The smell of fermenting fenesi welcomes you to the old coastal city that is Dar es Salaam. The cool breeze from The Indian Ocean cancels out the heat and humidity that grips the atmosphere of Dar. If Nairobi is the ambitious big brother with big dreams, then Dar is definitely the bubbly child who doesn’t want to be left out. Most buildings in Dar look like they were built by Vasco da Gama himself during his quest to conquer the East African coast. The architecture is mostly ancient Persian except for the newer buildings that have a tinge of modernity. The roads in ‘downtown’ are extremely narrow. They are roads by day and cafes by night. It is not uncommon to find traffic jams in Kariokoo in the evening, only to realize that one side of the road is occupied by food vendors, with tables and seats on the road. ‘Shikamoo kaka, Karibu chai mdalasini kwa mbaazi,” a sonorous voice bickered from the crowd. She spoke in a flashy manner, moving her hips a little sideways like there was more to it than just the food. We were running late so I smiled back at her and rushed to my hotel room. Room 753. Sapphire Hotel. Kariokoo.
We got into a club near our hotel the next day. I checked my wallet and confirmed that I had Tanzanian currency. I had the equivalent of about Kshs. 2000. By Tanzanian standards, this was a lot of money. Enough to party and take us back to our hotel. The nightlife in Dar sharply contrasts the much more conservative coastal life of the day. Sights of sumptuous and curvaceous women skimpily dressed highlighted the night. They danced, slowly, gently, and sweetly as to the tune of every bit. The deejay was playing Maria Salome by Saida Karoli. It reminded me of my father on a cool Sunday morning. Dad loved Saida Karoli and Kofi Olomide. I beamed with nostalgia. I admired the women from a distance as I wet my throat with Serengeti lite. Tourists often frequent this club. They bring along with them the wild party life of Monaco, Milan, Dubai, Moscow, and whatnots. As I took down my last swallow, a petite girl comes over my ears with a little shyness,
‘Ukimaliza nina barua yako,’
‘Acha siasa kaka, mengi tutayasema mbele.’ I flinch. I did not go to meet her. You don’t just meet people like that in a foreign land. Your heart can end up in transplant theatre in China and your cornea in Thailand. I later understood that she is a twilight girl who was pitching to a potential client.
The days we had left were not going to be enough to appreciate the city. Together with one of my team managers, we paid a cab driver a few Tanzanian shillings and had him take us around the city. Unlike Nairobi, Dar is lonely and deserted by night. We ended up in B Max Lounge, on a cliff facing the ocean. It was a favorite of the spoilt students from The University of Dar. Were it not for the early morning we were going to have, we would have ended up in the hands of an overworked medical intern at the Muhimbili National Hospital.
We were having our regional basketball games in Dar. I was on the technical bench of the Equity Bank Basketball team as their team physician. My work was to ensure that the team was well taken care of medically. This was a huge relief from the moans and groans of on-call doctoring. I loved working for the team because of their hunger to win anything. Winning means more traveling.
Golden Jubilee Towers stands tall in the heart of Dar es Salaam. It is surrounded by a few palm trees and other equally tall buildings. On the ground floor, there is a small beautiful mgahawa from which emanates the aroma of roasted coffee. It reminds me of my days in campus when I binged on coffee to stay awake studying. Equity Bank Head Office is on the third floor of the same building if my memory serves me right. We had gone there to pay a courtesy call to the Managing director of Equity Bank TZ. The MD’s office is spacious with a beautiful mahogany desk that has been polished to a fine finish. The wood that forms the desk and the cabinets look heavy. Heavy and expensive. The chairs are made of fine leather. Not your ordinary leather that peels every so often. Premium leather, tanned with precision. The view of the Indian Ocean from the office is electric. It is a vast blue, with a gentle calming breeze. Therapeutic.
The MD is a light skin gentleman with a broad winsome smile. He wears the signature corporate smile that would have you buy a product you know nothing about. His black pin-striped suit gives him an elegant look, bearing some semblance to Arsene Wenger on the touchline. Our eyes met. We laughed loudly. I was surprised that he recognized me. I thought I would just hide behind the crowd and go unnoticed.
‘How is your girlfriend?” he asked naughtily.
‘I guess she is fine, we haven’t talked in a while ‘
‘Where is she?’
’She works as a doctor in some mission hospital back at home. ‘I answered. We laughed again.
I had met the MD previously in Nairobi under very tricky circumstances. I was a little embarrassed on that day. He had summoned me to Equity Center to have a man talk. I had ‘sinned’ and fallen short of the glory of God. I was working for the bank as a teller then. There was this beautiful girl from our class that I admired with the whole of my existence. It was many years back. She had a sweet laugh that I couldn’t get enough of. I often made jokes, just to hear the sound of her laughter. She laughed at even the driest of my jokes. I loved her. She was also working for the bank around the same time. We often used the office email to communicate because it was easy and convenient. I could easily slide a how was your night text while waiting for a client’s receipt to generate from the machine. She always responded within a minute or less. We never blue ticked each other. It was fun while it lasted.
One day my beautiful girl was out of the office. I realized this because my emails had gone without reply. I called her during tea break and requested her to share with me her personal email address. I had written a long mail that I was not willing to retype again on text. I wanted to forward it instead. The email read:
Good morning. I wrote this to tell you how serious I am about the issue we were talking about. In this life, people go through sour love tales. Some even more than you have faced. I have had my fair share of heartbreaks but I still have a tenacious belief in love. I approach you with an open heart and an open mind seeking a chance to love again. I see a lot in you, as a woman, as a doctor, and as a soul mate. You have all that it takes to get to heights that you have always dreamed of. Whenever I saw you in class, I knew that you had something that I needed, something that I could not find anywhere. If you are sure you feel the same for this country boy, am all here ready to welcome you in my little world...and be yours to love and to cherish...
In the process of sending the mail, I forgot to put a full stop in between her names in the email address. I clicked send and boom, the email traveled over the internet to someone else with exactly similar names, except without the full stop. I never knew this till the day that I was summoned by this MD back then when he was working at Equity Center, Nairobi. He had actually been contacted by the recipient of that email. I googled the name and put a face to the recipient. She was the CEO of another company that I knew nothing about up until that moment. I had written a mail to a CEO seeking to be loved. Strange. What if she replied? What if she also wanted to be loved? I would have won myself a sugar mummy. A mama sucrose. Haha. I am joking. The man talk was not as heated as I thought it would be. I was uneasy the whole time though. I was guilty of ‘misusing’ the office mail to advance my own agenda. I did not defend myself whatsoever.
We had our final game on the day we were meeting the MD. We went down to the Mgahawa to grab some bites as we retreated back to our camp to continue with our preparations for the game. We leave it at that folks. It’s a small world!