East Africa 

by Suzan Abrams

February 4, 2009

Last evening on drawing the curtains, my absent-minded thoughts as distant as the stars… I was startled to see a prim cargo ship march by in a close-up huff. I may have touched its taut mottled deck that made for a snakish straitlaced pose, had I reached my hand out far enough.
As a child, I would have wished this magic.
The grim tight-lipped ship appeared to sulk and be running away from it all with puritanical abandonment, I know not from what. It may have left lovers, family, friends while bearing sufferance with its oversized luggage.

It suddenly turned on its heels with a noisy whoosh and may even have gathered its starched skirts in the messy waves had it worn one. Its many colourful crates stood precariously atop the other and trembled rather dramatically, what with the heaving-and-sighing passion of it all. They reminded me of a memorable Lego toy. I watched the ship sail wistfully into the sunset and knew I would never see it again. I was momentarily aware of the fragility of my own mortality, that I too would someday be called into a beckoning dusk and be summoned to hurry, with no time left for a final goodbye. I could only wish the old prude well.

also February 4, 2009

The dhow song unfolds, a kite on tide…and swallows jazz up a beat with borrowed twigs.

and also February 4, 2009
The tall blue ship having complained in loud shrill hoots about the scorching summer, has been stripped of its handsome electric blue coat in the harbour’s sauna of a dockyard. Finally… for the breathtaking silence of it all! Far from a serenade at my window ledge, the cheeky vessel in question, had chosen to playact a jacuzzi.
Don’t tell but I heard it whispered in the sharply cool twilight wind just yesterday, on walking out to a late supper when Tanzanians were still sauntering home; their bellies fat and full… that the hardy vessel has gone quite mad and is planning to streak about the sea-green ocean, dressed in the buff! I’ve heard it say that acquamarine would go magnificently with its pearly skin. The snoopy palms are rife with rumours. The costly tickets at the Zanzibar ferry office, could only suggest an exclusive performance. Clearly, my window view would be rudely barred.
Open secrets are gossiped about with relish on market days from the lively Kigamboni to the watchful Bandari shores. Whatever can the Captain and his audacious crew be thinking! Or maybe I’m guessing, they had one potent Kilimanjaro lager too many at the ultra-modern Milimani mall that’s all the rage.

and also and also February 4, 2009

Oh…the stylish white boats have quarrelled today. They dash helter-skelter to pout here and there; sulky and grumpy while moored on the fringes of the harbour. They look a picture of midget dowagers what with such petulance but then too, their patterned polka dots are like a shiny sequinned ballgown in the afternoon sun. I want to catch them all and hide each one up in my secret wardrobe. The boats had wanted the sea to masquerade a riotious playground. The waters had insisted on all and sundry toeing the line. The boats refused and scattered like an urgent crowd. Now, a tiny tugboat who gatecrashed the scene, feigns innocence and in a desire to show off, spins round and round in fat dizzy circles. How joyous like a baby, piloting its first celebrated crawl. The wide-ringed ripples mimic gurgles. The cajoling waters rise for a slippery slide and humour the tot. The older boaties can only watch in disarray and slight dismay.

February 3, 2009

On the famous Selander Bridge which is a coastal line that partly skirts the city and lies about a kilometre away from Dar, a distant cargo haul, caterpillars its way to the high seas with obedient docility. One by one, 10 steely ships pay homage to their regal procession, each shouldered by an eternal skyline. In the brush of mist and cloud, there is no turning back. Only two on faithful watchmen duty, offer a sudden telescopic glance at the curious observer. Their snouts hint at gloom and ferocity. This, should any adventurer trail their secret willful journey.

January 30, 2009

I woke up this morning and a long blue ship waited outside my window. It stood brave and tall, proudly anchored in the harbour. It dwarfed the vain sleek Catamaran without a second thought.
Unless you live close to a waterfront or dockyard, how often in a life could one wake up to spot a ship poised majestically outside the bedroom window…Not for me, a true child of suburban living. Not a chance, I’m afraid. This afternoon, a black cargo ship with a strip of shocking pink circling its belly, and a reckless jet boat, both jostled for space on the way out to sea. How gruff and grandfather-ish appeared the stern ship dressed in its eccentric party bow and how unrepentant, the beautiful brazen boat while tossed about on the waters in its high dance of flamboyance and agility. I wish I could have gone to the party.- suzan abrams –
January 27, 2009

Last evening, I rushed to the bay window of my hotel room, like a child at Christmas. The loud trombone groan of the Catamaran called out sternly to warn off a small but brave fishing boat. How it bellowed up a roar! It could have been a case of a stubborn David with Goliath but for the naive Dar fisherman and his ancient wooden companion. Armed with its striking flourescent red light as an only weapon, the fisherman cared none for the Catamaran’s snobbish rumble and with a lone oar, beat a hasty retreat.
A passing dhow shrugged at this mad truancy.
Here the super-speed ferry was returning with the usual blustery pomp from the Zanzibar. Soon it would retire for the night anchored at the harbour, along with other rackety ferries devoid of their makeup and lost in snores and yawns. Clearly, the spanking white Catamaran was queen of the Waterfront. It would be lulled by the sounds of a soft rain as it rested amid the wind. It was dusk after all and the waters had trembled madly under the ferry’s bulky cellulite weight, in an earlier teary bid to float regally to attention.
Bold ripples made the coast look like a parade of wrinkly ladies, their skin creamed with a buttered sheen. Not that the army of birds which rested on the nearby palm trees cared as much for this vanity. Intent on a last supper, the greedy swallows black in the darkening twilight would polka-dot the brim of the ocean like the latest design of smooth slippery fabric sashaying up the Parisian catwalk.
Together they waltzed; the amorous birds dipping kisses into the shy pale sea.
In the middle of the waters, sat an old dame of a forgotten homeless barge, still panting and puffing her way to an unknown destination from three days ago. She twirled and swayed on her last rusty hinges, this way and that, almost as if she would lift first a weathered knee, then a broken toe, then a stiff ankle and so be it.
Was there a hospice at sea? She would find it!
Occassionally, the other boats would extend a courtesy call by sailing carefully around her, then dashing past afraid that she would attempt a watery hitchhike and steal their catch.
Only last night in the heavy rain, the coast wore a mist of tears, hiding its strange blue face. The storm clouds watched anxiously but decided they would gatecrash anyway.
Today, the happier emerald waters of the Indian Ocean play their carefree game of sink-n-swim. I wonder if deep in their bottom hearts, there lay still the wreckage of a treasure chest from the days of when Tanzania first sheltered its famous slave towns.

January 25, 2009

I am in East Africa today. I actually arrived here on Sunday. What can I say? Scenes spell the exactness of films. Clamour, chaos, crowds and a colourful clutter about sums it up.
My harbour-front view paints the picture of a sparkling Indian Ocean. It splashes up a rich shade of royal blue ink. I’m close to the coast and the wide windows reveal the remnant strips of a closing sunset.
Other friendly greeters stay the anchored fishing boats, steamers, ferries and the last Catamaran for the day, sailing eager passengers off to the Zanzibar.
The occasional dhow as light as a feather tails the wind. It zooms past the tall window. The Tanzanians saunter along the coast and mud-tracks, content that it’s a Sunday. I want to weep with the bitter sweet-sadness of an old forgotten nostalgia, far more beseeching than childhood.
In the night, only the magnificent shimmering lights shape an ocean in twilight. They beckon at my shadowy face. But I spy the sea anyway.
Restless in its tranquility, it shivers and shakes, its shine too beautiful to resemble a grumbling bellyache. Instead, I imagine cold wobbling jelly…majestic and decorative, styled on a tray.

end boat51