Bond, Cards and House Life
(Written Sunday, July 27, 2008)
We’ve got a weekday routine at the house, Masahi (Muhs-eye), Migire (Mih GEE ray) and me. We all return home in the early evening, by 5 or 6. For a couple hours, I read or write or review medicine or Swahili. They cook. We eat around 7, usually rice with chunks of beef. Or maybe spaghetti sprinkled with sugar. And maybe a passion fruit + avocado shake. It’s good, makes me want to start a shakes club at home, making my own experimental creations by throwing random things (like fruit) in a blender and seeing what it tastes like.
After dinner, we watch TV. Often a soccer game is on, local East African teams (Tanzania, Uganda, Kenya). Or we watch a movie. I don’t know how we settled on these or why we picked them in the first place—but we’ve been watching James Bond flicks. Like, exclusively. During dinner, Masahi would say, “After dinner, we watch zero zero seven?” I thought about correcting him to “double oh seven,” but refrained—in my Tanzanian memories, Bond will be, “Zero, zero.” I had these DVDs with 26 movies on each disc, and as I previously mentioned, one is the Pierce Brosnan collection, with like 5 Bonds on it. It works, we all seem to like them. The guys like the explosions and action, and I like Bond’s reckless international hero character. I never thought I’d be watching so much Bond in Tanzania.
The other thing we do at night, especially the last week, is play cards. I bought a deck, trying to get more people time, less TV time. First, they taught me a game they call “The Last Card,” which is like Uno, Crazy 8s, Dirty Neighbor—all of those. Good fun, complete with shit-talking and all. Then I taught them speed. Now that was comedy. I got a video of the two of them playing that: Masahi holding his hand out saying “Wait, wait” to Migi as he unloaded all his cards. Funny. Sorry, Masahi, but the game is speed, and as such, there is absolutely no waiting. But nice try.
Since they only knew one card game and wanted to learn more, I taught Masahi Gin. Apparently, I’m an excellent teacher. He beat me 7 out of the first 8 games, easily getting to 500 before me. He likes to talk trash, especially when he’s winning. If anyone knows me when I lose, I’m a whiney little bitch. I’m king of the poor losers. Who wants to teach their kid how to lose well? Anyway, my diplomacy triumphed within, as I graciously congratulated him. And then I whipped him in the next round to 500. Ha ha. We’ll see who takes the tie breaker, but don’t count on any international good will from me cutting him any slack.
More about the guys, Masahi and Mgire. Called him Migi. Good dudes, brothers living in this house alone, with occasional visitors depending on the time. They are two of nine children, with siblings scattered throughout the country, some here.
Mashai, 27, engaged. One of the younger of 9, his parents in their 70s, his oldest brother 50. A family of accountants (really, ALL of them), he followed suit. He thought about being a doctor, but the availability of accounting books at home steered him toward numbers. He hopes one of his kids will be a doc.
Having graduated university with a degree in accounting, he dreams of going back to school to get a masters in accounting and take their equivalent of the CPA (I told him about you, John Taggart—how you’re a CPA and all. He said you must be pretty cool, but don’t worry, I corrected him). He worries about being able to find work as an accountant, provide for his family in the future. A higher degree would help. The problem—he needs $4,000 US to make it happen. He’s looking for a sponsor. I told him I would put this out there, and see what happens. If anyone is looking to help a guy go to graduate school, we’re gladly accepting donations. I hope to have some cash for him by fall, 2009.
Masahi is about my height, thin but athletic. His English is excellent, like many here. I would say fluent, as they are taught early in school. Some of my favorite phrases of his:
007 (said “Zero zero seven”)
This man here
There is no problem. You are welcome.
Juice. (pronounced, “Jew-eece”)
Mike Iron Tyson. (Instead of Iron Mike Tyson).
He has been an exceptional host. I have a room to myself, with bed and closet space. He arranged to get a gal in town to do my laundry and cook my meals for a small fee. Whenever I need anything—internet, motorcycle—he’s on it. Several times, he has cooked for me. We’re not talking PB&J or mac and cheese (what I cook for my bachelor self), but a dinner that takes 3 hours on average to prepare. He’s made much of his life taking care of me while I’m here. At night when I shower, he warms up a bucket of water (“Are you ready to shower?” It’s kinda like a parent with a rascal anti-shower child—I took twice as many showers because he made the water, otherwise, I was fine staying on the 3x a week plan. One more thing—I cut the mane, my locks. I prefer to describe my current look as rough Tom Cruise, as opposed to long haired Tom Cruise from before. I haven’t shaved in 3 weeks either. I’m pulling a Joe Carey “the little beard that could,” except Joe had three times the jaw/sideburn coverage that my little struggling forrest has. Don’t worry, I’ll shave immediately upon arriving stateside.
Masahi has refused payment for housing me. I’m at least allowed to contribute to the grocery bill, as is minimally appropriate. But last week, he bought me lunch and dinner out at a local hotel diner. That was heart breaking. A guy on a Tanzanian salary taking his richer visitor to dinner. Wow. And he dropped his own dime going with me to town yesterday. I picked his up on the way home, and finally did buy him lunch. Repeatedly, he's treated me like a king. Makes me think about how I treat my friends and family, let alone guests.
Migire. 18 year old dude, he will probably break from the accounting pathway. Politics. I'm not sure what that means. Like a senator or president? He goes to secondary school, and is the equivalent of a sophomore in high school. He's also the only non-Catholic in the family. Some evangelical protestant denomination that I forgot, sorry. But he went to Catholic mass with me the second Sunday.
The dining table is situated such that if you are sitting in either of 2 seats, you can lean back and see the TV. Migi has the bad habit of doing this. It's quite funny, because like parents, me and Masahi will force him to sit in the other seats, with no possible view of the TV. (I've actually called myself Daddy a couple times, actually.) He then immediately hits the tube after eating.
Anyway, it was sad as shit when I said goodbye to these 2. Definitely got misty, and I'm not so much into the whole crying thing. I'll talk more about my departure later. I hope to return and see them again someday.