Zambezi Hands

I am in Teté, watching the sunset over the wide Zambezi and hiding behind an aloe on the veranda of a bar high up on the riverbank. As the world’s worst sunset photographer, I should be in hiding, but I am focussing the last rays of my visual prowess on the scene down at the water’s edge. There are hoards of locals following their daily routine of bathing, laundry and dishwashing in the river. Children are frolicking everywhere. Ah — sorry, back to the aloe. As an ‘Mzungu’ (White-man) the aloe is my camouflage, my spiky protection against the African notion that all Europeans are rich. In 1974, I did a journey from the Cape to Cairo. All through that journey, children would run up to me, stick out their grubby little hands and shout, “Give me money, give me money”. The rural African greeting.  Once, whilst driving in Tanzania between Songea and Tunduru, the road was so potholed it gave me diarrhoea. Shit road. The one pothole was so big that I could drive the Land-Cruiser down into it. I could then jump from the edge of the pothole onto the cab roof and onto the other side. Then, from all this jumping, roofing and potholing, nature’s will forced me into the bush for a ‘boskak’. This word cannot be translated into any other language. There’s nothing greater than doing it the African bush. So whilst I was squatting there in the wild landscape and my bakkie was parked in the deepest pothole in Africa, three little naked boys walked right up to me and said. “ Give me money”. Now then, back to the aloe in the bar. The setting sun reflects in my lens and flickers like it does when the Taliban spot the US Sniper on the ridge, like in the movies. Chaos explodes along the river as children charge up the ridge shouting,” Mzungu-Mzungu, give me money”. I sigh and say to my Aloe Vera, “ Oh shit”. I speak in broken English and they chatter away in Nyungwe. In Africa, if you can’t understand each other, then share something. They all want to touch the Mzungu’s hand and so we share a moment of happiness with the last of the warm Zambezi light.


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