Full Moon Party
Zanzibar, Tanzania, Africa; February 2007
The human animals have gathered for their monthly mating festival. There’s a full moon (well almost full), there’s a big bonfire, there’s a beach, there’s music, and there are hundreds of scantily clad humans moving and mingling in search of a partner for tonight’s sacred copulation… Our young hero (well okay, not so young) makes his way into the crowd. He too, is in search of a female partner. He too, wants to touch the sacred and fornicate in the light of the full moon. Will he be successful in his quest? Oh yeah, it looks promising. He finds a pretty young woman on the dance floor. He buys her a drink. A conversation takes place. But no, something goes wrong. It doesn’t work out. He leaves her behind and heads into the mass of half naked dancing humans once again… Oh yeah, he finds another one. This too looks promising… How about that? They are heading towards the beach… Whatever will happen? Is our hero going to get lucky?
Actually, I met her a couple days before in Stonetown (the main port city on the island of Zanzibar) but it wasn’t a promising introduction. I am traveling around East Africa with my Polish friend Marius and we arrived here on this well known resort island the night before from the island of Pemba. We are sitting down to breakfast in our hotel and she is just finishing her breakfast at the same big table. She is rather attractive to the eye so I endeavor to make pleasant conversation. “So how long have you been here? And how do you like Zanzibar?” I ask. I think she might possibly be a local African because she is black and she looks to be about 25 years old. But as soon as she speaks, I know she’s American.
“It’s all right,” she says with a snarl, “but you can only look at so many souvenir shops. I’m going to the beach today. Maybe that will be better.” And then she abruptly gets up from the table and leaves. Obviously she is not interested in my overtures of friendliness.
“What a bitch,” I think to myself. “Probably some spoiled American princess who went looking for her roots and didn’t like what she found…”
Marius and I spend about three days in Stonetown and I rather enjoy it. There’s a good reason to call it Stonetown (marijuana is everywhere) and the labyrinth of narrow streets are good fun for a wander. One corner Muslim, the next Hindu, the next Swahili and the next Muzungu…a culture clash extraordinaire. But it all blends together with surprising and unusual harmony. The bars are a bore though. They are all what Marius refers to as “yuppie side.” In other words, they cater to rich tourists on short holidays rather than to poor wanderers on an extended adventure. It’s not exactly prime hunting ground for hot traveling chicks.
So on the fourth day on Zanzibar we head to the beach town of Nungwi on the northern tip of the island. We score big time in the accommodation department by finding a double beach bungalow within fifty feet of the ocean for only 15 dollars a piece. Not only that, there is a delightful little local bar only a hundred or so yards away. Yeah, man, I could definitely kick back here for a couple days. All we need to find us is some hot chicas looking for action and the full moon party tonight should be the perfect place to do that.
Actually the real full moon was the night before on Friday, but they always hold the party on Saturday so more people can go. The party is to be held at place called Kendwa beach which is about four kilometers from where we are staying on Nungwi. When the tide is high, it’s extremely difficult to get from Nungwi to Kendwa. But when the tide is low, you can walk the four kilometers along the beach. On the night we arrive, the night of the big party, the tide is supposed to be low at ten o’clock. We are good as gold…
After settling into our bungalow and going for a swim in the ocean, we go to the local bar about six in the evening in order to get properly primed for the night’s activity. We smoke a couple joints, drink a few beers and then move on to the cognacy…the local whiskey. Oh no Pat. Haven’t you learned your lesson? Too much whiskey gets you in trouble… But alas, a little trouble is good for the soul. Give me another shot of that stuff will you please.
It’s shortly after ten when we begin our long stumble down the beach. How good does it feel? Just picture it; a full moon, a low tide, a nice buzz from whiskey and weed and a beach that seems to go on forever. To the left of the beach there are these steep choral rock walls, and above the walls are the yuppie side vacation resorts. We stumble along the edge of the water, looking up at the sky, looking out at the ocean…. It sure is a beautiful universe.
So we make it to the party, and what a party it is. Kendwa beach has a reputation for having the best full moon parties on Zanzibar. People come from all over the island to attend. There must be five hundred people spread around the bar, the dance floor, the bonfire and the beach. And well over 50% are beautiful, scantily clad young ladies presumably looking for action… Yeah, well, I know. I’m a bad man. Only one thought is on my mind. But really, can you blame me? I just spent nine days on Pemba with no one to talk to but Marius. Not a hot babe in sight. And here I am surrounded by a plethora of possibilities. I feel like a kid in a candy store. A sailor on shore leave….. The lusty animal inside me is crashing at the cage.
We make our way into the crowd, buy ourselves a couple of brewskis and have a look at the various possibilities. It only takes about 15 minutes or so before I notice a beautiful local girl giving me the eye from the dance floor. Oh yeah, this looks promising. I leave Marius behind and casually ease onto the dance floor. I manage to attract her attention and I offer to buy her a drink. We leave the dance floor and head to the bar. I’m wondering as we walk if she speaks English or only Swahili. I soon find out. I have just handed her the first beer when she puts her arm on my shoulder and whispers in my ear “30 thousand for boom boom on the beach….”
Yeah, that’s right, I’m a little tempted. 30 thousand in local currency only works out to about 15 bucks. And it has been a while so I could really use some of the old boom boom. But that’s not really my way. Call me crazy but I still like to believe that sacred acts of copulation should not be commodified. Yeah sure, I’m ready for some healthy intercourse in the moonlight. But I’m not ready to pay a hooker for it. So I extricate myself from her clutches and head back into the crowd.
I find Marius again and have another beer with him. I then leave him alone to go find the bathroom. It’s on the way back from the toilet that I see her.
“Hey,” she says, “I know you.”
“Yeah,” I say, “we met a couple days ago at breakfast.”
A conversation ensues and we become friends. Isn’t it great to be absolutely wrong about somebody? I mean seriously, my initial impression of her could not have been further from the mark. True, she is American and from Connecticut no less. But she is far from a spoiled princess in search of her roots on vacation. She has spent the last two years doing Human Rights work in Nigeria. At the moment she is backpacking in East Africa. After Zanzibar, she is heading to Uganda and Ethiopia. She is definitely a traveler rather than a tourist. She is also much older than she appears. Although she has the look and glow of a healthy and vibrant 25 year old, she is almost as old as me… Hmmm this is interesting… I could actually like her… When she next reveals to me that she also worked in Nicaragua and speaks fluent Spanish, I am hooked. Hot chicks that speak Spanish make me crazy… So it’s decided. I am convinced. This beautiful young (well, not so young) woman will be my partner for tonight’s celebration. All I have to do is convince her.
And so, for the next several hours, that is what I endeavor to do. We have a long and wonderful conversation. We talk about life in the U.S. and traveling and work and quality of life and the western world versus the third world. We debate the concept of living in the moment versus calculating and planning and rationalizing… Really though, I am just trying to convince her that we should get naked and roll around in the moonlight… It’s another episode of the great cosmic dance. It’s the human mating ritual; the long drawn out process that takes place millions of times, every day, all over the planet earth. Human males attempt to convince human females that sex is a good idea. The females always hesitate, doubt, explain, and otherwise express reasons not to, even though in reality they really do. Come on ladies. Discover the animal within. Live the moment. Do what you really want…
I am somewhat convincing. I even use a few lines in Spanish. I’m not sure how, but somehow, I convince her to follow me down to the beach to have a quiet beer by the ocean… Oh yeah… One thing leads to another…live the now, honey, live the now….. Next thing you know, we are making out in the moonlight… Is life good or what? The initial session of tongue twisting continues for some time (she’s a damn good kisser), and because I’m a guy and I have to try, I attempt to remove some of her clothing there on the beach. And then, well, we have a bit of a problem. The beach isn’t exactly crowded but there are plenty of other people around. It is dark and we are at a full moon party so I’m quite sure no one would really care that much. But I’m not much of an exhibitionist and neither is she. Yeah, sure, if she was willing, I would do it. I have enough booze in me to forget all inhibitions. But she is definitely not ready to strip naked and go for it right there in the sand.
“So why don’t we go somewhere else?” I suggest. “Walk down the beach to a more secluded spot?”
“I don’t know,” she responds hesitantly. And then she articulates all the usual rationalizations; the reasons not to live the now… “I just met you. A woman travelling alone can’t be too careful. I’m not the kind of woman who just picks up a guy and has sex on the beach. Sure, it seems like a good idea now. But tomorrow, I’ll regret it.”
“Oh come on,” I say, “we met three days ago at breakfast. I feel like I’ve known you forever. You can trust me. I guarantee you won’t regret it in the morning. If you don’t like the beach idea, let’s go back to your bungalow.”
“But actions have consequences,” she says… Honestly, does this whole debate sound familiar? How many times has this little drama played itself out in the world?
“Live the now,” I insist. “We have the perfect environment. We’re on an island beach in Africa. We have a full moon. If you are ever going to live the now, now is the time to do it.”
“I don’t know,” she says, “I’m looking for someone to love, not a one night stand.”
When all my verbal persuasions fail, I switch to body language. I start kissing her again. I put on my most stellar performance. Slowly, but surely, I am making progress. She is giving way; dropping her inhibitions; letting go. Finally, after what seems an eternity, she says the magic words, “I think maybe we should go back to my bungalow…”
Oh yeah! All right. Zip de doo dah, Zip de dee day… So we stand up on the beach and start to head for her bungalow. And that’s when disaster strikes. I reach into my pocket and realize I have the only key to the bungalow that I’m sharing with my Polish friend. If I go with her, Marius will not be able to get back in the room. I have to find him first and give him back the key before I can go with the girl……
Damn, damn, damn… Why am I so stupid? It’s all about momentum…. Live the fucking moment. Forget about Marius. Let him sleep in the sand. Live the now. Go with the hot woman.
But I don’t. We spend a half an hour or so wandering through the crowds of people looking for Marius so I can give him the key. But we can’t find him. And by the time we give up looking, my date has changed her mind. Western rationality comes roaring back. I don’t know. Maybe she had time to sober up while we were wandering around. Maybe she didn’t like the idea that I was ditching my friend to go with her. Or maybe she had strange notions of my potential as a long term prospect rather than a one night stand. One way or another, when I proclaim my willingness to give up the search and return to her bungalow to continue our glorious moment, she says no…and no means no. I may be enthusiastic and persuasive, but I am not pushy. So, when she says, “I think you should go find your friend. If you really like me, you’ll meet me here at this bar for drinks tomorrow afternoon…”
I say, “okay, I will meet you tomorrow. Tomorrow is, after all, another moment to live.”
So that’s it. I struck out…. Well, sort of struck out… There is still tomorrow. But I say goodnight and start heading back along the beach towards my own accommodation a mere four kilometers away. I haven’t walked but a hundred yards when I realize I have a problem. The tide has come in. Where before there was an endless beach, now there is water that goes all the way up to the choral rock cliffs. There is no way to walk…. Oh fuck, what the hell, can I do? I don’t even know where the girl’s bungalow is or I could beg her to let me stay until the tide recedes…shit, I have to go forward. I wonder how deep it is.
So I head forward. And the water gets deeper and deeper and deeper. First it’s up to my ankles, and then my knees and then my waist. I take the grass from my pocket and hold it above my head so it won’t get wet. I keep moving forward. The water’s up to my stomach and then my chest…… shit…. I can’t fucking swim four kilometers in the ocean while drunk…. What the hell am I going to do?
And then it hits me. A big fucking wave comes crashing in and it slams me up against the choral wall so hard I almost lose consciousness. I gash my leg open and am bleeding into the ocean. I lose my footing and am under water. Next thing I know, I’m floundering around in the surf with a bleeding, painful leg. Fuck. I’m going to drown in the goddamn ocean after a full moon party…. Can that really be my destiny? Such is the roller coaster nature of my crazy existence. One moment I am perched on the precipice of ecstasy, awaiting the final plunge into full moon fornication… The next moment I am struggling in the surf praying for survival.
Miraculously, I manage to regain my footing. The water is up to my neck and the marijuana is all wet but I am still alive. Turn around, or go forward? I can’t fucking swim four kilometers. What the hell am I going to do?
There is a rocky point just ahead of me. If I can round that point there might be a beach on the other side. I go forward; on tip toe; watching for the next big wave. This is really stupid Pat. You should turn around before you die. But I keep going forward. I don’t stop. On tip toe, I hold my breath for the next wave. I round the point. There is no beach on the other side. But there is a staircase that leads up through the choral wall… I am saved.
Now picture this scene; crazed, drunken, stoned, long haired hippie, emerges soaking wet from the ocean with a leg dripping blood. Where does he emerge? You guessed it…yuppie side. I spend the next two hours wandering wasted and wet, with a bleeding leg, through fancy, expensive resorts in the light of the full moon. If anyone comes out and sees me, I will probably be arrested. I feel like a prowler, a deviant, a criminal. But it’s about four in the morning and everyone is sleeping. I have to climb fences, dash past hot tubs and saunas, circumnavigate swimming pools and sneak from one resort to another. I just have to keep following the shoreline and I will make it back. But there is no road or direct route; just a confusing labyrinth of pathways that meander around some very expensive bungalows and cottages. There are probably even a few overly enthusiastic security guys with guns lurking somewhere. Now wouldn’t that be a shitty way to go. Confused for a prowler and shot dead at a beach resort.
Eventually, I do make it back. And I find Marius sleeping in the sand in front of the bungalow. But shit, he looks quite comfortable in the sand. He would have been fine until the morning…… Why was I such a crazy stupid fool?