“You must live in the present, launch yourself on every wave, find your eternity in each moment. Fools stand on their island of opportunities and look toward another land. There is no other land; there is no other life but this.” (Henry David Thoreau)
Outside, I could hear the water lapping the beach ever so gently and voices somewhere in the distance. It was still almost dark, almost, but not quite.
Wriggling out of my sleeping bag, I quietly unzipped my tent and stepped out into the morning air. The ground was hard beneath my feet and, still sleepy, I was momentarily confused. Reaching skyward, I stretched and breathed in deeply and let the familiar scent of sand, salt water and frangipani fill my lungs.
Turning around, I caught a glimpse of the sun, beginning to peek out over the horizon. A few small fishing boats were out in the water, silhouetted against the light purple sky. The fishermen cast out their nets, cutting through the trail of sparkles left by the the young sun, hoping to catch some good stock to take to the busy Kivukoni Fish Market later than morning.
I stood for a moment, engrossed. Unaware of their audience, the fishermen continued with their daily routine. Funny how ordinary and everyday moments to one are memories for another.
There is something special about a sunrise, even more so that a sunset. Perhaps it’s the promise of a new day. New hope. New adventures.
This was our time. Mine and the morning.
The sound of a zip disturbed me from my reverie. As agreed over beers the night before, my friend Lucia joined me and we made our way down the whitewashed steps and onto the beach. It was our last full day together and we’d become great friends during our time in Africa. The kind of closeness that you only get when you share some kind journey with someone, either physical or emotional. In our case, both.
As the dawn turned the African sky purple to amber to orange, I fell in love with the world again, as I do every time I watch the sun rise and set.
We sat amongst the seaweed trails on the sand. It was warm now and the water looked so inviting…
“Shall we go in?” I asked.
“Hell yeah!” Came the response. I love that girl.
Kicking off our flip flops, we made my way down to the beach and into the water, fully clothed. I kept walking until it was up to my waist and then dived under the waves.
The men didn’t notice me at first, not until I was right up close to the boat. “Mambo!” I called. Loosely translated as “Hey, what’s up?”
I was met with a chorus of “Poa.” I’m cool.
“Safi!” I’m great, I replied.
“Jina lako nani?”
“Jina langu ni Helen.”
A few words in Swahili go a long way in East Africa. They were impressed.
Laughter – “Ah Steven Gerrard!” The universal language of football. If all other attempts at communication fail in Africa, mention your favourite soccer team. Extra bonus points if you support Liverpool, Manchester United, Arsenal, or Chelsea. I’m an Everton fan myself, but I didn’t mention that.
One of the men called me over, closer to the boat. I swam up and holding onto the side, reached for the black plastic bag he was holding out to me. It was tied at the top and inside was filled with fish.
“Really? Asante sana!”
“Karibu.” You’re welcome. I swam back one-handedly, keeping my ‘catch’ out of water. Now that I think about it, I’m not sure why I did that…
“Look what they gave me!” I called to Lucia who was watching me from the water’s edge. We were having a braai that evening, so the fish would come in handy.
We sat watching them, drying off our wet clothes until it was time for breakfast.
I often think back to this moment and it makes me smile. Glad I took the time to let the moment imprint on my senses, to appreciate, reflect, to just be for a little while, alone and with my friend. It reminds me to see the beauty in the every day and to treasure those moments that will not come back again… except in my imagination.
I close my eyes and I’m back in Tanzania. My ordinary self, sitting on that ordinary beach, on an ordinary day, watching other ordinary people do ordinary things.
Helen Davies is a an adventurer, part-time traveller and full-time Africa lover. She writes about her travels in Africa (and elsewhere) on her blog Helen in Wonderlust. Follow her adventures on Facebook, Twitter and Instagram.