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Sing! I Want to Hear You Sing!


Twenty-five hours from JFK to Dakar, Senegal where we refueled without getting off the plane (due to rebels fighting), then another 14 hours to Johannesburg over Botswana, Namibia and the Kalahari Desert. Six movies, too many dinners and snacks, not enough naps and we’re still on the plane. I watch ten minutes of each flick, then switch to another, mixing them up for variety. Flying into the sun, we keep the shades down at all times.

We met friends from an NGO at a restaurant called Xoi-Xoi, pronounced “Shy-shy.” The menu included sardines in spinach and tomato sauce, mussels, snails, liver, line fish (catch of the day), prawns, crayfish, raw calamari in a salad, squid and lots of other things with eyes, heads and tails you have to rip off before swallowing. After dinner, we went to Roksa, which used to be known as the Colour Bar when I was here in 2005. The guards with Kalashnikovs are gone but there is a formidable bouncer and now there is a cover charge. I’m not sure which one keeps out more people. The jazz is fresh and sweet by talented, underpaid musicians. Directly across from me, a straight couple needs to get a room as soon as possible. They are in the middle of a passionate fight while he rubs her arm, holds her face as he kisses her tenderly, drifts lightly across her breasts with gentle hands and the heart of a fighter. She calms down temporarily, then suddenly erupts into tears and pleading. More kissing, more stroking–we have to change the sheets now. More calming, followed by more anguished outbursts. Just as he thinks he’s made a kiss landing, he skids off the runway. While watching this out of the corner of my eye–okay, while it is taking place practically in my lap, one man who is holding hands with another guy stares at me and screams over the music that his violin is under the table and that he’s going to write me something. There is only one problem (if you roll them all into one big ball): he doesn’t have any paper. He doesn’t have a pen. I can barely understand his accent and he is drunk. In the brief pause before an African beat explodes into the musicians’ break, he yells that I am a Shaman. I know everything! He knows because I look at him directly, my gaze in unwavering and I have big ears! Before we start our lives together, I excuse myself and disappear around the corner into a darkened courtyard that compromises most of this outdoor jazz bar, hoping he will latch onto someone else slightly less sober than me. He is an eager beaver about to be abandoned at the brink. I assure him he is not prepared for flight.

The DJ throws on a great CD of skull-busting tribal drummers so loud that you are sure there is about to be a sacrificial virgin dragged in by several scantily clad warriors and thrown into a volcanic pit. I need a helmet-cam to capture the terror. Almost as good as the world’s greatest bungee jump—216 meters– over the Zambezi River at the Boiling Point.

One of the passengers on my flight (now a patron at this bar) keeps thinking he recognizes stewards that were on board. The guys he asks are all drunk and pretend they were. Everyone is going deaf, laughing uproariously. I’m faking drinking with lemon soda the way I used to fake orgasms in the early days of marriage. What began as research has become reality. We finally get back to our rooms around 4 a.m. and asleep by 7. Breakfast is at 9.

It’s the rainy season. Wild and crazy thunderstorms/blazing sunsets. Hills laced with iron deposits draw massive lightening bolts. Drenched to the skin, oblivious to the electrified fence I am using as a tripod to steady my camera, I snap photos of the spectacular, roaring downpour.

It’s all good.

– Janice Urbsaitis –

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