I never knew Singapore was a city state. Had never met anyone from there anyway nor even heard or read about it. And it came to be that I found myself in Arusha – Tanzania, working at the International Criminal Tribunal for Rwanda (ICTR). Although I had sojourned some in Dubai, I had never interacted with such an international community before. At least 80 nationalities were represented at the ICTR.
I lived in a three bedroom flat and there was a vacant room. We were told an intern was coming in from Singapore. I was excited because it equally meant I’ll now do dinner for three. You see I love to cook when people are there to eat – but food and just I, aren’t friends at all. Grace the other flat mate from Kenya, was the one in contact with Lee but then she had to rush to Nairobi (3 hours by road from Arusha – and sure I once spent the weekend with Grace’s warm family) and asked me to welcome Lee.
I exchanged two or so emails with Lee, reassuring her all would be fine. She just had to hire a cab from the airport and come to the Tribunal and we’ll go back home together. She was so tired because she said she’d been travelling for two damn days. Fortunately it was a Friday and the day closed at 2 pm. She got there by 1.30 and we took another cab back home.
To Lee’s dismay, there was sure no wifi in the flat. Where did she think she was? Hahaha, in those our regions of the globe, you either use one of those modems/flash sticks etc or you go to the cyber cafe. Lee said she couldn’t spend that night without getting the internet and she had to let ‘home’ know she was hence close to the Gorongoro and Serengeti Parks!
I understood her dilemma and offered to take her back to town to get some bundle for the internet and calls. We walked up without an incident but on our way back, I saw a group of ‘red and not to any good eyes’ march up the road in our direction. My instincts from having worked in the prison, told me something was gonna happen.
I just had time to warn poor Lee, when from the corner of my eye I saw the bigger of the boys pull out a dagger. He ordered one of them in Swahili to go for Lee’s handbag. I could understand and even speak basic swahili. Lee’s bag still had all she came in with, all her money, passport, I-Family gadgets and etc, as she later told me.
I pushed Lee to the ground without a second’s thought and lay on her! I then screamed in Swahili as the boy with the dagger aimed towards me. It was barely 5 pm and some farmers nearby were gathering their tools to return home. One picked up a big stone and while screaming, aimed at the rogues. They disappeared behind the nearby stream to the ghetto I even went to to have my hair cut.
That incident on Lee’s first day to Arusha, spoilt the rest of her internship. She had intended on staying for six months, but could only manage four. I became her protegee and tried my best to cheer her up. Took her to wherever I went to or accompanied her to some places she went to unless she was with some interns she trusted.
She said she owed me her life, but I told her she owed me nothing. Sure she gladly contributed to the kitchen fund so I could do the cooking, both she and Grace had no relationship with pots.
Hard to say goodbyes
When you not only meet and like someone, but you find yourself risking your own life for this person, the relationship you both build becomes more than spiritual to say the least. We even did our meditations together and once went to some church together.
Lee left almost all she brought with me – sure I passed that on to my friends in that same ghetto where those rogues had disappeared. It was even there that I learnt Swahlili and all.
Our parting was emotional but Lee was glad to go. She had never seen a dagger that close and that was equally her first trip to Africa. She also missed noodles and those sold in the foreign groceries were outright expensive.
Lee taught me the true meaning of being able to lay your life for another. At that instant, I didn’t even think about what I doing to my own self.
Dear gentle readers and followers, has any such experience ever come your way? When I reflect on such thrilling eras of my life, and I still see myself breathing and marching on, I sure know there is still more to come!