Day 332: Then it All Changed
And with the second day of rain the sun set on another chapter of The House of Giggles. Photo: 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.
AND then it all changed.
Mau and the oval faced man helping to finish the rest of the cementing on the house built a fire outside, as they didn't want to build it in the common room for fear of the smoke blowing in our faces as we slept this morning.
They're re-heating rice from last night over the open fire. They've also secured a couple pieces of bread from the village for breakfast.
“You just go relax. We'll finish making food, then we'll all kill it,” Mau says with his sincere smile.
We don't normally have breakfast as a group at The House of Giggles. There was a time when Megan first arrived that they did all eat breakfast together, but things changed and they stopped.
Within the next week Flora, Baby Dada and I will all be leaving. Flora is heading by land to Malawi, Baby Dada to South Africa and then Namibia, I am driving back to Kenya to catch a ride on the Musafir and see what other tricks the dice might have up their sleeves before this journey comes to an end.
The plan is that we'll be leaving behind Heather, Megan, and the boys, as well as the two young Finnish girls who arrived a couple days ago. To me, it feels like a big transition, but our departures are expected.
This morning though, something hangs in the air in addition to the pleasant wafts of smoke from the breakfast fire. There's an abrupt shifting of the winds, coming with the sudden change of weather: Megan and Mweda are leaving this morning.
Light gray clouds lay across the sky like dreary mats, a cool breeze rustling through the thin-leaved trees by the empty cement pool in front of us.
Megan was originally planning on leaving in August, heading back to the United States for marijuana trimming season in California.
At first, it doesn't sound like a big deal. They pair are headed to the northern tip of the island for two days. It's not unusual for Heather or Megan and Mweda to disappear for a couple days at at time like this.
“The way you keep talking, it sounds like you are leaving, leaving,” Baby Dada says.
“We kinda are,” Megan admits.
Something happened when the Boss Lady came to The House of Giggles. Something that I missed entirely. Apparently, there was no big explosion, but it was enough to push Megan over the edge, push here and Mweda back toward the mainland.
We're all sitting on a mat, balling warm rice in our hands and plopping them into our mouths as we sip on salty coffee – Mau used the tap water from our well for our morning beverages. The coffee tastes funny this way, it looses its kick and its bitterness. Even a spoon full of sugar fails to bring any balance to the flavors.
Megan says something cheeky as we're eating. Her brilliant eyes dart from face to face in the circle, hunting eye contact, a connection.
Without a doubt, Megan has softened a bit of something inside me, like the first warm rain in spring. However, she's with Mweda. They giggle into the night, their hands instinctively reach out to each other when they are close, their bodies coming together as they sit. They're in love. What type of love? Who knows, but it's a beautiful kind of love in this moment. Sometimes we wake in the morning to their laughter.
So, I'm simply satisfied with having met Megan and heard some of her stories. Satiated by letting her light up the few conversations we've had together, enjoying how close to uncomfortable she can make me by how deeply her eyes search mine as we speak.
Mweda and Megan come downstairs with several bags packed. Megan takes a dream catcher down from her room and finds a place in the commons for it.
A mouth full of coconut meat, partially shredded, stops me from saying much as Megan and I hug.
“Don't forget to cabbage me when you have a chance,” I manage to get out between the bits of coconut, offering a wry smile as I do so.
“Oh, you,” she says, not mentioning when and where she's going to cabbage me, but promising to do so nonetheless.
Only a couple days ago, I'd discovered the verb “to cabbage”, which means “to steal”. However, the way Megan kept saying it made it sound far more promiscuous.
I'd thought about hugging her goodbye earlier this morning, but then thought about how bad my breath must smell now that I've not brushed my teeth in a week. Thankfully, I've finally bought a new toothbrush, so I'll start brushing again today, which is good.
Mweda and I hug. He's body feels even smaller than Megan's, his muscles wrapped tightly around his thin frame.
“Maybe I'll see you in Bagamoyo on Monday,” I hopefully tell him.
The boys, Mau and Mwanzi, are saying a more rowdy goodbye to Mweda.
Megan wraps Mwanzi up in a big hug.
“I love you,” she says.
Mwanzi helps the couple carry their bags down to the village.
“With Megan going now, it feels like a mass exodus,” I say, though I shouldn't be saying such things with the Finnish girls around. They're on Zanzibar for a month, though unsure how long they'll stay at the House of Giggles.
I'm still calling it the House of Giggles in my head, but it doesn't feel that way anymore. It feels as if the House of Giggles has also changed. Though perhaps Heather returns from Stone Town – she's been gone for a couple days now – her buoyant personality will shift everything back the giggler side of life.
“You're being overly dramatic,” Flora says. It's not until later in the day that she admit that she was close to tears when Megan left, which is saying something, as she's not a crier.
The house is a wreck with wet clothes, mostly mine hanging up on the lines between the wooden support columns. There's plastic everywhere and much of the ground is wet. Everything, in fact, seems wet.
I clean for a bit, then settle down to an 11-page paragraph at the beginning of Mario Vargas Llosa's The Green House.
Once the paragraph breaks with the chapter, I put the book down and get out of the plastic blue chair that I've come to think of as my usual sitting spot.
“Do you guys want to help me get some fire wood?” I ask the Finnish girls.
The three of us wander out, with me explaining the need to gather wood every morning now that it's rainy season. I point out the sharp acacia brush that Baby Dada and I were collecting for the fence yesterday, warning the girls of the needle like thorns.
The idea is to give them a little direction, as well as to start building basic habits that new volunteers can perpetuate once we are all gone. By making it seem like collecting wood is a normal, daily activity – though we've not really been collecting firewood at all – it should create a bit more structure for the place, even if only slightly so.
We break up the pieces of kindling and stack them in a dry corner of the common area. It's not a lot of work, but it's something.
Everything is also strange because this is my last day here, at least it's my last working day at the project. However, I have no motivation to do anything.
Tomorrow, Mwanzi, Baby Dada, Flora, and I are going on a spice tour. The following day, weather permitting, we'll do a Blue Safari. Then, on Saturday, we're going into Stone Town for Laura's birthday party. Sunday, we'll come back, and Monday I've hired a boat to smuggle me back to Bagamoyo.
I've talked to Mwanzi about it and he's able to take me there for 170,000 Shilling.
It's a lot of money.
However, it's a lot of money to get Rafiki off the island either way. Perhaps it was a mistake bringing her along in the first place.
I'd hoped to explore the island with her, but after being hassled about my paperwork by the one officer after everything was lost, poor Rafiki has simply sat in the garden under mats of woven palm frowns. I worry that she'll struggle to start when it's time to get moving again.
The general breakdown for me to go via Stone Town on the cheap barge is: 40,000 Shilling for me; 80,000 Shilling for Rafiki and then another 20,000 Shilling to have people help load Rafiki. There are the additional possible costs of a wharf fee in Stone Town of 10,000 Shilling. On top of these expenses, there is also the risks of running into police on the way to Stone Town or having issues getting Rafiki off the island because the necessary Tanzania import permit was stolen.
So, without a doubt, it's much better to simply take a boat from Kizimkazi to Bagamoyo. This way, I don't have to deal with Dar el Salaam – it wasn't so long ago that I nearly got bike jacked in broad daylight on a main road into the city.
It will be a full last few days on Zanzibar thanks to the safety net a dear friend laid out for me when she found me on the brink of breaking down.
As she pointed out in the moment, she knew I would be fine, but she wanted to seem thrive, not just survive.