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It’s a brisky evening in Dar es salaaam. We are in this steak house. These ones are not like the ones we have back in our dear Nairobi. These are enclosed, warm, tucked in some corner building with multicolored Flemish bonded bricks. These are rooftop steakhouses with dimly lit lamps on table of two’s. There is a complementary pineapple on the edge of the table and a sculpture of two Massai’s hugging frantically.
I know Eliud, I saw him 6 months ago and he hasn’t changed a bit. He is wearing a thick silver bracelet on his left hand and a fitting jeans on a yellow stripped t-shirt. He spots me immediately and raises his arm in excitement. He comes by the table and makes himself comfortable. He is 6 feet tall, a bulky chap whose second home is the gym. He is obsidian in the flesh with smooth skin like a newborn’s bum. Glassy eyes like a Chinese doll with a touch of heavy jewelry around his neck and arms. He looks like the Rogue South African debt collectors. The difference is just that, Eliud here is from Kendu Bay and doesn’t speak in thick Zulu accent. He shakes my hand firmly and says,
“Long time since I saw you Khan, how is home (Kenya)?”
He speaks in a posh accent, the one which mingles more with foreigners than locals. Sometimes gets him turned down by a German lady at the counter because he is too “English”.
“Everything just the way you left it, apart from a whole bunch of Chinese crowding the market”
He laughs softly and throws his hand in the air. The waiter comes by and I order ribs while he orders steak and blue cheese salad. Is that even a thing? “blue cheese salad” (help a Kenyan from shags). We eat in silence. Eliud tells me he left Kenya to come and work in Tanzania in 2015.
He had a short but devastating encounter with drugs.
“I started using drugs when I was in Kenya, precisely in Mombasa in 2010. I never knew of this whitish stuff back in shags. Back then, the only past time was fishing and sitting by the lake on evenings. We would smoke sometimes, you know boys. But even getting a smoke was hard. Things changed drastically when I came to Mombasa after graduation. I thought of living in the city (Nairobi) but I got frustrated in the 6 months I was there, I couldn’t secure any job so I thought of Mombasa. It felt like home, calm and serene- until I came to realise I was deep into drugs.”
You were an addict from 2010 to?
So where did you live in Mombasa when you first settled in?
I was at a cousin’s place in Kisauni.
How did it first start?
I was struggling to find a job. I was young then; early twenties and of course needed friends. I soon started hanging out with boys from the hood who were just as jobless as I was. We would go out on weekends and do all that stuff, smoke weed, sniff the powder and even inject ourselves. Soon the routine changed we started having all these every evening. I would get home late sometimes even sleep on the mosque barazas and get home the next day.
Weren’t you there to look for a job?
“I was, but soon I gave up looking for one despite constant persuasion by my cousin. One time my cousin even found me a low paying job at a cyber café but I declined. I thought it would rob me off my time and pleasures. You know these things (heroin) they are like warm golden sunshine flowing through your veins. It makes everything look beautiful, but then it grows fangs and wants to take your soul. You either feed it to your body or you feel like dying. And once you believe you will die you give in and never come out of that hole.”
At any point did you feel like you had given in?
“Of course!” he shot back. However, my cousin helped me control it. It was very early he said. He reminded me what brought me to Mombasa. I had left old parents back home to come and earn something so I can send something back home. I was drifting off. He took me to a counselor who had been his classmate in university. She was a peer counselor who worked for social awareness program funded by the British in Kenya. She took me in as a client for free. I was to receive therapy sessions for 6 weeks back to back.”
Were you able to attend all the sessions?
Of course, she was beautiful.
He smirks as his gaze lingered on me.
Although there’s a contract you sign I guess before you start sessions. Something to do with confidentiality and that you can’t have feelings for your counselor. I know that but nothing happened Khan, chill
So do you mean to say only the counselor helped you out of this menace?
Of course not. I was seeing a doctor who came home regularly and sometimes I visited the hospital. My cousin’s friend had a brother who was an intern at the Coast General hospital, he organized with this doctor who gave me prescription of drugs like methadone which helped me feel normal. I wasn’t able to see myself into a rehab. I couldn’t afford it nor my cousin. He was already doing a lot for me. I was a mess but I guess the short period into these things also helped me recover fast and easily.
How long did you stay in Mombasa?
Almost two years.
Did your recovery happen while you were in the same area where it all begun?
“I can say part of it happened there, but I soon moved home. My mother knew of this through my cousin. I thought she would be very mad at me, but she wasn’t. She welcomed me home. Nurtured me like a baby back to life.”
So how did you end up here in Tanzania?
I had a friend who hit me up after years, asking me if I could show around wazungus back home. To help them see around our shags and other remote villages. He promised they would pay good and food was on them. My mother was reluctant. She said these buzungus are evil. She feared they might pull me back in a world full of vices again. I convinced her nothing would go a miss; and there started the expeditions from Kenya to Tanzania.
What do you think was the core reason for you to fall prey to this menace which is killing our youth back home?
I think our economy has stagnated and saying that in lay man’s language. The percentage of jobless youth is on the rise for the past 4 years in Kenya. Specifically in the coast region where drug abuse is rampant. The government has to step up its game and try hard to put these young boys and girls to work.
“We should call it a night i guess, you have had me do a lot of talking” he retorts. I look at him and smile. We both get up and walk towards the exit.
I am looking for people who can open up about their past and are willing to inspire the youth who have fallen prey to this menace. We are looking to appeal. Please email me at farhazkhan83@