Friday, February 20, 2015

Best Laid Plans

The three of us grew up in Baltimore together.  Twenty something, just out of grad school, living alone but down the block from each other.  We were covered in school debt and looking for jobs with the ever profitable NGOs.  Poor but well educated dreamers.
On Valentine’s day, we met up in Tanzania to re-kindle our love.
It was going to be a romantic night.  We dressed up in long clingy beach dresses and did our make-up channeling “sultry.”  The taxi arrived to pick us up and we lifted our long dresses into the car. 
30 minutes later, we were deeply stuck in Dar Es Salaam’s special brand of engagement breaking traffic.  The fumes swam up through our nostrils into our stomach. 

“Ugh, I’m so sick,” said Jen who was new to Tanzania.
“It’s ok,” said Val our host, “we’ll be there soon.”
30 minutes later, again, we turned onto a bumpy dirt road, weaving through tall swampy reeds, straight into a dead end.  We turned around and did the same thing in another direction.

“Does this look familiar, Val?”
“Kind of, I don’t know. [turning to the driver] Can you ask someone where the restaurant is?”
10 minutes later.
“Please sir, can you asked someone where the restaurant is?” No reply.  We call another driver we know who knows where the restaurant is and how to speak English.  We pass the phone.

We arrive at our romantic restaurant 2 hours later, but it’s ok, it’s only 9pm, and we’re sitting on the beach. 
“Let’s order a bottle of wine, some appetizers, and some delicious food. It’ll be so good.”
The waitress brings over one glass, one menu and a candle that has blown out.
“I’m sorry to be a pain but could you please bring us some more menus and place settings?”
We pick out a bottle of white sparkling wine, crisp, cold, and perfect for the occasion.
Jen hands the waitress a card saying, in Swahili, that she has a gluten allergy.  The card lists things that she cannot have, flour, soy sauce, barley… 
“So does the fish have gluten in it?  Does it have these things on the list?”
“It does have things on the list?”
“Can I have this dish without getting sick?”
“Yes I will bring for you.”
“No, I’m asking.”
“I’ll have the chicken.”

Val and I ordered Lobster Macaroni and Cheese and fish cakes for appetizers and pasta with seafood for dinner.
20 minutes later the waitress come back with the menu, “I’m sorry, this wine is not available.”  No problem, we order the red.  And would it be possible for her to bring matches for the candle?
Jen’s chicken comes out and starts to get cold. 
“Please Jen, eat it, I’m sure our appetizers will be here soon.”
The waitress comes back, “I’m sorry, this wine is not available.”  Can you just bring us what wine you have?  And matches please?  And our appetizers?

15 minutes later she brings a bottle of wine to our table, and we cheers.  To being young and in Tanzania and being on the beach.
Jen finishes her dinner and Val and I don’t have food.
“I’m sorry, ma’am, is our food coming?”

Just then a speaker we thought was a rock erupts with loud dance music and a DJ rapping into the mic “Sound check, sound check, yeah yeah yeah, sound check, sound check.” He has a button on his mixer that makes a siren noise.  “Sound check, what what, EREEEEEEEEEEEEEEEEEEEWWWWWWWWOOOO, Sound check sound check.”
“I don’t think he gets the meaning of sound check.”
“Ma’am, can you turn down the music a bit, we are screaming to hear each other.”
Our appetizers and entrees come out all at once 5 minutes later.  The appetizers are cold and hard but still pretty delicious and our pasta was overcooked but had good flavor.  Jen sat and watched us eat. 

“I’m sorry, ma’am can you turn down the music, it’s so loud and there is no one on the dance floor.”
“Sound check, what what, EREEEEEEEEEEEEEEEEEEEWWWWWWWWOOOO, Sound check sound check.”
A flashing colored light turns on facing the beach, blaring into our faces.
“I’m sorry sir, can you turn that light away from us?” we ask the manager.
“Oh sure, so sorry.”
He tilts the light a fraction of an inch to the left.
“Thanks so much.”
We start cracking up, leaning into each other.  Because so it goes.
We grab our wine and walk along the beach toasting to our love and our future loves.
We return back through the restaurant to meet our car out front.
The waitress has returned with matches to light the candle on our table.

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