For those of you who don’t know, Shashamane is to Rastafari what Mecca is to Islam. The word “Ras” comes from the Amharic word “head” or “duke”, and the word “Tarfari” being the pre-regal name of Emperor Haile Selassie 1 of Ethiopia, said to be the reincarnation of Jesus Christ or Jah. The movement may have started in Jamaica in the 30’s, but it’s spirtual heartland was here. We were on a dreadlock holiday, on a diet of reggae and ganja. The city resembled a dusty wasteland, but it proved a worthwhile stop on our way to Nairobi. “You want fire?” could be hear at every street corner. We indulged, and got more than we bargined for.
The morning we were due to leave, we had prearranged to meet a young boy, eager to make a few bucks. Determined not to get ripped off, I got an Ethiopian we befriended to accompany me to the transaction; his name was Ali. We met the boy on the street, carrying a large black sack. The three of us retreated into a discrete wooden shed adjacent to the bus station.
Ali (whipering in my ear): “How much do you want?”
Me: “Whatever 60 Birr ($4.50) will get me..” I figured it would get me about a handful, enough to do the journey to Kenya.
Ali: “No problem, do you have a bag?”
I produced a plastic shopping bag and handed it over. Ali spoke to the boy in Amharic. The boy opened his sack. The smell of fresh, tantalising bud entered my nostrils. Ali took a handful and smiled.
Ali: “Looks Good, eh?”
Me: “Dehna! (good)”
He shoved it in the plastic bag. Then he went for the sack again, this time with both hands. My eyes lit up. He shoved in our bag and kept going – again, and again, and again. I was speechless. The boy just looked on as if it was worthless. Ali squashed the weed to make extra room. It got to the point where the bag was bursting at the seams. Ali looked up and smiled.
Ali: “That’s about a kilo. Is that enough? ”
Me: “Eh… I think so”. Trembling, I struggled to get the bag in my rucksack.
The Boy: “Tip?”. I took out my pocket change.
Ali: “No, give him 20 birr (about $1.50), it’s plenty.”
Rendered dumb, Ali removed the money from my hand and offered the boy his measly commission. He nodded his head and departed, gleefully scampering down the street. Ali and I left the shed and head towards the bus. Danny was on board, waiting in anticipation.
Danny: “How much did he give you? Was 60 enough?”
Still in shock, I couldn’t find the words. I just opened my backpack and let him see for myself. Danny’s jaw descended; his pupils flooded; it was love at first sight. Once he laid eyes on that bag, I knew they would be inseparable. Subsequently, that meant we were about to smuggle a kilo of marijuana into Kenya…