Wooow part four! Starting in Joberg 3 weeks ago, I have made my way, mainly by kombis packed with a vibrant cacophony of amiable humanity, through some of South Africa, most of Swaziland and about to fatigue collapse in Maputo after 3 nights full of constant messiness and little sleep. This is worth a story actually. Friday night: Arrive in Fatimas backpackers after a several hour kombi ride with Christine, a lovely Taiwanese journalist who quit her job in order to seek adventure. That night was relaxed; after a few local brewskies and meeting Patrick from Germany – a pertinacious character whose energy is only eclipsed by his love of partying – we crashed.
The next day heralds a full day of exploring Maputo… What turns out to be a rather insipid city, with little social scene and a beach which resembled a desert with naught but a hint of languorous ocean peeping over the horizon.
That first night comes and goes… and it approaches that time when every sane person is in bed or considering the appeal of it. By 2:30am, we are the only people at the bar, everyone else having cleared out ages ago. Patrick, however, resolutely believes the night has only began and with this infectious, and I at the time believed fanciful, enthusiasm coupled with my bus leaving for Maputo in 2 hours, I resolved to join this venture. It began with what I have began to associate as a German anthem, a phrase seemingly sprouting from the lips of any German as soon as the sun hits the horizon “Where is de party yarr?”.
On the way, we are stopped and rudely dragged from our revelry by a godam cop doing passport checks. Apparently, it is illegal to travel without in Mozambique, which is a strange rule to enforce and focus apon considering that the cab drivers outside Fatimas are perpetually sipping beer as they await a fare. We are dragged out of the car by this “officer”, who starts to intimidate us in broken english, telling us how we must now languish in prison as our embassy resolves this abhorrent act of passport misplacement. Our response to this diminutive, four foot character attempting to get all scary on us, is to, naturally, laugh in his face. He suddenly reaches for his gun holster, a unprecedented move which I though may be a harbinger of a sudden negative mood change, and the prospect of spending a night in jail becomes very real… An experience I would somewhat relish I must say, having never seen the inside of a cell (also, think of the blog entry). This opportunity is frightfully worrying due to 2 conceptions, however. 1: When thinking of time in prison, there is really one idea which springs to the front of peoples minds – Forceful coitus (with a capital F). It’s interesting, how that idea has permeated our culture somewhat, the younger me was once told by a friend that he did a brief stint in jail; my reaction to him revealing his time in such a mysterious and unnerving circumstance was not to ask why he was there, what it was like or any generic inquiries which are normally meted to any experience, but instead, with complete, if misguided, sincerity “So how was the sex?”. 2: The unfortunate and devastating profusion of HIV in the country… Those two factors make an African jail a place to be avoided if possible.
Back to the story: In slow motion, as his hand descends to the gun holster, to the symbol of unquestionable authority and subjugation of the masses, the above factors are rolling through my head. By the time he unclips the holster, I had already determined my prison moniker: I would be known as “Tiny”, or perhaps “Vanilla Spice”. Yet this dramatic and even frightening movement, which had encaptured my attention so completely, was suddenly dashed into oblivion as instead of a gun, he withdraws a pair of handcuffs from inside the holster. I cant quite describe the relief and derision which that single move bought – instead of an instrument of death, a flimsy piece of metal not even sufficient to wrap around my wrist let alone sequester two drunk foreigners at 3 in the morning, is bought forth. We both explode in mirthy laughter, and concurrently offer our crossed over arms to this cop whose humourless face conveys more eloquently than his limited vocabulary possibly could of how fed up he is of the situation. He asked for a 10,000M bribe ($1000) but we haggled him down to 200M ($20). It interesting how the same situation and skills derived from haggling with Indian vendors for trinkets can be used to barter for continued physical freedom.
‘Twas a night of mayhem, and I managed to just make my 5am bus! Don’t remember actually getting on it, but I painfully remember waking up at 11am vertically spooning my guitar, hangover as hell, drenched in sweat and smelling like a hobo that passed away 2 weeks ago. I was also cramped up due to two kids who were occupying the single seat next to me who kept glancing my way as if I was about to eat them– overall a rather painful experience which lasted another 5 hours.
One more quick story. So, in my experience every African has proven to be a wonderfully friendly and genuinely nice character. This is my story of encountering one who was painfully contrary to this impression.
I’m outside a club, and my uni mates are inside. My plan is too get some money out of an ATM and I walked up to it to insert my card. As I’m doing this, someone goes points out, rather rudely, there is a line which I am transgressing. Being drunk, I had not noticed this, so I apologize and humbly make my way to the back of the now painfully obvious cue. A few seconds later, the same gentleman who pointed out the line, decides to start a conversation while surrounded by several of his mate:
Him: “Dude, why does your voice sounds so gay?”
Me:”… Excuse me?”
“I said, why is your voice so gay?”
“No I understood perfectly the words you said, but it’s kind of a ridiculous concept isn’t it? My voice box box being arranged so to convey my sexuality?”
“Are you gay?”
“I’m n-.. Actually, I’m not going to answer that. Would it have any bearing on me if I were, is there really anything my sexual orientation says about me as a person that would be interesting to know?”
Him (completely ignoring my loquacious attempts to start a intellectual conversation) : “Dude I think you are gay”
Me (fed up): “Well that’s a strange conclusion to reach, I am outside briefly to grab some money and will return to being surrounded and talked to by beautiful girls inside; while you are sitting outside in a circle of sweaty men, yet somehow you reach the conclusion that I’m the gay one. Also, you should know, this voice right here causes women’s clothes to pretty much slide right off when used right, you sound like your tongue is made of gravel.”
Him (by this time he has cemented my impression of him being an indelible twit): “Yeah but it’s not manly!”
I squeeze his deflated bicep
“Mate, that’s the definition of not manly, look here”
I flex my smaller than usual, but still rather decent, bicep
“This here son, this is how manly feels, how the hell are you going to talk about being not manly when my dick is thicker than your arm muscles??”
This entire conversation is carried out with a big, friendly smile on my face and, despite the content, in a very civil and humorous tone (on my behalf at least). He is posturing and getting up in my face, but I can’t take him seriously enough to start that bullshit. At this point, the 8 guys he is with burst out laughing, and a few push him away and around the corner. One of them even shakes my hand and allows me to jump ahead of him in the ATM line, reconfirming my positive impression of African hospitality. Unlike Australia, they won’t support one of his mates if he’s being an asshole, which is awesome, cause in retrospect, it could have quickly become an ugly situation.
Rest of the night was awesome! Dam I have so much to write about, yet so little time. Isaac out x
(Also, I don’t really think bicep circumference is what defines someone as a “man”, but it seemed the best way to drive the point home to this particular muppet)