I tackled #2 of my action plan with such ferocity, determination and good intention. In fact I went for it so hard that I cracked my ribs about 3 runs in, and was benched by noon at the lodge for the remainder of the day. Why I didn’t buy a half day pass is beyond me, and what’s laughable, is I was actually exhausted by the end of the first run. Muscle memory would require a few more trips before I could pull a full dayer, but Muscle Memory wasn’t the only thing that left me abandoned on those slopes that day. So did the illusion that falling at 42 was going to be the same as falling in my 20’s. This was hands down the worst injury I have ever had in my life, and I have done some stupid shit in this crazy life of mine. I’ve jumped off ski lifts into powder filled cliffs, gone back country riding, heli-boarding…you name it, I was balls to the wall.
Part of my determination around tackling this list too was that I now had readers holding me accountable…so I blame you too. *If you feel an ounce sorry I’m accepting Wine Subscriptions and Cheese.
So lets go back to the day of doom where my ego was murdered and smeared on the side of a Green Run Sunshine Village. I was fresh off the lift, I had just adjusted my boots and bindings as I was starting to get a good feel for my new equipment. My group had gone ahead a bit as I had a few more tweaks to make just as they had pushed off. I was in a tuck just prior to my epic bail and as my knees extended upwards I caught an edge that had planted me with such a force comparable to what felt like a freight train hitting a mouse… I was the mouse…flat and gasping for any kind of breath I could take. My diaphragm had begun to involuntarily take control of my lungs, forcing these horrific heaving sounds, as if Emily Rose’s Demons were exiting my body. As I got onto all fours still heaving, I could see someone coming down the run towards me on a board. For someone near death this typically would be a beacon of light!
You want to know what happened next?
Instead of hailing down the approaching beacon of light, I held what little breath I had in me out of embarrassment. I was just too humiliated that I had fallen so badly that I was now injured. I felt as if I could mind of matter the reality of the situation and trick my body out of what had already occurred. I’m sure this was the concussion and adrenaline talking. So despite needing some medical attention, my stubborn ass thought perhaps I could get down on my own once I could figure out this breathing thing. Never mind that it felt like my breasts had been torn off on the icy tracks about 8 meters back, and quite frankly had decided they could stay there.
I must have sat there for a good half hour, just trying to regulate and assess where my body’s capacity for movement was at. Most definitely I was in shock, that’s for sure, because I was able to ride my board to the bottom of the longest run in life. I managed to unclip and carry my board to the nearest bar The Mad Trappers Saloon where I couldn’t wait to check and see if I still had boobies still. My group was there wondering what had happened and where I had gone. I filled them in, and I ate, drank, 1,2,3,4,5 beers, until I figured I could head back up the mountain with some delusional hope. I mean I had a full days pass, that was expensive. By Beer #5, things were not improving, and neither was my buzz. You’d think by then I’d figure out that indeed, I was very badly hurt, but I’m stubborn and to be honest I had been immune to injury up until this point in my middle aged life. To be honest the reason I decided to leave the lodge was that my phone was running out of juice and I knew I’d have to drive home still, which was a 2 hour drive from the mountain. Time was of the essence as my body continued to swell and ache by the hour.
Fast forward to when I get home where I am greeted by my family who intuitively knew I was hurt. I thought I had been uncharacteristically void of my typical dramatics. Perhaps that was the “Tell” that gave it away, as I had no energy left to be remotely extra about the pain I was in. The stiffness and swelling had really sunk in after the long and uncomfortable journey home. I had told the RCMP officer all about it who had let me out of a ticket as I had been pulled over for erratic driving. You see I explained to him I was just old and trying to re-live my 20’s on a snowboard, which he appropriately let me off after he asked about the conditions and whether or not I had fun.(Only in Canada Eh!)
Once home, I crawled up the stairs, took some Tylenol and advised my boyfriend I was “all good, probably just bruised some giblets.” That night was the worst I’ve ever experienced as gravity presented itself as if Fat Bastard himself had decided to take a seat on my chest and kick up his feet for the night. By morning my boyfriend was shuttling me to emergency, where I conceded finally to the fact that indeed I was badly injured. No Beer, Nor Denial, Nor Tylenol would be able to persuade me otherwise any further.
Sure enough we got in fairly quickly, X-Rays done, and advised that they saw no breaks but couldn’t tell if there were fractures either, not that it matters because did you know there is nothing they can actually do anyways. I pretty much had known this as I had google diagnosed myself at 4 am when I was looking to see if broken ribs could be fatal. Broke Ribs no, but apparently collapsed/punctured lungs yes. Hmmm good to know for next time I fall. I was sent home to rest, take Ibuprofen, and make sure I try to take big breaths to prevent from getting pneumonia in my lungs from the limited air I could take in. They didn’t even give me any good pain pills- just a swift kick out the exit doors. That was the only thing I was actually looking forward too. It was like going to a birthday party with no goodie bags. So I’ve been Tripling down Advil every 4-6 hours since last week.
Here I am 10 days later, and I am struggling by the end of the day. Walking around seems okay until one needs to push a grocery cart, drive, roll out of bed, roll into bed, reach over to wipe your ass. At least I can take full breaths now. I will never take breathing with full lung capacity for granted again, god as my witness. Last week in my ignorance I had said I’d be back on the slopes in a couple weeks but I’m definitely going to be another 3-4 weeks.
So hopefully you all will accept my minor set back as I continue to try tackling the other things on my winter action plan. I hope to get writing too again some exciting new Talez as I heal up and avoid any major risky activities. And while I feel annoyed by the discomfort and how this injury is impeding on my agenda to grab life by its lady balls, I can appreciate how my body has come through this and protected me yet again.
I will leave you all with this quote I came across that is so very true.
“Old age is meant to slow us down just before the final destination; otherwise reaching the stop would be too abrupt.” – On Old Age”
Las Vegas for those that are visiting can deliver a multitude of impressions depending on the person, age, financial status and moral compass they live by. You have your Las Vegas Show Bunnies in their sensible Naturalizer sandals who flock to see Celine Dion, Chris Angel and the Chippendales. You have your conference attendees who peruse the halls at the MGM in their lanyards juggling their plastic swag bags and their atrociously obnoxious neon Margaritaville glasses. Half Sugar half bottom shelf vodka. Then you have your bachelorette/bachelor crews where at any given point someone is barfing, someone is crying, and someone is having public sex. There are so many types of visitors worth mentioning which is why Las Vegas hands down can be the most fascinating place in the world to people watch in. Perhaps this is why I have always found it such a seductive city to the senses, whereby mine are on high alert from dusk til’ dawn.
I’m happy to be alive in order to share my Vegas Talez as my moral compass has often been left at the airport gate once I’ve landed at McCarran International Airport. I’ve been a frequent traveler to Las Vegas since 2011 where I was one of those bachelorettes, minus the penis straws and feather boa’s. My girlfriends are far more refined when it comes to protecting the image we aim to uphold, until the tequila and dirty martini’s begin to flow like the Nile.
In 2011 I went to Las Vegas with $500 bucks in hand, sporting my newly installed feather extensions. I had packed 3 new Victoria Secret Swimsuits, an assortment of bandage dresses, and enough blinged out costume jewelry that would make Joan Rivers proud. My maid of honor at that time was a well seasoned Vegas Pro and had set us up in a beautiful Suite at the VDARA, and had us lined up for all the best pool day parties. I remember pulling up to the VDARA with its dramatic design by world renown architect Rafael Viñoly. The opulence of the Lobby included a splendorous array of fine art by Frank Stella at the Front Desk to the specifically commissioned work by Peter Wegner in the Concierge Living Room. Every element existing in unison to create a sensation of peaceful serenity making the stench of harsh heat on dirty Vegas pavement a distant memory. I won’t bore you with the details of my Las Vegas maiden voyage as those details will go with me to the grave. I’ve been sworn to secrecy to protect the identity of the attendees, strippers, as well as the men and women’s hearts that were broken that weekend. It’s safe to say that my first trip to Las Vegas as a bachelorette would be the beginning of my love/hate affair with this the Vegas day & night life.
Fast forward 9 years later, and while my gross yearly income has not changed significantly I cannot imagine surviving in Vegas on $500.00 spending money. My affluent tastes have since surpassed that measly stipend and I blame the enablers who have brought me to this point of no return. To all intents and purposes, I actually owe a great deal of gratitude the people, friends and family along the way that opened my world to these luxurious escapades I would have not otherwise had the pleasure of experiencing. I would go on to experience the beautiful resort properties of the Wynn, Encore, Aria, Bellagio,Cosmopolitan and my favorite The Palms Place. I could go on about what I love about each property but will save for another time as they all deserve to be highlighted in various ways.
Back to the Party!
You see in the early years of my Vegas trips, I quickly learned what type of Vegas visitor I was. I was aroused by the scintillating synthesis of the senses that the Las Vegas Party Scene created. The immersion of architectural/ interior design, bewitchingly sexy bodies and Tantric base of the music can be as powerful as a snake charmer drawing you into a web of indeterminate adventure.
I favorably smile upon the time a group of us had a front and center table at Drais Nightclub during the infamous Las Vegas AVN Adult Entertainment Expo held there yearly where we were flanked on each side by the porn industries finest. As the night progressed, the bodies became more and more entangled, woven together, and bound by the rich smell of the leather seats, sticky with champagne and mixed juices. I’d fall back into it, feeling the warmth pulsate through my body admiring the kinetic light show that made it all feel like a dream. In fact it was a dream come true as my senses fluctuated between the touch of a hand, a kiss from glorious engorged lips to the disarming aroma of vanilla and rose oils. Calvin Harris’ music would move my body with no inhibitions and find the beat at every moment, shifting with the audio-visual ques of the screens around me. Tall handsome security men, dressed in fitted black dress shirts and tailored to fit pants would open the red ropes for me, offering a muscular helping arm as I wobbled unstably in my platform heels. They would dote, smile and ensure my safety at all times keeping the undesirables away while facilitating the desirable’s entry towards me. The heat from the crowd would wet the baby hairs along my hairline, creating a crystal glimmer on all of our skin, capturing the lights. My dream wouldn’t end here though.
The Cabana’s at XS Nightclub would prove to be another formidable experience to add to my mounting repertoire of rapture. I had been to XS many times and experienced their bottle services, having seen some of the best DJ’s in the world there perform. Ironically I remember being front and center on the dance floor for RL Grime, and there beside me stood the late Avicii, completely blended into the crowd. We looked at one another seemingly in the same state of euphoria that bonded us in the moment requiring no verbal communication. We had established that we were both there for the musical intoxicating rush, and neither of us would ruin that for the other by exposing his presence among us common folk.
But alas, I had no time for the common folk when I entered the beautiful and luxurious realm of the XS Cabana’s. The warm red hue’s of the private bungalows offset by the glow of the surrounding turquoise lit pool was the perfect backdrop to take in the Chainsmokers who were performing that night. My feet swollen and sore from dancing the previous 3 nights away welcomed the lavish cushioned sofas and ottomans that prove to be my most welcomed ally for the night. They propelled me higher into the Las Vegas night sky where I could watch from my elevated perch the magical circus below. I’d dance all night in the comfort of our very own Moroccan themed palace, until both magnums of Belvedere were gone. What a Glorious Hot Mess I was leaving the Wynn Resort that night.
There were many more of these incredibly unique only to Las Vegas experiences, however I must mention my favorite type of Las Vegas parties, which is the Day Pool Parties. Whether it be Wet Republic, Encore Beach Club or Drais, they all offer an incredible way to avoid having to wear heels and minimal attire to flaunt your best assets. Again the Cabana’s are wonderful to retreat to out of the hot sun or if you are requiring an intermittent disco nap. However, getting a day bed in the center of the mix is the best way to go in my opinion. You can take advantage of all the bottle service and menu perks while staying relevant in the sea of sexy wet bodies. People GO HARD in the daytime in Las Vegas, and if you are able to resist the magnetic energy flowing than I’m going to assume you have no heartbeat. One can’t help but grin with a childish glee when the base line drops and alcohol tainted chlorine water begins to splash about like a manic tidal wave breaking free from its intended form. When you look around, everyone has the same foolish grin, ignoring the fact that any other time they’d typically be guarding their mouths and open drinks from potential contamination. Its in that moment you say:
Who fucking cares, flap your wings and get your eagle on girl, mascara can be fixed!
Such carefree elation like this comes at a cost however both in the traditional, emotional and physical sense. It typically hits me as I approach my airport gate, where I search for a corner on the floor to rest my weary head until my flight is called to leave. The come down from a sensory high like this can be harsh and cruel as many of us return to mingle among the common folk where we appropriately belong. Boarding the plane with imaginary mangled crown sliding off my head by the minute I’m usually seated in the middle between the conference go-er and the Show bunny. Neither appear to be impressed by the sweet lingering smell of vodka and sin emanating from my pores. The remainder of the flight I will fall into a coma sleep, head bobbing and drooling pathetically. I’ll recover, and the discomfort I’m in will fade away, lusting for another Las Vegas affair.
Settling into a small African village in the middle of rural Tanzania was not as difficult as I had anticipated. Perhaps it was my experience growing up as an only child, that I was able to easily entertain myself through various means of daydreaming of soap opera type scenarios in my mind of what I imagine my life was like in an alternate universe. I always had a way of finding excitement in the forbidden, and would later in my adult years fully bring that concept to fruition.
But back in Africa there I was a young adolescent girl in a place where all eyes were on me. Not because I was particularly cute or worthy of any attention, in fact I was at the peak ugly stage with my new little cone boobs stuffed in an ill fitting training bra and face full of acne. I was the only white teenage girl in our village, and probably the first that many children and adults had seen. My skin, hair, clothing and activities were a source of fascination among the towns people. I only apologize that this was the first impression they got, because I assure you I die every time I see old pics of myself. Teens today will never understand life without filters and not knowing how at one time we didn’t wear make up that contoured and covered up the misery of awkward adolescence. This type of attention I can assure you is remarkably uncomfortable and definitely the first time I had experienced in my life being “the other.” However, I think it also played a major role in feeling comfortable and confident later in life and navigating the unfamiliar and adapting to my surroundings easily.
I had begun to explore and move more comfortably in my new community of Mgololo. There was a club house nearby where members could access an outdoor pool. It was rarely used by the local members as swimming wasn’t an activity that was actually common for the local kids and adults. So I would go naively in the hopes of meeting friends, but often would end up more like a circus act of one. The children would line up along the fence and people would collect and watch from the stands. It didn’t help that these were the years where Body Glove Swimsuits were in and there I was with an electric yellow neoprene suit looking like sponge bob flapping about in her very own Bikini Bottom Village of one.
Like I mentioned before I had the tendency to escape into alternative universes of reality. When I was at the pool I’d spiral into my make believe worlds, and this was like any other daydream where I became an Olympic Synchronized Swimmer- without the team obviously. I had no idea what I was doing as I had no experience in Synchronized Swimming nor had the athleticism to hold myself in any kind of position that would even remotely look like something graceful and coordinated. But I’d dance away, flailing my arms about, doing handstands, then darting out of the water with one arm shooting up to the sky. A few times I’d come up coughing and choking from taking in too much water in my aggressive attempts at more dangerous and intermediate moves. I’m absolutely sure I looked completely insane. My plan to draw in friends and meet people was completely annihilated by my weird ass resulting in defeat and loneliness. I skulked all the way home that day, retreating back to my bedroom and slamming the door in defeat. My only solace was eaves dropping on our gardener Felix who I had already begun to spin a forbidden romance with in my mind as I watched creepily through the curtains.
The next day was a new day and I had been in the bathroom for about 4 hours learning how to cornrow my own hair so that maybe I’d fit in more. I’d later find out that our hired house assistant Katherine could do it in the matter of an hour. I would also like to share that as Boujie as having a gardener and house assistant sounds, I assure you it was not and just a means to employ some of the folks. Our house was not even large enough to need any help with either, so often we’d all just hang out in the yard. I heard a knock at the bathroom door and opened it slightly as to not reveal the hideous attempt of cornrows on my head. Katherine was at the door giggling and told me I had some visitors. I thought she must be mistaken, unless word of my incredible Syncho Skills made it to the Olympic committee. She stated that there was a young girl my age named Miriam Mbelo at the door with her chaperone Charles Mbelo- whom I’d learn later was her older brother and worked at the same Mill as my father as a junior supervisor.
I quickly ripped out my braids, leaving my hair all crazy and kinked and approached the door. Miriam was tall, slender and had beautiful dark ebony skin with short hair. She was wearing a traditional African print handmade dress, and looked so mature and regal for her age. Miriam introduced herself and I was so pleased to find out she was my age and had invited me to come to her home the next day. Her older brother Charles quickly moved in front of her, introducing himself likewise. Charles was very formal in his introduction and advised that he would be coming to collect me the next day to escort myself to their home. I advised that I could find my way just fine as it was only around the bend, however he insisted I be escorted. Not wanting to ruin my chances at making a new friend I agreed riddled with anxiety about what on earth did I just experience. First who the hell were these people, how did they find me, and what is a chaperone and why did I need an escort? Katherine was no help and was snickering in the background the entire time because she already knew what was on the horizon.
Later that day my father had come home for lunch. It was customary in Tanzania for the big meal of the day to be eaten at lunch time. We’d all sit around the table and eat the equivalent of a meal that could be more suited for dinner. It was also an opportunity to acquaint Felix and Katherine to some of the North American delicacies we’d have shipped to us. Kraft Dinner was a popular one that we could all agree tasted better with hot dogs and hot sauce. At lunch that day, Katherine sat there staring up from under her shy disposition giving me the “eye” and signaling that I should probably share that I had visitors today and subsequently agreed to be “escorted” to an adolescent play date.
I casually blurted out to my father that I had met a friend named Miriam Mbelo and would be going to her house the next day.
My dad looked up and began roaring with laughter- was he drunk? Did I miss something? Being drunk at lunchtime in Africa was not a far fetched concept for either of my parents during this period so it was possible.
My dad began to sputter through the laughter and mouth full of food that our dear friend “Charles” had arrived at his office earlier that morning introducing himself and sharing a lengthy resume of accomplishments with my dad. My father stated he was really confused because he had not known or spoke to him before but had only heard that people called him “Prince Charles.” He had been left wondering what had he done to be blessed with the presence of such a royal visitor, the Prince himself. His reputation of having quite the inflated ego and sense of self importance among his colleagues was how we all became familiar with how he got the name “Prince Charles,” and was forever only addressed by this name forever after. My father provided a bit more background with regards to how the Mbelo’s were higher on the status pole within the village and could only guess where this was heading. I’m pretty sure they 100% knew where this was going but at my expense wanted it to play out for their own entertainment. My family can be cruel, especially if it means there will be laughter and humiliation involved.
So the next day, Prince Charles arrived promptly in another freshly pressed ill fitting suit that I imagine had been his fathers at one point, or still was his fathers. The pants were too short and displayed his long thin dusty ankles, which made his Sunday Church shoes look surprisingly newer in comparison. Clearly, his freshly moisturized legs had no chance against the dusty red clay roads that he marched fervently through to get to my house around the bend. I can only imagine the spectacle that this journey created in the little village, because by the time he arrived at my house there was a group of children trailing behind him with curiosity. The last time someone was dressed like this was when Mama Fifi, who owned the brothel by the mill, got married.
There was no turning back at this point for any of us as the ground work had been laid and the wheels were in motion little to my knowledge. Katherine promptly opened the door and invited Prince Charles in who sat poised like a regal Lion looking down from his perch above the Serengetti Plain…. except his perch was on our little wooden couch. I came out in my over-sized Spike Lee T-shirt, ripped jeans and threw on my flip flops completely oblivious to what was occurring. When Miriam was not there I just assumed she stayed in from the African heat. I scooped my Nintendo System, and some of my plastic friendship bracelet wire so that there would be no room for awkward silence between Miriam and I. I was not familiar with what African girls that were my age did and was more than willing to share a bit of what us Canadian girls did. So I headed towards the door uncomfortable with the formal presence that was sitting in my living room, and headed out the door without Prince Charles. I mean what was he waiting for, I didn’t need an escort to begin with?
There I was walking ahead at a brisk pace, village children trailing, and Prince Charles bringing up the rear. He asked if he could oblige by carrying my game system which I said “I’m cool, I got it.” Like what does a 13 year old girl talk to a twenty something year old man about? These were before the days of social media and internet whereby girls were not fascinated at all by grown men unless they were a lead singer of an 80’s hair band in spandex. The only boundries that were crossed at that time was maybe that one time my mom caught me tonguing the shit out of my Ralph Machio poster. Again, humiliation at my expense.
Thankfully the walk took less than 10 minutes as I had not developed the gift of small talk at that age yet. Prince Charles had gotten my age, grade, and that I was only child out of me before we landed at our destination- The Mbelo House. Miriam came out to greet me very formally again and was brought into the modestly decorated home that had a lot of the same furniture we had in ours. When the mill was built, many of the houses must have all been furnished the same in order to settle a mass amount of Expats and Tanzanians into a small remote village to run a fairly massive pulp and paper project. Miriam was impeccably dressed again and I wondered if she was always going to be this proper as I was not equipped to match her class and polite disposition. Lets face it, I was swearing like a trucker by the age of 5 and I was eager to see what damage my influence could do. Prince Charles who was in my peripheral was not helping either with my master plan. I wanted to talk about boys; boys private parts, anything and everything to do with boys. I needed to know if she had gotten to 3rd base because I wanted to share that 2 months before I got felt up over the shirt, and needed to address the other burning preliminary questions that would help us be BFF’s for life! I wanted to know did she love Bon Jovi as much as I did and if she thought Axel Rose stuffed a sock in his white jeans or was that really his ding dong? Prince Charles needed to make an exit, and wasn’t going anywhere as we sat there in silence.
After what seemed like an hour of staring, I asked Miriam if she wanted to go cruise the red clay streets of Mgololo. Surely this girl knew this was code for lets go find some boys to flirt with. I would never find out though because Prince Charles insisted he “escort” us about the town. The term cock blocking had not yet been introduced to my vocabulary at that time but without a doubt this was my fist experience of the cock who cock blocked. There we were, two teen girls who couldn’t look anymore different cruising the red clay African streets, village children in tow, and Charles bringing up the rear watching over his flock. Thankfully the walk provided us enough space to get in some more comfortable small chat in and make plans to hang out again. Miriam and I would spend a few more times hanging out, going for walks and watching movies. I even managed to get her in on eves dropping on Felix from behind my bedroom curtain. However, my plot to pollute her christian mind was never actualized and perhaps she remained a better person and wife for it.
However the story of Miriam and I’s friendship did not end there. It seems Prince Charles had his own agenda, similar to the fairy tales I was known to dream up in my head.This moment is exactly where my parents were anticipating on landing in terms of their own selfish desire for cruel humor at the expense of their equally devilish daughter. It was a Sunday afternoon and we were sitting on the pack patio pressing the passion fruits to make juice for the homemade Popsicles. From a distance we heard singing, similar to the choir that could be heard at the church. In fact it was the church choir singing Immaculate Mary, Thy Praises we sing….growing closer and closer. Wouldn’t you know, there was the choir coming up the path to our house, village children in tow, Miriam Mbelo, Mr & Mrs Mbelo and at the rear Prince Charles. The other Expats who lived around us came outside to check out the spectacle. My dad pulled his head out the hood of our Jeep, opening a fresh bottle of Tusker Beer and taking a long swig of it. It was in that moment he knew it was the moment that he had been waiting for. The moment in which decades of tearful laughter could be had at the expense of his daughter. He took another long swig and finished the freshly opened bottle, placing it on the hood of the jeep and making his way over to his pride and joy, his daughter, who was about to be proposed to by Prince Charles.
It seems that once Prince Charles had spent enough time observing the potential of Miriam’s new friend that it would be only right to approach this said friends father with a marriage proposal and Dowry offering of 50 Goats. It seems it would have been higher had I not ended up disclosing to Miriam that I had been felt up over the shirt which brought my worth down substantially.
Oh the Betrayal!
Firstly, Miriam never intended on being my BFF. I felt so used!
Secondly, Prince Charles used Miriam as an informant to plot and assess what I was worth in goats.
Thirdly, Prince Charles wasn’t escorting us anywhere, he was protecting his investment and took the concept of cock blocking to a whole new low.
And while the subject of child brides are nothing to be laughed or joked about, leading me to believe that I was about to be sold for 50 goats apparently was. I kid you not, my parents sat for approximately 2 1/2 hours with this man and his family, playing along poker faced until they could no longer hold it in any further. Even the church choir and village children had begun to disperse as the negotiations fell apart and no compromise could be settled upon . There would be no royal wedding in Mgololo after all. Prince Charles left with his ego dangling limply between his legs and offended that his seemingly gracious offer had been refused. His dreams of making babies with this girl were now assembled in a small pile of ashes, soiling his Sunday shoes.
My dad would often joke that had he been able to get at least 100 goat that perhaps his investment in my education would have paid itself off eventually. Years later I would remind the boyfriends I had along the way that dumped me that there was a Prince in Tanzania that offered to pay my parents in goats in exchange for my good lovin’. They were not impressed and I remained heartbroken and alone time after time. My hat goes off the the women of the world whereby this practice continues as it was by far the most insane experience I had while living in that little village. And if you are ever curious about your own worth in goat there are actually quizzes you can take online in case you hate your children like mine did and want to get into goat farming.
When I was twelve years old I learned that my family was going to be moving from the little town of Campbell River “Salmon Capital of the World” on Vancouver Island to an isolated village in central Tanzania called Mgololo. My father who had worked in the pulp and paper industry had gotten a job at the Mufindi Pulp and Paper Mill.
My mother, who had spent the entirety of the 1960’s working as a nurse in Malawi and travelling Africa on her own, was also well accustomed and eager to support my father in this new chapter. However you can imagine as a pre-teen who had spent most of her life in a majority white hockey town that moving to Tanzania was terrifying not to mention kiboshed my plans to marry the captain of the local hockey team. My dreams of cruising the Ironwood mall in his sweet ass Letterman jacket was totally ruined by my selfish parents who had the nerve to move me across the world. The only hope of staying in touch with friends was by writing now seemingly archaic letters and tossing them in those specialized airmail envelopes via snail mail.
Riddled with teenage angst and bitterness my pleas went unheard and I found myself on a plane from Vancouver all the way to Dar es Salaam- the capital of Tanzania. When I touched down I had my first taste of a real third world. Prior to this, I had traveled to Mexico and Jamaica and thought I had seen poor countries before. Aside from those places, the only exposure I had to Africa poor was from my moms old photo albums of her early years. And lets not forget the terrible World Vision commercials with children covered in flies and swollen bellies standing naked in the dust.
Contrary to those commercials that is not what I actually encountered when landing in a real third world country like Tanzania in the late 80’s and early 90’s. Keep in mind during this time there were significant economic, health, and political issues rattling the continent of Africa with complicated social and political unrest.
At this time, HIV infection, AIDS and other sexually transmitted diseases would become a major disaster with far reaching repercussions. The HIV infection rate at that time was between 5 and 15% in urban areas and from l to 15% in rural areas but that in Bukoba town the rate was about 30% among adults. Country-wide some 800,000 people had HIV infection and the adult mortality rate tripled.(Wangwe 1997, Booth 2003).
Access to education in the rural regions had begun to expand with illiteracy falling rapidly from 63% in 1970 to 35% in 1991. The gender gap in education had also narrowed with primary school enrolment rates for girls now being more or less the same as for boys.
(Wangwe 1997, Booth 2003).
What my little pea head brain managed to observe upon arrival was the impact of the inappropriate aid programs and inadequate aid co-ordination ran by a corrupt government that left its citizens poor but resilient. Shipping containers filled with free aid and supplies would be seized and sold to its countries own citizens. It angered me and changed my views about NGO’s from then on.
I remember saying to myself “Where did all the Unicef money go from all the Halloween’s where I loyally toted that little box next to my candy bag?
I can still here the sound of loose change bouncing around as I eagerly ran from house to house. And I could see no evidence of how my coins had helped.
While I processed my own disappointment, it didn’t take long for me to feel better because everyone was smiling. It’s like they didn’t even know they had gotten totally gipped?
We drove through the crowded chaotic streets, avoiding gigantic potholes, and coming across strips of half paved roads where it was evident that they had ran out of concrete or it had gotten stolen or resold. The smells of raw sewage, street markets filled with dried fish and exotic spices filled the air, drenching my clothes with a thick layer of “welcome to Africa.” The scent of my Exclamation perfume I had gotten for Christmas was no more and really no match for the pungent smells that awaited around the corner that I ended up growing to love.
After some time in Africa, my nose evolved as I began to identify the hypnotic scents of the varying wood that would be soaking and carved often in the streets. The essence of Ebony, Acacia, and Baobab wood replaced the familiar aromas of Cedar and Hemlock trees I had grew up around. I often place my face against the Masai carvings up until this day that we had collected and can be instantly transported back in time by its smell.
Having given my parents a pretty hard time for a solid 3 months prior to moving, they had made some efforts to acclimatize me to Africa upon my arrival. They took me to Bahari Beach, an African “resort” along the Eastern coast of the Indian Ocean. You can imagine my confusion when it was not the kind of resort I had been taken to before like when they took me to Disneyland a couple years prior. The only characters that met me along the way to the bathroom was the humongous Baboon Spider that had spun their webs between the stone columns. The entertainment that night included 12 ft long Python whereby they would continually drag the beast by its tail as to ensure it didn’t slither too close to us. Every now and again they would play around and put the Pythons head in their mouth to awe the audience with danger.
Let me just make it abundantly clear, I am terrified of snakes, and will become immobile from fear at the site of a snake on television. Sure enough, the entertainers smelled my fear or maybe it was my Exclamation perfume still hanging on for dear life- but they decided I would be the perfect “assistant” in the show. Sure enough they handed me the tip of the snakes tail and in .5 seconds I vomited all over the first 5 feet of the snake. It was from that point on that my parents prepared themselves for an additional 3 months of acute jaw clenching attitude coming their way.
With Bahari Beach in the distance we embarked on the two day drive across rural Tanzania on our way to Mgololo. There was so much to absorb along the way from the over crowded buses with families sitting on the roofs passing us equipped with musical horns that greeted us, to dodging cattle on the roads. Sometimes Baboons would jump on our windshield and try to mate with their own reflections and I was introduced to the male baboon reproductive anatomy on a more intimate level than I had wished. There is nothing more humiliating than having an enormous red willy ejaculating 2 feet away from you on the other side of the window while you sit next to your father. Every now and again my mom would break the tension with, “You can’t get much more exciting than this.” Had I not been 12 and a spoiled brat I would have agreed with her, and 42 year old me owes her an apology because she was absolutely right.
I was literally living in a national geographic magazine like the ones my mom used to collect and store in the pantry where she kept all her canning. They had created a life experience for me unlike any other kids life from Campbell River. In addition, nothing would bring me more pleasure than making my parents uncomfortable now with Baboon porn.
We drove by groups of Masai Warriors carrying spears and drinking goats blood to stay hydrated for their long journeys herding their cattle to areas of the country where grass would grow and they could hunt. I had not seen skin color like this before but now understood why I was always so drawn to the colors in my crayon box named Sepia and Burnt Sienna, because they were even more beautiful in real life under the African sun.
We stayed overnight at Mikumi Lodge, a wildlife reserve in Mikumi National Park. Entering the park we were flagged down to be advised that there was a “rogue” elephant in the area and to be aware. I remember thinking to myself how fast my father would be able to drive in reverse if we came across this rogue elephant. We later had found out that a couple days prior, a Japanese tourist had climbed down the escarpment to get a closer picture of the elephant. The escarpment acted as a kind of protection between the lodge and the African plains below that housed some of the most majestic yet deadly wildlife in the world. The eager tourist had approached the elephant who was getting some shade under a near by Acacia tree and did as a disturbed rogue elephant would do in the case he felt threatened, which was impaled the tourist with his tusk, shaking and dragging him about then tossed his dead mangled body into the Acacia tree he had used for shade. The elephant allegedly did not leave the area for quite some time where this Japanese tourists body just hung in the branches like a warning “don’t fuck with me.” I can assure you no part of me was even in the slightest curious about heading down that escarpment. I was quite content in my Kikaboga Suite where we were told proudly by the bus boy that the suite was where the President of Tanzania would stay when he came through, and where Queen Elizabeth stayed once. Now it was where I stayed safely with all my body parts attached exactly where they needed to be.
It was the rainy season during this time and the grass was high making it difficult to view the wildlife as we exited the park. We would return many times after that though and encounter elephant herds with small babies; and see zebras and giraffe. We were lucky to see a leopard hunting for impala on another trip, and of course the Baboons who were were always willing to whore it up on our wind shield.
We continued our lengthy treck to Mgololo, where I began to digest the reality of my new life surrounded by such an unfamiliar world in which the landscape would change around every bend. It was so surreal that I often felt like I was outside my body and looking down at this young girl immersed in a movie with no title yet. As we approached the tiny little village that stood on a hill housing a dozen expats, along with the mill managers and directors, the heirarchy was evident as the huts sat below in the grasslands. Our home was a tiny concrete house with a tin roof, and cool stone flooring. We had a papaya tree that was abundant with fruit in the front yard with a vegetable garden in the back that grew in the red clay dirt. My new home was a far fall from what I had moved from and lacked most of the amenities that I had been accustomed to while growing up in the western world. The shipping container that had traveled across 2 different oceans had not arrived and delivery was going to be standard African time.
I’m pretty sure I cried myself to sleep that night. It would take awhile for my 12 year old self to attain some maturity before I could recognize the gift that my parents had handed me. But so began the start of my life in Africa, and would not disappoint in terms of shaping much of who I am today.
I hope to continue engaging you all as I pluck away at the years and memories of my time in Tanzania and look forward to taking you on a literary tour of my experiences. Click Here to Read More.