Today, I had a pretty fucking interesting day. I got up, did my yoga, showered, had a coffee at Jaws Corner and beans and chapati at my other spot, packed some peanuts and crackers and water and started to take off on the vespa. Just outside my door, I met Sharifa, who I knew through the filming of the documentary. I had invited here before to go on a moped trip across the island and she always refused. So, of course, I offered again and she accepted. We stopped by her house for her to get ready and then we took off to Paje where we hunted down a friend of hers that she had some biashara with, I took a swim and then we continued on to Makunduchi to check out the apartment that she and her brother have. By then, it was getting late and we started back to Town.
Just before the turnoff to Uzi Island there is a sort of highland, wetter area where there are more tall trees and it’s lusher and greener. There was smoke across the road from a cooking fire. A bit farther down, there a daladala stopped and there was a cluster of people on both sides of the road. I slowed down and noted a man beginning to cross the road just in front of me. I slowed more. He started running, all the while looking in the away from me. I slowed more. he kept running toward the center of the road. I slammed on teh brakes. We skidded straight the fuck smack into him. the vespa kneeled down and I heard something crack snap. the engine died and I heard the back end hit the road. I was ahead and sliding on my knees elbows, hand and waist. Slowly, I came to a stop. I ws on my stomach as though i were doing pushups. My face felt okay and healthy. weird. I sensed a lot of people around on all sides totally stopped and watching (like me – like, what the fuck! oh my goddamn! ). That was pretty intense. Sharifa landed right on top of me and rolled to the side. I turned and looked at her. Asked her if she was okay. She asked me if I was okay. I looked ot the old man who was turned away and beginning to get up. We stood up. Somebody came and picked up the vespa and wheeled it to teh side of the road. Another grabbed the speedometer and the dashboard cover that had cracked and flew off. I began to hurt. I noticed blood dripping on my pant leg and on my foot, but I didn’t know where it was coming from. Was it dripping form a tree above me? My pants had blood on them, but I lifted my pant leg and my left knee was only slightly brazed. Then I realized there was a big gash in my left hand. I still couldn’t feel much and put pressure on it with my right hand which was also bleeding, but not as much. Sharifa suggested we move off to sit down. It was starting to get dark. Somehow, it was much darker then the moment that the crash took place. There was a large crowd of people around us. Different than other times I’ve been surrounded by crowds like that before. Very still and somehow respectful. the mzee sat near us. I asked him if he was okay. yes. okay. Sharifa was okay. I was okay. Okay. Sharifa went to talk to the mzee. He had hurt his leg and was worried about his bicycle and his leg and getting treatment and being able to work and his family. He wanted compensation. sheriyah asked how much money I had. There were a few older male dudes who were somehow taking care of shit. Crowd control somehow. m aking sure the vespa was cool. Sharifa asked one of the boys to bring my bag closer to us. Somebody gave me a bandana to wrap around my hand. the mzee moved away to a nearby baraza and was being checked on by some older dudes. A crowd started to gather around him and away from him. I don’t know what was happenging there. Some of the older guys shooed everyone away and then came and called me over to talk. She seemed to think that the best thing to do was to make a settlement before the police came. the police came almost exactly at that moment. they didn’t come and ask us if we were okay. they just showed up on their vespa, turned the engine off and the guy started writing something and he called on his cell phone. then, we were iinformed that all of us were going to the police station. One of the cops drove my vespa with me on back, Sharifa on the back of the cop vespa and the old mand mzee on somebody’s bicylcle (don’t know if it was his own, never saw his bike) to the station. At the station i was able to take stock of my injuries a bit more. I stopped shaking as much as I had been. I had felt really cold straight after the accident. We all sat in a sort of conference room where one cop with a Zantel Tshirt on took our names, ages and addresses (but didn’t ask to see ID) and then just told me that I should pay Tsh50,000 in compensation. I lamented the fact that the mzee was apparently injured (first he said he couldn’t walk and then walked right into the police station) and that his bicycle was damaged, but it was his fault,. were they taking that into consideration? I understand that it was very unfortunate, but damn, really?! yes, he wanted compensation or they (not he) would take it to court. I would be legally bound to appear in court a month or so from now (of course beyond the time I had told him I would be staying here). then, I could request and investigation and see what happened. or i could pay now. “hush money,” he whispered to me. So, I stood up and said thank and that I’d be going. Sharifa had already handed over the money. I asked for soap and water and tried to clean my wounds. meanwhile, Sharifa called her brother to come and fetch us. he arrived promptly with a truck and when i had gotten out of the bathroom, the vespa was loaded in the back, the engine was running and we just took off. Her brother informed us that the police stayed with Tsh10,000 and the old man mzee made off with Tsh40,000 (about US$35.00). We drove back to Stone Town and discussed what to do with the vespa. Sharifa’s brother would take it to his fundi and get it fixed tomorrow and we would go straight to the hospital in Town. At the hospital, the doctor was just on his way out, but let me in. He asked what I was doing there, took a look at my hand and despite me saying that I was in an moped accident, he said that looks like s nail went in there. I said, no, I was in an accident. He said, that could have been a rusty nail. I said, no, I was in a road accident. The nurse in black bui bui said, a road accident. He scrawled a bunch of stuff on the prescription pad and handed it to the mama. She looked at me and said, stiches. i wasn’t sure if it was a question or a statement or what. In another room, I got hydrogenperoxide, iodine, tetanus shot, pain killer shot right in the middle of the big gash in my hand. then stiches. Got both legs and arms cleaned up and counted myself lucky. Tomorrow, I’ll find out how much the vespa is gonna cost.