Today was my day to go to town (kuenda mjini) with my night watchman Samwel (which I’ve been spelling wrong). He was to come at two, but he came at 3 (African time). By then, my three housemates were ready to go to town, so the five of us walked the three miles to the city center.
Last night it was raining, and Samwel came in and sang us some songs: two gospel songs in Swahili, the Tanzanian national anthem, and an old school song in English. I recorded them on my phone and will post the videos to Facebook.
This afternoon, I walked with Samwel the whole way, and between his limited English and my limited Swahili, we talked the entire time. At one point, out of the blue, he said, “Glory to God,” and the Swahili translation, “something something Mungu.” He’s a good Christian, with a gentle spirit that would make old Jesus proud.
The five of us went to a souvenir shop in the basement of a shopping center so Sarah could buy some things before heading home next Monday. Sarah is a 22-yar-old ray of sunshine, who looks you in the eye with the expression of a happy puppy and always speaks straight from the heart.
We split up there because Samwel wanted to show me the office of his company, Security Group Afrika. I told his boss in a mixture of English and Swahili that Samwel is a good guard and a good man. I said we help each other learn language. He was glad to hear it and left me with “Karibu sana tena,” “You are very welcome again.”
From there we headed to Union Café, a hangout for Europeans in the city center. They sell cooperatively grown Tanzanian coffee (I’m taking orders) and overpriced Western-style food and drinks. I told Samwel, “Wazingu wanapenda Union Café” — white people like Union Café. He laughed.
We met up with Sarah, Alfred, and Madalena and decided to take a taxi to Woodland for supper, but Samwel said he’d take the bus home. I said if he came with us, I’d get him a motorcycle taxi (bota bota) back to his place, and he agreed. We shared a feast of chicken, goat, salad, chips, and ugali — the staple of East Africa, a white mush made from ground corn. For Samwel, who hails from Mbulu district, a night out at a restaurant and a ride in a taxi were probably akin to a flight on a private jet with a catered meal. We had a lot of great conversation and laughs (I tried to translate for Samwel) and got home by 9:30.
I sat outside with Madalena, who commented on our festival of friends (to borrow a cheesy old Bruce Cockburn line). Sarah and Alfred, the yang to Sarah’s yin, full moon to her bright sun, melt both our cynical old hearts.
When you’re on your own in a strange place, like the five of us are, friendship and laughter come easy. “Nafurahi sana,” Samwel said. “I am very happy.”
“Leo siku nzuri sana,” I replied. “Today is a very good day.”