Published: May 2nd 2008May 2nd 2008
i am a sucker,
yesterday was may day, here in dar es salaam, whatever that means and it meant that the internet shop here at the YMCA was closed along with just about every business in town. the entire town was deserted, the usual horns and bells and yelling of the morning were gone. i sat and did nothing and ate eggs and then i went out the front door and across the street and beyond in search of an open internet. a plump middle aged fellow hollered at me from over by the gas station and came hopping over, i told him that i was looking to check my mail, he gave me the whole story of may day and offered to take me down the street to where he knew of an open internet. we walked good and slow like friends and it turned out that he was a guitar player, six string acoustic, and that he had a gig later at the masai festival across town, i noticed an aweful lot of masai around in the last couple of days, we talked about guitars, and about harmonicas, and music as we walked, it began to rain so we were stalled under an awning temporarily and we continued to talk. the internet was open as he said, he also wished to give me a demo CD of his, he was a good man and very friendly, he pointed out to me the business college that he attended when he was younger. he liked the idea of canada and i told him about how it is very clean and very safe.
i went into the dark little cafe and checked my mail as he went to grab me a demo cd from somewhere and meet me back here when i was done. as i walked out in front of the building he saw me and jogged across the street, no CD, i had interpreted that part wrong. his friend was on his way with his guitar and a CD for me, the masai festival began at 1pm, he played at 2pm, and it was now 12:30pm, i was invited to come along. we walked across the street from the cafe and sat down in a little restaurant that was on the roof of a building to wait for his friend, to get up there the two of us walked up a few flights of dark stairs, him behind me. he told me about the band, 10 people, most of them playing drums, it sounded like the band i had seen on hassan's TV. eventually he turned up, he was the drummer, he was a very friendly man, good english, he told me about his wife who was going to be at the show. the three of us walked down the dark stairway and back out onto the street and just then it began to really pour rain and in a second we were soaked, we ran to take cover towards a gas station, too far... so the three of us jumped into a nearby cab and had a good laugh, we were so wet.
we took off towards the festival, it was raining so hard that the windshield was a waterfall but the cab driver did not slow down, we flew. all the windows were rolled up from the rain, it was a steam shower inside and the two musicians went over some funny german colonial history, something about a village in the western part of the country where left over germans make weird loafs of bread in weird ovens and they found that very funny. the rain slowed as we pulled up on the festival, it was already quite busy, the drummer, sitting in the front seat, lit a cigarette and passed it back to the guitar player beside me, i realized that it was a joint that they were smoking as we drove into an alleyway beside the festival and another man, younger and dirty, opened my door and got into the car. he pulled out a small floppy cardboard police badge, took the joint and extinguished it and began to explain that we were all going to jail for three years or going to pay a 1000$ fine. the guitar player leaned against the door on his side and said nothing and the drummer up front did not say another word for the rest of the thing. the man with the police badge was yelling at me about how we were now headed to the police station, the driver was now back on the road and i was between the guitar player and the officer.
i explained that in fact i did not smoke anything and was on my way to the festival and the man said he believed me and he grabbed my right hand with his shaky claw and he was sweating and he smelt my fingers and said he wanted to help me, he kept yelling at me to trust him, that he was a real police man. spitting when he yelled into my face. the taxi kept on driving. the man made a call on his phone, suggesting that it was to the station, and we drove past a station but did not stop. he said that instead of going there, where i could see jail time and a fine for being assosiated with the crime, he was going to "help" me. i suggested that we go to the police station instead, and the entire car, the guitar player, the drummer, the driver, and the man became aggressive, we took a hard left into an alley way. the guitar player was saying how he did not want to go to jail. the man offered to accept 300$ from me, now... in return for my release from the car. i countered with 50$, we settled at 200$ and i was free. back out into the rain and lost somewhere now in an alley in dar es salaam. cold and sick feeling in my stomach, i ran all the way back to the YMCA and felt sick some more.
100% trust in people, 50% of the time leads to something wonderful and 50% of the time leads to something terrible. i related the story to the head nun at the YMCA and she assured me that right from the start it was a set-up. i keep going over this possibility in my head, that it was masterminded and i am impressed and horrified of the sickening genius of it.
i met hassan on the street, and i met the guitar player on the street.
it is my most strict policy to pay my way out of any situtation that i am allowed to pay my way out of, that i led myself into. if i am dumb enough to fall for something, i deserve to pay. i will always pay over taking the chance of a beating. i can pay and then learn, instead of opting not to pay and having the money taken from me physically and then learning.