We go out for a night on the town Outpost style – that means a beer and a pizza – with our friend Tom.
Tom has been to Mwanza – a scruffy town on Lake Victoria, a five hour drive away – to the dentist. He’s had two teeth extracted. He is full of painkillers. He tells us he stayed at the same hotel as celebs Affleck and Damon.
Yeah right Tom. The beer’s not mixing well with the Ibuprofen. You see pigs fly too, Tom? And we laugh.
No really, he insists, they were there.
We don’t believe him. Not until visiting surveyor Tim arrives (for a beer and a pizza). He’d been to Mwanza too. And blow me down: he hadn’t just seen Affleck and Damon; he’d enjoyed a few drinks with them too.
What are they here for, I want to know, they making a movie?
No, says Tim, they’re Making Poverty History.
I text my beautiful star-struck 13 year old daughter at boarding school.
Guess who Tom saw?
Y wasn’t I dere, she texts back (why am I forking out a fortune for an education I think), did he get autographs.
No. Tom didn’t get an autograph or a picture. Nor did he talk to them.
I would have.
This is how I envisage my meeting in Mwanza with two of the world’s most famous movie stars would have gone:
“Hi guys”, I say as I approach them beaming and trying not to look like star-struck daughter.
“Hi there”, they reply, looking a bit nervous, wondering if they ought to recognise me.
“How are you?”
“Good. Good”, they say, looking no less nervous.
”Mind if I join you?”
”No, please do” (they’re gents, see: I’m thinking Affleck in Pearl Harbour; he must be a gent).
”What are you doing here? on holiday? serenegetti? the chimps at Mahale? the crater?”
”No actually, we’re working.”
”Wow!” (oh gawd, star struck again). ”You making a movie?”
”No actually”, and they sit a little straighter in their seats as if to impart the importance of what they are about to deliver: ”we’re Making Poverty History.”
”You don’t say! I just blogged about MPH”.
”No?! Did you really? Cool! What did you say?”
”Ummmm …” (because thru the haze of one too many beers and two too many stars I remember what I said and they mightn’t want to hear about it).
”Well I suggested it might be a waste of time”, I mumble.
That I’ve got their attention spurs me forth, I am emboldened by this 15 minutes with Fame.
”I said that I thought alot of the time it was a waste of time; the millions don’t get where they ought to”.
”What do you mean?”
”I mean that there’s billions of dollars being earmarked for Africa and I don’t see evidence of any of it where I live” (an outpost crawling with lunatics, a place where there are Aids Orphans and street kids who barely have the luxury of a bed or a square meal, far less an education).
”Where do you live?”
”Here”, I tell them, ”in Africa. Only not here, here; in a place five hours from here, kind of cut off”.
”We gotta go see”, they say urgently.
”Sure” I say, conscious that such house guests would impart huge kudos (failing to remember in that glorious moment that nobody in Outpost would recognise either Affleck or Damon): Karibuni! I gesture generously, indicating they are welcome any time.
”How far away did you say you were?”
”We’ll have to check our schedules. Is it a tar road?”
”No”, I say in small voice, ”it’s quite a bad dirt road actually”.
”Probably not this trip then”, butts in the loud man who has just muscled into our conversation and who is clearly in charge of The Schedule.
In reality – of course – I’d never had approached them. I’d simply have gawped, nudging my husband and hissing ”do you know who that is?!”. And then I’d have sent furious texts to my teenage daughter and all my girlfriends.
In reality – of course – their trip won’t have any impact on the lunatics, orphans and street kids with whom I share the Outpost.