Tonight was a welcome departure from the norm. After a long day of training and some disappointing sessions from the doctor I’ve been trying to train (mostly disappointing to me and probably of relatively high quality for the Tanzanians – which illustrates the poor teaching they are regularly subjected to), I did not feel like socializing with the rest of the crew at dinnertime. I had ordered dagaa (tiny lake anchovies in a tomato stew), ugali (maize mash) and bamia (okra) this morning, and asked for it to be ready at 7 pm. I wandered to the outdoor dining area of the Karena Hotel and saw that Guy, Jenny and Werner had found an older white bearded male friend. They were all drinking and making loud conversation. I had an instant feeling that I would have a hard time enjoying dinner in such company and decided to sit in a different corner alone.
I should do this more often.
It was one of the best meals I’ve had here: I was able to fully concentrate on the Five Contemplations for my meal, eat in peaceful silence and pay attention to what and how I was eating. Eventually I was accompanied by three lovely little wild cats. They patiently waited for me to give some of my dagaa to them. We ate dinner together, silently. They provided the perfect company for me tonight.
When I finished, I sat back and watched the clouds roll over the bright waxing moon and create funky patterns. I enjoyed watching the luminescent lacy swirls.
The wait-staff was totally weirded out that I was sitting alone. It took them some time to adjust. “Why are you sitting over here?” I told them that I was tired. “Hey, the others are over there!” “Should I bring your food even though you are not sitting with them?” “Do you really want to eat your food separately?” It is unusual in Tanzanian culture to choose to sit alone. But they eventually embraced the idea and treated me very respectfully. In fact, I felt that they treated me with much more friendliness when I sat alone today than when I’ve sat with the others. That was interesting. Maybe they were being sensitive to my tiredness.
Ah, it was so nice, so peaceful.
And now, with the crickets in the background and evening prayer song emanating from the nearest mosque, I continue to enjoy my night.