Day 327: Banking on Drone Footage
Working closely with management, I did my best to create the video they wanted. Video: Isaac Stone Simonelli
Daily Updates are not edited and function more as daily journal entries – so if the plot seems to be all over the place or missing entirely and the tenses changes faster than a kaleidoscope, well, that's just the way it is.
I CAST the die to see if I should ask about staying another night in Paje at Teddy's New Place or if I should go home, as planned. I say home, but I mean The House of Giggles. The dadas – sisters – especially Heather insist on calling the permaculture commune “home”. I'm a sucker for focused word usage, so I am more than happy to comply. In the same way, the mat we layout on the ground is always referred to as “the tale”. One of the dadas will call out from the kitchen: will someone set the table? All the mean is will someone spread out the mat and flap off any dust that had settled on it during the day.
(Words are important. It was a total battle at the Phuket Gazette when I was managing editor to change the office culture to using the phrase “secondary story” instead of “filler”. Even if they are the same story being run as a sidebar or next to an advertisement at the bottom of the page, the mentality toward these stories needed to change. And, that change started with how we talked about them.)
The black die I just rolled shows a two – the ethereal white die I've been rolling for most of the trip has yet to find its way out of the bush after joining the coral rag on a shit hunting mission.
I'm headed home.
I relax. It was a total throw up between the two options. I'd been on the digital grind in Paje for the last four days, chilling at the Teddy's New Place bar, next door to Teddy's Original Place – this is what happens when business partners have a falling out.
Four off-record days in the little tourist village of Paje instead of saving every penny in Kizimkazi begs the question: What the fuck did the dice do this time? Cause we know I don't have any money, even if Ms. Meat did me a solid and threw out a safety line.
The dice aren't to blame this time around, as the options didn't settle within the 40-60 I-don't-give-a-fuck range. Mustafa had wrangled up a little work for us at Teddy's New Place. The German manager, Leonie, was keen for a drone driven promotional video. Originally, I hesitated. I didn't need free staff meals and a place to sleep, as I had that where I was at The House of Giggles. However, when the deal was sweetened with 100 dollars cash for each of us, I packed my bag and cleared my long weekend with Heather and Megan.
It was an intense four days of shooting and packing in as much online work as possible since I had a stable internet connection and electricity. In addition to Dice Travels work, I managed to get two 12-min videos uploaded for Top Journey, which was to put about another 300 dollars in my bank account.
Mustafa left this morning to run some errands and catch the night ferry to Dar es Salaam. We were good jam this time around. It was healthy for me to have so much work to focus on. Even now, sitting at the bar, I smile remembering the day I arrived
I'd walked into the sand-floored dorm room and unpacked my sleeping bag stuff sack, which is my new day pack.
“Dude, do you know what's sad?” Mustafa asks.
“Dead babies,” I reply without missing a beat. Do I know what's sad? Who the hell can't sit down for days coming up with a list of what's sad.
“Bro, I missed you. What's sad is that the model I was telling you about for the video has a boyfriend.”
Oh, Mustafa always chasing women in hopes of finding the moment to ask for a kiss.
“Stay awesome,” Mustafa said, giving me a bro hug before hitting the road today.
“You too buddy. Good luck with the passport.”
What I didn't tell Mustafa was that I'd received an email from the owner of Firefly this morning about the gig for another one of her lodges.
It sounds fucking cold, but I didn't need him for these shoots. I liked working with him and I think the product was improved by us bouncing around ideas, but his contribution wasn't essential. The drone footage was essential, but the close-ups with the iPhone I could work without. This time around, even after reviewing all his footage, I ended up using 95 percent drone footage in the final edit. Of course, if I did the shooting and he did the editing, rather than both of us creating our own edits, that would be a different story.
It would also be a different story if we were traveling together. There's not a chance I'd consider cutting him out of a gig if we were working and traveling together. But he's flying to Zimbabwe in three days, assuming his passport arrives. I'm not about to completely mess up all my travel plans in order to split a gig with him. If I couldn't do the gig without him, that might be a different story. He'd even bounced the idea of us shooting the place separately and then sharing files online – which is a miserable idea with internet speeds in this part of the world. I kept telling him that we simply didn't have enough time to do it right, which is essential to me. While he's looking at all of this as a way to stretch his funds, I see this as a business base that I want to return to in six months. An idea Leonie, who was very pleased with my professionalism, was very much in support of.
Mustafa ignored my shake offs. If we managed to get the gig for 1,000 dollars, then I'd have dropped what I was doing at home and run to Dar es Salaam with him to split the gig. However, the email I got from Jo read:
“Re Mikadi. our concern there is that we have not received our new lease yet - so don't want to promote it at all until the owners of the land release our lease. We are also recovering like I said from a bought of business draining bad management - so trying to get the business healthy again....
“Having said that though, we would be happy to offer free accom for a week and a little cash say $300 for the movie. I know that that's way below your market price but what we can afford for the moment!!! Unless you are around again next year...
“What are you plans from now? always welcome back with us at Firefly. Will be in mikadi for the weekend ...Karibu!”
Three hundred dollars is fantastic, splitting three hundred dollars and dealing with the hassle of getting to the mainland and not in the next three days is not. So, I said nothing about it, hoping that he'd just let it go and not send his edit to Jo.
Once the die decided it was time to go home, sometime after 4pm, I sent Jo an email. I explained that Mustafa was leaving soon and it wouldn't give us enough time to do the gig together. However, I'd planned on slashing the costs for her anyway. That said, could she stretch the budget to 400 for me.
I fold my laptop down at the bar and give Leonie an embarrassingly smelly hug before starting down the sandy path toward the main road.
“Do you want a ride,” Leonie asks, pulling up next to me on her way out.
“Ah, if I keep taking rides I'm going to get fat,” I say, not because I don't want the ride, but because we've already said goodbye and touched on ideas with regards to how to get me and Dorsey II back to Zanzibar – I don't want to push the conversation too far.
There's a grassy roundabout and a large cement welcome sign at the entrance of Paje. It reads: Karibu.
The golden hour is approaching as I wait with a few locals outside some haggard cement shops to catch a dala-dala toward Stone Town. I'm to get off when the road hits a T-junction, then grab another dala-dala to Kizimkazi. Rafiki is back at The House of Giggls. Despite all the effort I put into getting her here, I'm too worried about another run in with the police to take her off the property.
The caller for the dala-dala says it's not the right minivan for me to take, but I'm certain from the way he's avoiding my eyes that he simply doesn't understand what I'm trying to tell him and that it's easier to tell me “no” than to sort me out.
So, I climb into the packed vehicle. As we approach the police check point, all of us who are standing, duck down low.
I can't see what's happening, but it appears the officer waved us to the side of the road, as we've come to a stop. With a guilty smile, the caller opens the door and runs back to the officer with a couple small bank notes folded lengthwise in his hand. The bills are gone when he returns. We take off.
I pay the caller 500 Shilling at the junction.
An old man stands at his fruit stall in the damp shade of a mango tree. It's recently rained here.
The man has a cataract in his right eye, a milky white film covering the iris. He hands me a page of a newspaper and loads it up with several deep fried dough balls that taste as if they've been lightly seasoned with onion. They aren't delicious, but they're something to chew on. He's got a couple piles of green and yellow limes, four mangoes, some onions, tomatoes, and two bunches of finger bananas on display.
I sit on the chopped-down trunk of a coconut tree waiting for the next dala-dala. Several come, but they all turn left toward Paje. I'd be worried that I missed the last one back home if it weren't for the fact that a couple locals are also are waiting to go to Kizimkazi.
I return to the old man to buy a bunch of bananas. They're a bit starchy and astringent, not quite ripe.
The sun is getting low by the time a dala-dala stops in front of us. It's standing room for the first five minutes. Then, someone gets off and there's room for me to sit next to a young Muslim woman staring out the window, a colorful headscarf wrapped over her hair.
We stop again. This time, a big African mama rocks her hips down the narrow isle young baby swathed up in colorful kanga on her back. A toddler is passed up from the back of the bus like a precious sack of potatoes, going from one set of hands to another until she's handed to the caller, who carefully places her down next to her mother on the side of the road.
The caller is a young guy with a flat-brimmed hat and a big smile.
Outside, the world is rich. For a moment it's as if I'm back in Southeast Asia. The jungle trees are lush and women stand shin-deep in rice paddies. But these women look markedly different than those in Asia, bent in half at their wide hips as they plant rice seedlings.
The soil itself looks wealthier than a Dubai billionaire. To think that less than 30 minutes away from all these riches, we're kicking around hunks of barren, white coral rag and scavenging soil for our garden beds.
There's another muzungu on the dala-dala with me. He's sitting in the front row with a machete and a level poking out of his rucksack, clearly not a tourist.
It turns out he's German, which is no surprise, as the island seems to be full of Germans.
“I'm starting some little projects here. I go to buy these tools so we can start in on making a pool. Maybe we'll do a little outdoor cinema to show Charlie Chaplin. You don't need to speak anything to laugh at movies like that,” says Paul, the German in a King Bar t-shirt.
His first man on the project is a Rasta guy, who meets him at the roundabout in Kizimkazi.
“My van is coming. Do you want a ride?”
Even if I wasn't carrying a six-pack of water, I'd be down for a ride. It turns out that Paul was aware of the permaculture project, but hadn't visited yet.
“Come visit around noon, when it's too hot to work tomorrow,” I say. “It would be great to show you around.”
It turns out that Paul is an environmental conservation engineer, or something along those lines.
“A collaboration between his dream project and ours could be very beneficial for everyone,” I think.
Walking up the rubble path between the familiar brambles, spotting wisps of burgundy kanga marking the path home – if only Hansel and Gretel had kanga instead of bread crumbs.
There's the familiar taste of salt in the shower water as I scrub down. It's hard not to smile with the salt between my lips. It tastes like home. At least this home.
While Flora continues to cook up a storm, I try to explain why I'm so torn about the next drone job. I don't want to be the guy who cuts friends out of deals, but it also doesn't make any sense for me to press on with Mustafa. He had ended up sending a message to me and Jo asking about the job, which left me in the awkward position of getting everyone on the same page.
“Someone set the table,” Flora calls out.
We gather around the mat downstairs. Usually, we have dinner under the stairs upstairs, but it's been raining so much that we eat down stairs. Six of us – dadas, the local guys, and me – crowd around a large silver platter of rice. Mounds of stewed vegetables and cabbage salad are strategically piled onto the long-grain rice.
After hands are washed in a small bowl passed around the circle, we dig in. Handfuls of food are rocked between fingers and palms before being placed deep into mouths. The rice is too hot at first. Carefully, I stir the veggies into some rice, moving everything around to let it cool before pinching off a big bite and placing it between my lips.
As always, I love Mustafa's edit, though was less than comfortable with using music that wasn't copy-right free. Anyway, super party vibe put on in this one. Video: Mustafa