#1 - Surreal
Jody Finver - 23 June 01
(Lusaka, ZAMBIA) - "Hi,
I’m Dawn. Does anyone need any acid? “
“Do you have any MDMA?”
“Naaah. But you can get that at the Smart Shop—“
“Yeah, I know. 100 mg for $US100 dollars. Too much for me.”
“Ah well… any acid?”
“Hmmmm….Sweetheart what do you think?”
“Oh, anything you want love. It’s fine with me.”
“I’ll take 2 hits. “
I watched this conversation
taking place in front of me and wondered, is this Africa or
a scene from Trainspotting 2? Actually, it was a little of both.
Sally and I arrived early in Livingstone and decided to kill
a few days by heading north to Solipse, a 10-day festival with
the world’s best Trance DJ’s, celebrating the eclipse. After
waiting 8 cold hours on a platform and then finally taking what
goes down as bar none, hands down, the most disgusting, overnight
train ride fathomable, I found myself in Chisamba, Zambia, sitting
under a makeshift Bedoin camp of sarongs and throws, protecting
myself from the scorching African sun. Sally was off with her
camera at the main stage dancing up a storm and taking photos
when Dawn noticed our Welcome sign and popped on over like she
was selling Avon products.
It was surreal.
10,000 people, or something
like that, trekked from across the world for this. Mostly English,
Japanese and an enormous coalition of video-camera toting Israeli’s.
All there to party and ‘feel’ the music. It was one of the few
times I was able to dance without some cheeseball shimmying
up to me to shake his groove thing and try to grind me into
submission. Anyone at Solipse who came up to dance was only
thinking about the music, if they were thinking at all. Solipse,
for many, was just a drug-fest with an intense soundtrack.
Seriously, drugs were more
readily available than toilet paper or bug spray. And they were
not sold on the sly. There was advertising. Signs and posters.
Barkers telling you to go to the Smart Shop or the Chai Tea
Shop. All transactions made in US dollars. The Kwacha, was accepted
at food stalls as a courtesy. Spiritual gathering to honor the
cosmic forces aside, the vendors were looking to make a buck
or two. And they racked it in. Woo doggy this was a goldmine.
Malawi Gold, that is. I’m no MBA holder. I know jack about finances
and exchange rates, but a sandwich-size Ziploc full of pot for
$US 5 dollars? Have Mercy! This was the Costco of ganja. Buy
in bulk and save! Save! Save! Malawi Gold was practically being
given away. Surreal I tell you.
Sitting by one of the bonfires
after dancing for four hours, I was cursing myself for not bringing
more money, but I started to have this kinda Willy Wonka scene
with images flashing in front of my face at hyper-speed -- Jeff
making a no, no, no expression, Sally saying, “I’m not risking
my career for you to try making it over the border with a backpack
full of weed,” tribal images of people sitting ever-diligently
deseeding their bags of gold. It was, I must admit, the images
of Midnight Express that put my short-lived smuggling days to
rest. Seemed bad form for the trip to kick off with one of the
team members holed up in a Zambian prison.
We hooked up with a great
group from England. Simon and Lynn, Rob, Emma, Kate (from Texas),
Paul, Amanda, Jeremy, Claire, Shawn, Peter (who, small world,
lives down the street from me in San Francisco) and Justin.
The music was incredible and pounding from 6pm until 3pm. The
djs, kickin’, but what made the festival was that our new-found
Solipse family all did poi and I had mine with me.
Poi is used by the Mauri’s of New Zealand in a ceremonial dance.
Basically, they are balls covered in kite tails with a string
attached that you hold in your hand. You swing the poi around,
twirling ”from the wrist” as Kate would say in a Poi Clinic.
If it is done correctly, it looks like you are dancing and being
encircled by two swirling orbs. If it is done wrong, well the
poi just smack you upside the head or in the jewels and you
start over. Not only did this group master the art of poi… they
did fire poi… Sally and I were water patrol and extinguished
their engulfed poi as they twirled and danced. When they lit
up, people just stopped dancing and turned, staring at them
mouth agape. It was mesmerizing. Simon and Kate were hypnotic.
I shall never forget it. Simon was even filmed by a CNN crew
that was there covering the eclipse. Simon dressed in UV, was
doing UV poi which all glowed under black lights. Black lights
were a big hit there.
So the eclipse. Hmmmm. Picture
8,000 people on something, sitting in the middle of a field
in no man’s land Zambia, Africa wearing blacked-out 3-d glasses
staring up at the sky saying, “ Beautiful man.” Actually it
was very spiritual and cosmic. There was a medicine wheel, Shaman
and a great vibe and energy there. And what moment wouldn’t
be cosmic without an acid-tripping, hippy-dippy chick dressed
in white, waving a silver-starred wand around proclaiming herself
the Solipse Fairy and blessing festival goers?
It was a once in a lifetime
event. Something neither Sally nor I will soon dismiss as just
another moment in our travels. Nor will Jeremy and Amanda who
got engaged during this auspicious moment. How cool is that?
I danced until 4:30am, Sally until 5:30 and then three hours
later we were off to Lusaka to take the bus back to Livingstone.
What a way to kick off a year-long trip.