write something of more proper tribute when I reach home, but for now I will simply say good bye. It hurts to leave, but I think I need a change.
Thanks for Reading,