Review: The beach

We went to the beach on Sunday. Apparently, this is the whole point of expatriate life in Dar es Salaam: you may be slowly losing your soul, but at least you can go to the beach at the weekend. I went on a speedboat with yet another Israeli, who played screeching rock while the Russian sprawled in the sun, like something out of Heat magazine. I chatted to our captain’s 12-year-old niece, who looked at me in undisguised horror when I revealed that I’ve never been water-skiing. “You haven’t even been normal skiing?” she cried, disgusted. She’s the scion of a family that sell very nice chicken liver wraps in the mind-numbingly anodyne Sea Cliff hotel. The expat children here are old before their time, confident as CNN anchormen and slightly deranged by the constant coming and going of their friends and schoolmates, who are mostly diplobrats whose parents do something pointless for the UN. We sailed on, dragging the girl’s brother behind us in a rubber ring. The fishermen watched from the beach, ruminating over their plan to charge us a week’s pay for one grilled fish.

My fiancée tells me that in the film The Beach, a wandering crusty informs his stoned and sun-stunned companions that travel is all about “the quest to experience something visceral, something real”. I don’t know about visceral, but I came back with a pretty realistic tan. I’m now adorned with a ghost bikini – I was toying with the idea of getting a tattoo of a bird, inspired by the dragon tattoo that decorates the Russian’s pudenda, but this will do for now.

I want to say that it’s impossible to be miserable next to the sea, but of course this is an outright lie – a talented miserabilist can be miserable anywhere. Maybe it’s just that you can’t be quite as happy inland. Inland isn’t really designed for human existence: leave the elephants to do what they will with it. (“A sort of chessboard effect developed, with people occupying one set of squares and the elephants another… The ‘elephant problem’ was a major concern of colonial authorities throughout Africa.” – John Reader.)

The beach: A blockbusting geographical feature from the God that brought you mountains, ponds and icebergs. 9 out of 10.


Review: Homesickness

Me and my platinum blonde Russian flatmate who belongs in an eponymous biopic had breakfast in the Royal Palm the other day and the grass nearly made me cry. I had trouble squeezing my pastry past the lump in my throat: it was proper, green, tended and sprinklered grass like you might get in a dream vision of Regent’s Park.

I keep having these totally irrational attacks of nostalgia. Last night, I was dancing with an Israeli diamond dealer to the heart-wrenching strains of Haddaway’s famous epic poem What Is Love?, and it reminded me of being at university. But why? The human heart is like a drink-addled word association game.

Homesickness is often difficult to distinguish from existential angst and sexual frustration. In this respect it’s like many other emotions, e.g. confusion, irritation, romantic love. In the grip of homesickness, a girl finds herself asking important spiritual questions. Where am I? And why? What’s the point of me? Will I ever get laid again? Why did that funny Dutch man have sex with prostitutes on my bed while I was away looking at giraffes, when he had a perfectly serviceable bed of his own in the room next door?

Homesickness: Better than being sick of home. 3 out of 10.