A Birthday Escape in 2009

Today is my birthday – and spur of the moment last night I decided to go to the best resort on the island – Fundu Lagoon. I had had a bit of a trying day. First a run that made me realize I don’t have the drive to train for this year’s marathon. Not here, not by myself, not in a place with no bathrooms or during a period when no one drinks water from midnight to 6:30 pm.

Then Hasina and I decided to go shopping in Chake Chake. I wore my buibui and my new long cotton dress and we went to virtually every shop, ostensibly looking for another long dress for me. At first I felt fine in my covered state, but as the sun started beating down I got hotter and hotter and the fabrics in the shops all looked insanely hot – thick poly-satin with overlays of lace and beading.

There was no way I was going to wear something that heavy. And I hadn’t brought water and didn’t want to offend anyone by buying it and drinking it. So I began to fade quickly, although I revived a bit when we walked through the farmers’ market, where I saw green vegetables for the first time in weeks and lots more fruits than I usually got to eat.

Hasina and I bought some stuff and then headed home on a daladala. The one thing that began irritating me was the way people talked about me so openly – mzungu buibui and all that – making me feel angry and conspicuous, even after all the trouble to get dressed up respectfully. I even looked up the Swahili word for “rude” to explain to Hasina how I felt about the endless open conversation about me. I wanted to take the damn thing off and dress for the climate but restrained myself for Hasina. But it really is too much. If they’re going to snark at or about me anyway, I may as well be comfortable.

But Hasina assured me when we got home that people were saying nice things – about how lovely I was to wear the buibui and was I married. Men were interested, she said. It is so different here the way the community gets together to make sure a woman has support. People don’t live alone – or in isolation. Community is everything here.

One other thing I had done while we were in Chake was to buy a cheap version of a Swiss Army knife, complete with corkscrew. I was so thrilled that I’d finally be able to have some of that red wine I had bought.

Hasina started putting things away and I opened the bottle. Corkscrew in, no problem; pulling it out, a different story. The flimsy little coil of metal broke off in the cork, leaving me sputtering and trying to use the thickest blade on the contraption to dig it out.

Finally I gave up and called Ben, who came by with a corkscrew, which he said I could keep because Camilla is in Germany and will come back with plenty. So I opened the bottle and had a glass of wine or two with dinner. The electricity had been out for most of the day but came back for a couple of hours around dinner but then went off again. Then on for 10 minutes around 8:30 pm, then off until midnight.

Makes me crazy. Maybe it’s a way of enforcing Ramadan – you get a chance to make something to eat at sunset and then again at midnight. Don’t know.

Anyway, I told Ben that it was my birthday and I hadn’t done anything. He said I thought you were going to go to Fundu. I said I was but I hadn’t gotten around to making a plan.

He gave me the manager’s number and I called him. Sure enough, said Matt, they had a room for Sunday night which they would let me have for $100 all inclusive, although transport would be another $80. Still seemed (and is) worth it.

I think this place normally goes for $500 – $800 a night. And it’s crazy beautiful here. So peaceful. I have a big tented room, my own pool and a huge lounge in a separate thatched building with a big pit of mattresses and pillows, a table with two deck chairs, fridge, lamps, lounge chairs – and then a little cabana on the beach just down a flight of steps. Facing west with the roar of the ocean and the sun setting in front of me. I had a foot massage and tomorrow I’ll have a fancy facial before heading back to real life.

Author: Beth Browde

Runner. Fiction writer. Explorer. Free range thinker. Management Consultant. And many other things.

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