We Made Amazing Friends in Moshi
The plan for Moshi was to get in, climb Mount Kilimanjaro, and leave three days later after catching our breath from the hike. Instead, Nathan and I lived in Moshi for 20 more days after summiting Kili, all because of two amazing new friends, Anja and Laura.
We saw Anja and Laura on the roof of our hostel, Haria Hotel, the evening before leaving for Kili. By sheer bad luck, we left the roof for ten minutes to get ready for dinner, and when we returned to invite them with us, they had vanished! When we came back from Kili, I mentioned to Nathan how cool it’d be to meet them again, but we both suspected they had left. But by sheer good luck this time, they were still at Haria (only to move to a different hostel a day later after discovering bed bugs!)! I bumped into them by chance on the roof once more. From the moment Anja smiled her broad smile and sat down with me, and Laura poked fun at my Harvard shirt—“Oh, I go to Hah-vahd,” she said teasingly—when I awkwardly told her I went to school there, I had hunch we’d all be great friends.
For the next 20 days we spent together, we met for dinner every single night and lunch every weekend day and many weekdays. We spent every evening and most afternoons together, eating, getting beers, partying or dancing, playing cards, and just talking for hours. I have rarely met such a remarkable set of people: Anja and Laura are two of the sharpest, funniest, and good-hearted people I’ve ever met.
Any given night with them promised a steady stream of laughs. It promised learning new things about their lives in Germany—from tales of teenage mayhem to their reminiscing about Mainz, Germany’s, fabled Christmas Market to their insistence that beards are the only way for men to wear their faces—and, for my part, learning more about myself through them. Among so many other things, Laura and Anja both reminded me that it’s healthy to be a bit crazy sometimes. Even quiet nights, like the last three we had together when the somberness of mine and Nathan’s departure finally took hold, were great just hanging out.
From this computer terminal in Dar es Salaam, I could recount for you in this post each of those meals and shenanigans we got up to in Moshi over the last three weeks. I promise you I would be smiling like a fool the whole time, more than happy to revisit & relive those days in the memories they left me since I am so sad—having just departed Moshi this morning [I originally wrote this post in Dar]—that I’m not there anymore. But in the interest of space and your attention span, in this post, I will just focus on why I named this post “As the Wind Blows.”
[My Month 3 highlights post has more blurbs about the best of what we all got up to in Moshi. But, to be honest, there’s more that we did that I loved than I can recount in any number of posts, so I’ll just keep most of those small moments cherished in the back of my head. For now, I hope you enjoy the rest of this post!]
As the Wind Blows
My favorite author, Robert Jordan of The Wheel of Time fame, opened each of his novels with a short anecdote following a burst of wind as it blew over the world he’d created in his novels. This wind blew with fury sometimes; other times, it caressed those it found as lover would his love’s face. The wind blew straight sometimes, following the river valley to the sea as logic would predict. Other times, it turned, howling unexpectedly to shatter some peaceful bucolic scene. Sometimes the wind was the savior. Sometimes it fanned whatever flames it found.
The pulse of life is like this wind in its dynamism and spontaneity. As we live, we try by our plans to guide our life’s course, the wind’s course, by putting structure around it. This degree will lead to this job will lead to this lifestyle will lead to this family will lead to this prestige will lead to this (preferably timely) death.
But the nature of life, like the wind, is that structures cannot really hold it. The decisions we make can surely push us towards desired outcomes; indeed, I believe it would be hard to achieve one’s dreams without plotting and following a path of choices towards those ends. However, many of the decisions we make—and frequently, many freak events or decisions made by others—will push us off our course, not necessarily away from our goals but certainly into unfamiliar territory.
Then, the wise treat life as the willow treats the wind. They flex to abide its unpredictability, and ride the swells of unforeseen externalities to their peak to look & discern their dreams on the horizon and re-chart the path towards those ends. Moreover, as Sun Tzu noted, the wise know that the best-laid plan only lasts until the first arrows leaves its bowstring, and recognize that unanticipated changes should not be seen as threats. Clayton Christensen wrote that the most successful and happiest of us look for opportunity in the unexpected. Thus, at the peak of externality’s swell, the wise look not only where they thought their dreams last were to discern where to head next. They scan the horizon, looking for new opportunities—new challenges to conquer, new love to discover, new inspiration to be had—new destinations.
Traveling is an exercise in riding externalities, positive and negative, and to Christensen’s point, if you ride each wave with an open mind, center yourself in each moment, and ask yourself, “How can I get the most out of this singular period of my existence?” you will discover unexpected blessings under and around the structures you were building to try to guide your journey.
One of the most glaring lessons to this effect is that overbearing timetables have no place in an explorer’s life. That’s not to say that one shouldn’t book a plane ticket home ahead of time to save $500. But it is to say that one should never forego the possibility of trashing that plane ticket if some unforeseen blessing more compelling than anything they could predict begs them to stay longer.
Another lesson is that one should always look down the side streets wherever they are walking. In a literal sense that’s important because, as we saw today in Dar es Salaam, sometimes busses come careening on the sidewalk off of side streets and can maim you if you’re not looking. So that matters.
But in a metaphorical sense, more than anything else, looking down a side street means saying “Hi” to people you don’t know. Because once you say hi, anything can happen. You could end up with your hopes squashed and feelings hurt, and we all know how that feels. Or, two people who you might never have met could become wonderful friends. I’d take the former a million times for one crack at the latter.