Friday, May 28, 2010

One Life, one mind...

Notes de l'auteur.-
  • 1.-An old friend of mine, blessed by impressive, and unusual intellectual acuteness, has privately questioned the validity of my stories. You talk to four (4) people about something, you are going to get four (4) different stories, but my version will be the most fascinating, and therefore it must be true.
  • 2.-Because of the acquisition of moustiquaires (mosquito nets), all future performances, by the Tanzanian Mosquitoes Symphony Orchestra, have been indefinitely cancelled.
Nostalgie, douce mélancolie.- Nostalgia, sweet melancholy.-

Webster's dictionary defines nostalgia as a bittersweet longing for things, persons, or situations of the past, the condition of being homesick; I guess Ole G is suffering from "nostalgia", simply put: I miss "home", although in this particular, if not peculiar circumstance, "home" is not my birth country (Ayiti), but the United States of America, where I lived, and somewhat survived for more than twenty five (25) years. If home is where the heart is, mine would be split down the middle, with half beating in Ayiti, and its other counterpart in the States. These two (2) halves have different experiences, that have resulted in a whole, that is perfectly suited to my philosophy of life.

Speaking of waxing nostalgia, it is understandable that I would miss my loved ones, but for some obscure reasons, I miss NBC's Today Show, especially Al Roker's jolly morning weather report, somehow miss seeing the familiar faces on American television: the Obamas, the Clintons, and of course, I miss the 3 stooges, Sarah Palin, Glenn Beck, Bill O'Reilly, and the ring leader Rush Limbaugh, certainly could not predict, that I would miss the Garden State Parkway, the Lincoln Tunnel...aaahhh! the pollution.

Sunday,  11 April, 2010.- Jumapili, tarehe kumi na moja Aprili, Elfu mbili na kumi (2010).-

Even Mr Bossa's matinal visit (7:30 am), could not disrupt the serenity of this tranquil Sunday, a day free of mist, and rain (clair de soleil), yesterday, we spent 5 hours, reviewing the personal references of all the job applicants, I am ecstatic to announce, that all the unadvertised, and advertised positions have been fulfilled. Just two (2) days in Arusha, and already a few situations have risen, that have left me flabbergasted to say the least, for example: it cannot possibly take one (1) month (30 days) to paint a house  seven (7) rooms), and it may take me a lifetime, to fully comprehend why does it take over one (1) hour to grill a burger?

I am somewhat astounded, by the lack of professionalism, there aren't any licensed/certified plumbers or electricians, medical doctors are as rare as the precious Tanzanites stones, and it' is obvious, that the homes, and the apartment/commercial complexes, were not designed, nor built by architects, and engineers, yet the town has its share of licensed, certified, gwo dada (big butt) gardeners, and escapees from mental institutions, posing as licensed automobile drivers.

The insouciance of the Tanzanians is driving me "insane, bonkos, loco, and nuts" (just pick your favourite adjective), not a brusque insane, I am still three (3) train stop away from madness, but their pole pole (relax/chill) demeanour, their contemptuous nonchalance, is just a bit too much for an old negro like Ole G, these people do not speak (per se), they whisper in a docile, monotone voice, they move around in slow motion, even the soko (outdoor market) are quiet around here, who amongst you, has ever visited a quiet marché en plein air (outdoor market).

I am beguiled, bewildered, and bewitched by the surreal street scenarios, where else but in Arusha, can one actually witness the sight of a goat riding in the back of a piki piki/(motorcycle), better yet, who has ever seen two (2) guys transporting a twenty five (25) inches television set on a bicycle?, but when all is said, and done, life truly ain't that bad around here, that is if one does not mind living with mosquitoes, rocky remote dirt roads, inescapable dust, pedestrians with a casual attitude toward their safety, zandolit (lizards), switching water pumps, and generators on/off.

Warning: a long, and inconsistent story ahead.-

Sunday afternoon. - A pleasant family drive in the country side, I was enchanted by the wondrous views of the Moshi Valley, and since the idea of mimosas, Sundays, and brunch go hand in hand, we thought it would be a good idea to brunch, at a casually chic restaurant located in Moshi, a place where one can hold a convo while sipping a glass of wine, or a dry martini, a perennial favourite of Tanzanian families, splendorous views of majestic Mount Meru, and naturellement, It is in this exquisite, and sumptuous setting, that I committed my very first social gaffe in Afrika (Tanzania)...Please allow me to gather my thoughts, then allow me to tell you, about the cuisine.

Note: I am keenly aware, how many times, I have used the phrasal verb "allow".

Note 1.- Mount Meru is a mountain located in Tanzania, Arusha National Park,(elevation 14 980 ft.), It is the second (2nd) highest mountain in Tanzania, and the fifth (5th) highest in Afrika.

Tanzanian cuisine can be summarise in 2 words: Ugali, and Nyama choma.

Ugali: Corn maize, Polenta for Italian cuisine lovers, and the Tanzanian recipe is a three (3) steps polka dance: boil water, pour in Ugali, and Stir, DO NOT ADD any seasonings , or anything else that could make it edible, cook for  maximum three (3) minutes. It is simply the most disgusting thing that I ever tasted (déguelasse), the South Afrikan name for it is pap, or mealie pap, Zimbabweans, call it sadza.

Nyama choma: a slab of meat, grilled or roasted, novice weaklings like me, eat the safe goat/beef nyama choma, but the locals, and the audacious, eat wild nyama choma (lions, monkeys, alligators ect...)

Notate bene: Nyama Choma is best enjoyed with a Tusker beer (Kenya), or a Tanzanian Kilimanjaro beer (Kili).

I placed my safe order of nyama choma goat, took a sip of my Kilimanjaro beer, then took a deep breath, and the most wonderful yet familiar aroma flattered my nostrils. I could not place it , but it smelt (smelled?) a little like tasso (fried goat). I kept taking deep breath, and turning my head to see where this delicious aroma was emanating. Sure enough, there it was, my platter of nyama choma goat being brought in by the waiter, and it was mine to devour.

I instinctively reached for the serviette, and cutleries, quickly realising that they were missing , I sheepishly told the waiter: "Pardon me, young man, apparently you have forgotten the cutleries...Ô misère, Ô malheur , monumental faux pas, the family sitting at the next table paused, smirked, laughed anba shal (laughing in one's sleeve), the young attentive waiter, almost dropped the food tray, I have just committed un crime de lèse majesté (crime of lese-majesty), any well-brought up Ayitian, know that you do not rest your coude (elbow) on the table while eating, but I truly did not know, that in Tanzania, it is considered an offence, a national insult to use cutleries (forks, and knives) while eating the national authentic dishes, upon hearing my request, the waiter panicked, rushed back to the kitchen, brouhaha in the resto's pantry, the whole staff went on a "cutleries finding mission" for the Mzungu, (Westerner) seated at table # 7, cutleries were found, may be in the voisinage (neighbourhood) , a dozen or so staff members walked slowly by our table, to take a peek at the wanna be Mzungu, eating à la fourchette, 4 scores ago, this offence was punishable by imprisonment , nowadays, a "Mzungu", who uses knives, and forks while sitting at the table, is a plain imbecile, and is famously and forever christened as L'idiot du village (the village's idiot). I had to surrender my badge of Euro Ayitian influenced table etiquette, and digged in, hands, and feet, still, I could not but think in a most humorous manner, of my adored father who often opined: Fiston, tes manières laissent à désirer  (Son, your manners leave much to be desired).

Note: The Kiswahili word Mzungu, (Wazungu, pl.) means Westerner (s) or person (s) of European descent.

World Cup South Afrika 2010.- Afrika's delirium.- L'Afrique en délire-

Besides the dozen of (24/7) television stations dedicated solely to "Afrika Suni 2010", the debauchery, the bacchanal, the countless hit songs being played on the radio, and television stations, the below mentioned statement from one of the continent most respected scholar, left me pensive:
"...Every object - and every person - has a taboo name that functions as a password allowing you to enter and control that object. It is given that name as the final act in great ritual ceremonies, and sacrifices. "White people don't know the true name of Afrika, nor do they know the names of the Afrikan match ball or Afrikan stadia," said Tchegun. "How can they work effectively if they don't know what they are playing with, or who they have to play against?" According to Dr Tchegun, the die has already been cast - Afrika will win the World Cup..."

I would like to emphasise that these old forms of belief survive in all Afrikan societies (and even elsewhere in the world), not just the six (6) Afrikan countries who are sending their teams to the 2010 World Cup. From voodoo to shamanism, via Grima, and Ngouati in Cameroon, and the Central African pygmies, from the marabouts of the Sahel - the elders of the north - to the medicine men of the west, and the witch doctors of the central part of the continent: Afrika is overflowing with powerful, traditional spirituality. How might those forces be able to contribute to an Afrikan country becoming the world champion in South Afrika?

Note: Marabouts: Holy men in Northern Afrika, some considered them saints.
Shamanism: Beliefs regarding communication with the spiritual world.

It all seems to be as serious as ever. The World Cup is going to be a superb spectacle, a colorful mix of cultures, and cults. That is what Afrikan football is like. None of the countries will want to be beaten, and they will all be doing their utmost to win that one trophy.

My personal opinion, the best team will win the World Cup (what a revelation), of course it takes a bit of luck, isn't it ironic, that winners are always the lucky ones, a bounce ball here/there, a mistackle, a whistle happy referee, can make a difference, but the perennial favourites remain, I am not a shaman, do not wear any gris gris (grigri) , nor a Sangoma, but I can safely predict six (6) out of the Elite eight (8) teams: Spain, Germany, Brasil, Italy, Argentina, Portugal, 2 remaining spots on my list,  six (6) Afrikan teams participating in SA 2010...
Messieurs, Faites vos jeux ! JWE.

Gris Gris (grigri): Amulets worn for good luck.
Shaman: Practitioner of shamanism.
Sangoma: Practitioner of herbal medicine in Afrika Suni.

Monday, May 10, 2010

The ramblings of a lunatic mind

De prime abord, (First, and foremost), I am obliged to demanti, debunk, a particular rumour running through the grapevine: according to a few people, (you know who you are). Two (2) days after my departure, the residents of Glen Ridge (NJ) threw the biggest party celebration in town history, fout manti, lies/unfounded rumours; YES, there was a block party in GR the following Saturday, but it had nothing to do with MOI traveling to Tanzania, said party was planned weeks, if not months ago. What can I say: Aux absents les os, (The bones to the absent).

Friday, 9 April, 2010 (21: 15) TZ time.- Un long voyage.-

KLM Airlines, Boeing 787 landed smoothly on the tarmac of Kilimanjaro International Airport, I was the very first one to make a beeline for the airplane exit, between airport lounges, and airplanes, I have just spent over 24 hours indoors; if I remember well, we did leave New Jersey the day before ( 8 April), jet lagged, groggy, chifonnen,(wrinkled), and all, I slowly walked toward the airport gates, noticeable, and noticed: a welcoming delegation of distinguished gents, I, of course, gathered that they were awaiting for MOI, but to my great chagrin, the welcoming delegation was awaiting for the Queen of Holland or was it the Queen of Thailand?
My personal welcoming delegation: a sea of giant bugs, each the size of a Volkswagen, my bald head must have been a friendly tarmac, because about a dozen of them landed safely on my tèt kokolo (bald head). Immigration was a breeze, except for an overzealous Immigration Officer who inquired about that particularly bright yellow shopping bag, Mr Officer just could not believe that we ONLY bought chocolate in Amsterdam; what family makes a 4 hour stop in Amsterdam (Europe), and just buys chocolate? The Noziers.
The drive from the airport was uneventful, and long, hence, I had enough time to inquire about the genius who designed, and built an International Airport 150 miles away from the nearest town! Must be the same genius who thought of putting road bumps every 40 feet, on a so called highway.

After about a 90 minutes drive, on "Bumpy Interboro Parkway", and surviving the stunts of a chauffeur, with obvious ambitions of joining the Nascar circuit, we finally made it safe and sound, to the place, where we hope, will be our new home for the next 2 or 3 years. I need to mention a delicious pwason gwo sel , bienvenue/welcome dinner, cooked by a Ayitian expatriate, before you even ask: pre-9 April , 2010, the entire Ayitian community in Arusha consisted of just two (2) natif natal, the Ayitian population, has of course doubled, post-9 April, 2010.Do not really remember much from that first night, I tried vainly to go zzzzzz, somnanbulated for a few hours.

p.s.- Does the verb somnanbulate exist?

Saturday, 10 April, 2010.- They came, they saw, and some conquered.-

Before I begin, let me say that the Noziers didn't hit the US Lotto, and escaped to Afrika, do remember that Tanzania is a 3rd world country, "à la Haiti" circa the 70's, $20 USD can, and will go a long way.
7:00 am: Overheard loud voices coming from the front yard, a quick look out the bedroom window, revealed a disturbing image, about a dozen people standing, walking, chatting by the entry gate, in my book, this is a crowd, and qui dit crowd, dit coup d'état, instinctively reached for my AK 47, dang! left it in the States, so with the bravery of Capois- la- Mort, I descended the stairs, and opened the door, I was first approached by:

Mr David Bossa.- "Big Boss Bossa".-

Mr Bossa, a rather pleasant chap, who looked 50, but claimed to be only 32 years old, introduced himself as a man of vast responsibilities, a bwana, gwo zotobre, (big shot), the one, and only Property Manager in Arusha, it only took me a NY minute to flag Mr Bossa as a "koutye", and Rent Collector, in plain English: we will see this negro every first of the month. Short, stocky if not pudgy, obviously educated overseas, he speaks the King's English with a slightly tainted East-African accent, he does have a future as a koutye, but his bull lacks some sh**, therefore, I have decided to be his mentor, for the next 6 months. One dilemma tho, to our great chagrin, we have discovered that Mr Bossa suffers from the Jehovah Witness Syndrome, it is common, if not normal, for Mr Bossa to pay us a cordial/friendly visit Sunday morning (7:30 am, the latest).

Mr Joas Giavarelli.- "Old Jo".-

Refusal Collector extraordinaire, Mr Joas Giavarelli, pitched an offer that no one could have refused, for the sensible price of 20 000 T Shillings a month ($14 US dollars), he will collect the refusals six (6) days a week, and he came prepared: contracts & letters of recommendation from countless business owners in town, it only took me a Brooklyn minute to realise that Mr Joas was the garbage man, had to wonder about his garbage truck, he reassured MOI, that he has been collecting "refusals" on his bicycle (20 years, and counting), and he has never missed one (1) day, never skipped one (1) house, or forgotten one (1) refusal bag, in fact more than forty (40) years ago, his father used to collect "refusals" on a donkey; his deceased father must be so proud of the "modern & model son". This is the classic:Si le fils ne dépasse pas le père, c'est qu 'il n'y a pas de progrès , btw, I know what you're thinking, Giavarelli sounds Italian, but Mr Joas swore on his father's grave, that he is 100 % black Tanzanian, and who am I to argue with a man about his bloodline? 

Mr William Taboka.- "Shifty eyes Will".-

Licensed, & certified gardener Mr Taboka, claimed to be the home's owner relative, in perfect English, he informed me, that he doesn't speak nor understand English, (ok) so Mr Bossa had to resign from his functions as Property Manager, and was promptly sworn in as the translator, in my humble opinion, Mr Taboka speaks English as well as Mr Bossa, simply because, I somehow spotted a sparkle in his eyes, whenever I mentioned US $ dollars, or T Shillings, he was hired in a Bronx minute, by Property Manager/Translator, (David Bossa), his responsibilities: in charge of the lakou (front/back/ side yard), and the lifting of any heavy objects; left me scratching my head, come to think of it, last nite, I did carry seventeen (17)  if not twenty (20) pieces of travel bags, up 1 flight of stairs, where was Mr Taboka when I needed him?

Security Group.- "Security tight, all the time"

Evance, and Nevance, two (2) enterprising young men from Security Group, the ultimate security company in town, paid a visit. I had to wonder, why do we need 24/7 security, isn't Tanzania, especially Arusha safe? they assured MOI that Arusha is as safe as paradise, Mr Nevance flattered my non-existent ego, and ventured: Such an important man like you Mr Nozier, lovely family and all, why do you want to be the one, and only family in the neighbourhood, without 24/7 security? Think of the neighbours? well, I replied: So far, in my life, I've never tried to keep up with the neighbours, in fact, I have always been known as a "Rebel without a Cause", Evance jumped in, and said: Sir, you are breaking my heart, I was obliged to excuse my faux pas, after all, who the hell do I think I am, to even think of crushing this young man's heart? besides I said to myself: less than 24 hours in Arusha, the Noziers certainly don't want to be accused of the abominable crime of dragging this exquisite area into ghettoville... somehow managed to wiggle out of this challenging meeting, promised Mr Nevance & Mr Evance, that if ever we reach a decision, Security Group Co., will be the first, and only Security Company on our list, hope and pray, that they understood, my delicate position, we have only been in town less than 24 hours, we somehow need to catch our collective breath, Mr Evance, the supposedly shy one, uttered in a quiet voice: No worries Mr Nozier, as a matter of the fact, our security guards have been posted at your front gate since last nite..."

Ms. Sia Wikie.- Manicured, and pedicured (MP2)

One (1) week before our arrival, Ms Wikie, was recommended, and hired, by a Tanzanian friend, for the important position of nanny, Ms Sia (I call her Yaya) speaks in a squeaky, ten (10) year old girl timbre, she does have the tendency to cook often (6 times a day), but since my kids are born gourmand, they simply adore her. It is imperative to mention, that Ms Wikie is petrified of sea foods (especially fish, and crabs). In her thirty-two (32) years, breathing, and living on this planet (Earth), she has never seen, touched or eaten crabs & fish; shrimps, lobsters, and oysters, are amazing creatures of legends, mythical beasts. I should mention that she does the laundry three (3) times a day, just because she has just discovered the joy of the electric washing machine. On her days off, Ms Sia, visits the spa (massage, mani and pedi).

Addendum.- On April 19th, 2010, the non speaking English gardener, was asked by Mr Bossa, to remove himself from 181 Weseko Street,  he was escorted manu military thru the gates, reason for the dismissal: being picky picky (a thief), at least that was the story from Mr Bossa, since nothing was reportedly missing from the house, I accused Mr Bossa of flexing his non existent muscles, didn't question his decisions further, after all: L'empire c'est la paix (The empire means peace);  Five (5) minutes after Mr Taboka's firing, Big Boss Bossa, hired Miss Veronique; how can I describe Mr William's replacement, besides that "baby got back" (big butt/gwo dada), and she has a tendency of exposing her derrière to the sun, unlike her predecessor, Miss Vero is not a licensed and certified gardener, and one can safely ass-ume, that in her life time, her ass-ets, have earned her many accolades and favours.

Furnishing the "furnished house".-

It turned out that our advertised furnished house, didn't come with much, besides two (2) vinyl sofas, six
 (6 )chairs, one (1)  clopi clopant table, four (4) mattresses, and an old tv. Saturday afternoon, after the countless matinal meetings with all the solicitors, koutye, and job hunters, mentioned above, we ventured into downtown Arusha, to acquire the basics (cutleries, food, light bulbs, ect) I quickly discovered that driving a car, in Arusha, is not for the kokobe, the depressed, the anemics, the kapon, or anybody who may suffer from any heart conditions; Very revealing tidbit, from a Tanzanian native friend: the automobile made its debut in Arusha just twenty (20) years ago, I wisely deducted from the aforementioned historical fact, that local pedestrians still haven't grasped the simple concept of crossing the streets, and I've reached the factual/scientific conclusion that, the dala dala drivers (local tap- tap/ mini van) are all drunk, blind crackheads, and escapees from mental institutions.

Our town, Arusha, (TZ) (The boondocks) .- In 100 words or less.-

Besides of the danger of driving a car, and the risk of being hit by a pedestrian, Arusha is a small town of less than 1 million inhabitants, surrounded by 2 majestic, and sublime mountains, (Mount Kilimanjaro, and Mount Meru), a 6 hours drive from the capital ( Dar Es Salaam, it does rain daily, le soleil fait sa révérence around mid day, the greenery (verdure ) is breathtaking, and everywhere, from the top of the mountains to the valleys, roads are 50 % paved, the government strictly supervises the cutting of trees for chabon (charcoal), everybody owns an electric or gas cooker, and to my great surprise, literacy is above 90 % amongst Tanzanians!
Downtown Arusha (Mjini) is reminiscent of Grand-Rue (P-a-P) circa the 70's, Indians, not the Geronimo types, more like the 7-11 ones, dominate commerce, I have been told that they have a certain racist, xenophobic, better than thou attitude toward the locals (read black Tanzanians), but I still have not experienced their xenophobic attitude yet, but you know if I ever do, you will hear the following announcement on CNN: We interrupt our regular scheduled program to bring you breaking news from Arusha, Tanzania...

Note; Most, if not all of the people in Tanzania speak English, but Kiswahili is la langue du jour.

The mystical, and mythical Masai.-

The majestic Masai people of Eastern Africa are pastoralists, nomadics, and polygamists, proud beyond limits, revered, if not feared by most, they have refused to abandon their ancestors traditions in favor of modern times, well, except for their Blackberries/cell phones, iPods . They live in perfect harmony with nature, have the ability to communicate with wild animals, and the skills to farm in the desert. They somehow believe that all the cattles in the world are their personal property (God's gift to the Masai's tribe), and reserve the rights to raid the farms of any other tribes to claim what is rightfully theirs.

The rite of passage, or coming of age ceremony, from boyhood to manhood, is not for the faint of heart, or a kapon like MOI, boys are circumcised (sikonsi) in their early teens in a ceremony attended by the entire village, the induction of anesthesia is ignored, if not unknown, the boy who even flinches during this procedure brands himself as a coward, and brings shame to his family ~Another rite of passage to manhood: boys as young as thirteen (13) years old, must hunt, and kill a lion, with just a spear.

The Masai woman.- God's most perfect creation.-

If for some unknown reasons, one is skeptical about the existence of God, it is simply because, one has never seen a Masai Woman; I have been speechless only twice in my entire life (witnessing the birth of my first born, and twenty (20) years ago, one (1) young woman just slayed me, born in BPC (Bas Peu de Choses), raised by a non pareil father, I can safely declare, that I've overheard, witnessed, and experienced a few things in my life, that is 'till I had the honour, if not the privilege, to see a Masai woman, by the way, it is truly a privilege to see one up close, a Masai woman is too "precious" to be seen in public and/or to walk amongst , le commun des mortels. Even now les mots me manquent (still speechless).

1 May, 2010: While chatting with my favourite machan n at the outdoor market, an unreal phenomenon, equal only to Moses parting of the Red Sea, happened...The entire market went "quiet", people stepped/jumped aside, some even bowed, I turned around, and saw God's most perfect creation... a MASAI WOMAN, a Queen walking amongst her subjects, and for only the 3 rd time in my entire life, I went into a state of shock (gaga/bèbè), froze in mid air, mouth agape, could not utter a word, still cannot remember anything about that blessed afternoon, but her face, her smile, her demeanour, her black skin, her bald head, her clothes, her image shall remain engrave in my tèt kokolo 'till the end of time.

Addendum.- I just could not understand the reverence, and fear inspired by the Masai people in Tanzanian, and Kenyan societies, 'till I met, and shook the hands of a few Masai, If anything, I have always taken a certain pride in my logical mind, please do believe me, when I say that the Masai have a certain je ne sais quoi , certain things cannot be scientifically explained, especially by a nincompoop like MOI...let us just leave it at that.

Next week: I shall tell you about the biggest party in the history of the world , (SA 2010), one (1) billion plus human beings, over  fifty (50) countries...the revelry of a continent.