When I joined Greg and Sam, they each had a beer in their hand, a proudly Tanzanian brew that was quite popular—aptly branded as ‘Kilimanjaro’. They were both laughing at something when I stepped into this familiar circle, and Sam said something like—“You’re here!” with a wide grin on his face. I remember we all stood there and chatted for a while, and then Greg gallantly offered to get us both a round of beers on him. When he left, I didn’t recall any awkward silence, but rather that our conversation just flowed naturally. And while the content escapes me now, I still vividly recall the “feeling” of being very much at ease with this guy that I barely knew. It was as though that nostalgic epiphany I had in the African wilderness had somehow re-manifested itself in this moment; because meeting Sam here again had funnily enough, felt like coming home.
As Greg rejoined us with more beers, the live music by the bar was getting louder, and we saw many people drifted towards the stage for a front row experience. As we all gravitated towards the crowd, Greg joined some other volunteers circle and Sam and I stuck around to listen to the band. Between the jostling crowds and the loud music, we still managed to keep up a conversation. When the music accelerated and got a bit too intense for my taste, I signaled to Sam that I wanted to leave, and we both made our way back out in the open again, with the African night sky as our idyllic backdrop. For those who have been to this part of Africa, I don’t think I need to elaborate on how staggeringly beautiful the sky is after dark in Africa. Whenever I visit our camp, Nyumbani, one of my favorite things to do after dinner would be to sit by the fire pit with a drink in my hand until the wood runs out. One of the staff at the camp, Moses, who also happened to be an avid astrologer, would often accompany me there, and point out the many different constellation in the sky. From the milky way, to the Orion, to the mesmerizing cluster of stars that is known as ‘the seven sisters’. Oh yes, you can’t get more classically romantic than the night skies in Africa.
(Here’s an example of the Serengeti night sky)
So, there we both were, and sitting on what I believe was just a big rock formation in the middle of the bar’s outside grounds, with Black Eyed Peas “I Got a Feeling” as our song accompaniment and the African night skies as our most romantic lighting to date. This was arguably one of the best “dates” I’ve been on, although it wasn’t planned, but it certainly felt like one towards the end of the party. And here, I am inclined to not divulge too much—because, let’s face it, I need to save some materials for my upcoming memoir (I can already hear my friend, Babieangie groaning in the background. And I am truly sorry for letting you down in terms of details, haha.).
I think it must have been around 4am in the morning when we realized how late (or how early) it was, and I didn’t see any other volunteers around. It was definitely time to leave, I thought. While we were on our way out of the bar, we bumped into my two friends at the volunteer house, Amanda and John, who were both relieved to know that we have a ride back. As the four of us got into Sam’s trusty safari jeep, and the engine revved, we all made a loud whooping sound, some of us drunk on alcohol, two of us drunk on something else. Was it a crush? A passing infatuation? Or something stronger and perhaps lasting? To be honest, my mind was already groggy, being someone who wasn’t familiar with the nightclub scene, and I soon shook off these laughable thoughts and tried to focus on getting back to the volunteer house, and then unto my flight to Athens later that afternoon. When we arrived back at the gate of the house, Amanda and John hopped off first, leaving Sam and I in the jeep to say our farewells. It was a bit odd, considering that this was just the fourth day that I’ve met him, although, granted, I was able to get a better picture of him as an individual rather than a safari guide on this particular evening. And then out of nowhere, he offered:
“Can I drive you to the airport later?”
“Yeah, ok, sure.” I heard myself say, and at the same time hoping that he wasn’t a flaker because I couldn’t miss my flight as I have many tight connections to make.
“I’ll pick you at the supermarket around the corner of the main street at 2:30.”
It only later dawned on me that he couldn’t pick me up at the volunteer house, in case word got out that a safari guide was “picking up” a volunteer. Apparently, this kind of gestures are frowned upon and can ruin one’s reputation as a safari guide. So yes, technically, Sam was partly risking his reputation for me (Thankfully, it all turned out A-OK).
As I made my way back into the volunteer house, I didn’t drift off to sleep right away. I flipped open my journal and began to write down whatever details my muddled mind could muster. It was definitely a night to remember, and I still had a whole afternoon planned with him before I have to leave the country.