My friend Adam rang me from Dar es Salaam airport this morning to ask me if I had planted a screw driver in his hand luggage as a practical joke. I hadn't, but I laughed because he deserved the embarrassment of looking like an ill-equipped violent Lusaka-bound psychopath.
Last night, after seeing a particularly horrendous photo of myself, I had expressed my concern about a possible goitre or thyroid problem in my fat, shapeless head-neck. Adam said that my enormous gullet made me look like a pelican and spent the rest of the dinner challenging me to swallow large pieces of seafood whole at the Japanese restaurant.
It was the best laugh I had had in more months than I care to count. Before I moved to Dar, someone told me that it was really hard to make friends here. Maybe that's because you're an asshole, I thought. But annoyingly, because he is an asshole and I am not, it turns out he was right. Dar is like the Bermuda Triangle of friendships.
Sitting with our great pals Barney, Isabelle and Adam who came to visit us from Lusaka - we basked in their awe of the sparkly sea side faculties, smugly smiled as they groaned about going back to the few car park facing eateries in Zambia. It reminded us that we are lucky to live here, in a place with so much going for it, and for us-sea, palm trees, food, mountains, soul, fire, style, culture, options. There is a lot to do, but not that many who are willing to do it with you.
Because Zambia was so dull, and what was not dull is too expensive, we made our own fun - and that is what brought us together. Because of the sparsity of entertainment options, we were all drawn together to create good food, music, cocktails, games, laughs and countless memories. Of course we were just spectacularly lucky to be in Zambia at the same time as the loveliest of the loveliest, but in general, there really is more of a camaraderie there. Hugs on first introductions, forceful invitations, guilt-free support and energetic care from complete strangers. Even forgettable and edge pushing people were scooped into the safety net of inclusion because of an unspoken duty of care and general war on boredom and loneliness.
I too am to blame for my lack of Dar possé because of my new-friend-fatigue and child-heavy schedule, but we didn't get the open armed welcome followed by the headlock drag to the first available house party that we got in Lusaka.
Sometimes it is hard to find ease in this corner of the world. I know where to look. I know my luck to be in calming reach of a warm sun, a cool breeze, of salty water and starry skies. But the water does not have the same salve of a great friend, whose best and worst moments you know, pretending that you are a walrus at Seaworld and trying to slap you around the face with a prawn head. There is nothing as easy or as easing as friends.