One World, One People – was absolutely not the correct order. Guiren Gui figured as soon as he arrived at Mogadishu appointed as emissary at the Consulate of the People’s Republic of China in 1966. He was driven from the airport in a thunderstorm to a house in Hodon. The roads were flooded and caked in mud. He was thirty-four years old, unmarried, a strong advocate of Maoism and thoughts that occurred to him were quite inappropriate. They belonged to different tribes but looked alike to an extend he could not ironically identify faces. The liaison officer, a local agent, appointed by the Chinese looked so identical to his chauffeur in the way they dressed, body movements and stature.
In the recent years, Mogadishu grew fifty per cent in population holding roughly a 170,000 people. Still a small community of one people, one race, one custom and one religion – concentrated mainly in Sufism. A small group of Christians dwelt in Shangani area – a cathedral was built by the Italian Government in 1928. For the most part this oneness was grisly xenophobic towards outside norms and practices. Thoughtfully, his former colleague and the first emissary boarded this mission in a house with tall boundary walls on Tarabunka near the Turkish Embassy.
However, this oneness as a whole brought peace and harmony to the streets of the beautiful town as if the people were brainwashed and happy to call it the ‘White Pearl of the Indian Ocean’ sitting in the baking sun and light reflected on whitewashed walls of the tiny houses. These people were devoted to live a lazy life at its fullest, eat well and enjoy without a protocol of a working class dressed in uniforms, regardless of an existing bias in the rich and poor; particularly the caste and the clans. They were proud of their family roots. Gui figured even then a stimulus deeply buried in the stomachs of the clans.
Former colonial powers, mainly Britain and Italy, bestowed freedom and Somalia declared independence in 1960. Italy dominated this region and fought battles until she was defeated in the World War II. Certain territories maintained by Italy were under UN mandate and while portions of Somalia became British Protectorates.
China intended to make a foothold in the region with the rise of superpowers, established diplomatic ties on 14th December 1960. Somalia supported in China’s entry to the United Nations. With the Sino-Soviet split in which Somalia’s role became most centric in the region, both nations engaged high profile visits and often the presence of navy ships in Somalian waters.
For these reasons, China stationed an informal consulate to carry out their duties with only few staffers dressed in white uniforms. Gui was the second envoy.
On his first visit he was driven to the Governor’s Palace overlooking the port, some four kilometres from Hodon, to meet the Administrator of the Trust Territory of Somaliland and sat for lunch. He chanced to observe the decorations in the Arab Hall, tapestries in the Queen Elena rooms and a huge panel in the Hall of Deliberations showing ‘San Giorgio’.
It was a bright day and Gui took a brief walk by the sea. He had never seen the ocean before. This was his first mission away from home. The sparkling blue and the turquoise lagoon captivated his eyes. Breezes blew in taking the sand into dust. The lighthouse and the fortress appeared in splendour, alongside tiny boats tipping on shallow tides by the seaside in the harbour.
For the Chinese emissary, it was another boring day to sit and listen to deafening silence and inhibiting sounds in the surrounding. He sipped tea from a china cup seated behind his desk on the wooden deck carpeted red on the top floor of the two-storey house. In the quiet mornings, he could hear a child reciting the Holy Book at throat-level, a housewife hammering and clanking a brass mortar and pestle making eardrum-breaking noises while crushing spices. A rare bicycle bell or a weird horn out of earshot or a noisy tractor passing by. Somebody’s coughs and chew spat on whitewashed walls. A couple wrangling on the road or a passer-by flapping flip-flops on his heels. Noises haunted him through the nights in bed.
Days were long and the clock thirst to swing its heavy pendulum to count down lazy minutes and hours. He cursed because his government set up a consulate in a hot dry climate by the coast of Africa where a bunch of seafarers and a promiscuous ethnicity did nothing apart from gossiping.
He could see through the window, women squat on bare buttocks washing clothes and hang them on lines in the backyards. Womenfolk roll on ground stone to bring out flavours and an excitement in the aroma of food they cooked. They ate a lot. He could see school kids in tainted white blouses and dusty feet.
At noon, Guiren Gui could hear the lonely prayer relayed from a mosque. The typist, Lily, would stop her tapping. Bureau staff sat for lunch. He would retire to his room for a nap. Another call for prayer and he’d turn up to play ping-pong while at the mosque those Sufis sang chorales accompanied by a percussion.
A day came and folks came out to celebrate and feast, dressed diligently in bright robes, dancing at street corners thrumming drums and tambourines. The Turkish Embassy lit bright in colour bulbs. The Chinese were then invited to feast and enjoy an Arabian Night that brought a fiesta of Whirling Dervishes and a striking belly dance performed by an Anatolian girl called Layla – the Queen of the Night.
Later into the night they served excellent wines and exuberant dances. Local girls demonstrated hip rolls and shimmy walks travelling flawlessly to the music. And these girls wore colourful dirac, maximum slips, tucking to show silky undies. Drop a ten senti coin in their feet and they would do an expressive dance to reveal upper thighs. The rich charmed themselves.
Gui noticed someone tossed a coin before a tall girl from the neighbourhood. She rolled her underskirt gathering on the waist and tucked on a hip. She stepped into dance. Those legs were long and reflecting colours on shiny brown skin. Her hair swept to an up-do and bun wrapped in a red scarf. She wore strings of gold bracelets on both wrists and a stunning xirsi necklace.
In the next minute he discovered his own feet of talent and stepped into dance; a hop and a clap, nothing upbeat and no rhythm at all. He danced on for four hours long after the show ended and the place vacated. He was in a kind of a fuddle that whole night.
Two days later, Guiren Gui climbed the rooftop to fix an antenna to receive Radio Beijing. He heard the flow of water cascading to paved floor. Bordering behind the consulate, there stood a house of a wealthy family. This immediate expanse was their shower garden neatly carpeted in white sand. He saw the backside of the brown girl standing by the water well taking shower with the help of a container attached to a pole. She got a lanky tall figure, long black hair and hideously naked in the background of white walls. She wore a silver girdle around her hips. Red roses planted beside the walls in clay vases.
Gui made a periscope out of bamboo and when he heard the shower he would raise the stick over the wall and watch this beautiful girl take bathe in the afternoon sun. Later he’d hop around the hall tapping a ping-pong ball on a pen-hold racket.
One day, Lily caught her boss masturbating by the wall. He was glued to the periscope and failed to hear her step. He turned in absolute shock. She was standing too close for comfort. Lily apologised and left quickly. It was never mentioned between them.
Days later, he tested the shower girl by throwing a ping-pong ball over the boundary wall. She never threw it back. So he climbed the wall. She wore a farcical face. Gui climbed down and picked the ball.
And the very next day the ball fell into the pitch. She did not throw it back. Gui had to climb up and come down to get it. She was twenty-four years old and a foot taller than him. She danced at the Arabian Night party for a ten senti coin.
Lily and the staffers knew that the emissary had a mission on the other side of the wall. Soon, it all came to end in a matter of months. Shafa – the girl in shower – became pregnant.