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Three of my childhood buddies and I at boarding Banadir Secondary School in Mogadishu used to hangout together after study hours. Mostly Soviet teachers teach and live at school campound. Many were highly trained educators who were sent by their institutions on secondment to practise english. They were reserved and disciplined. The boarding school was notorious for bad and tasteless food, and many of the students were complaining of heartburn caused nutritionless eating. We used to call the rice for dinner “cement” because if you raise and overturn your plate, the contents wouldn’t fall off. Under this dire situation of our food intake, student-boarders needed extra pocket money for tea with milk in town early evenings. Many of us didn’t manage to have extra pennies everyday. One early evening my buddies and I went to a teashop called “Bar Saqajaan” by Saleman Gaal, our school principal, the current chairman of Somaliland Senate, The Guurti. “Saqajaan” is a derogatory term in Somali language for bad behavior. Our strong entourage of four had had enough pennies to share for four cups of tea with milk and two pieces of cigarettes, the popular Rothmans brand. Anshur, the oldest of us, hailing from the village of Buhodle in Togdher, located at border with Ethiopia in Northern Somalia (now called Ayn by Puntland State), started lighting up one of the shared pieces of cigarettes and continued to have more puffs of its nicotine than the other co-owner. “Hey, you are taking up more than your dues”, protested the other stakeholder of the common piece of the cigarette. Jokingly, Anshur responded, “let me do enough puffs all the way to Buhodle”. “kkkkkk”; We all laughed.

After delicious tea and barely enough nicotine, we all felt relaxed, with the exception of our friend, Sharif, hailing from Indian Ocean coastal town of Brava to the West of Capital Mogadishu. At home, Sharif used to enjoy eating Bursalid, an oily Somali baked dough, and in this Bar Saqajaan, he was seeing pieces of it packed up in its show-windows at counter. Unable to have a piece, Sharif started singing, “bursalid nin aan meeso qabin balad haduu joogo, kama baahi beelee ishu balac ku siihaaye”, which roughly translates: A poverty-stricken man in town can’t help, but keep glancing at bursalid. The entire guests and waiters at bar broke into a thundering laughter. The owner of the bar, worried about the evil-eye of Sharif, brought us four pieces of bursalid for free.

Sharif, now fully satisfied, turned thinking about other mudane stuff. At that moment, there came a hen running around the corner of the bar. Suddenly, Sharif looked at Anshur and asked him, “Anshur, how soon a hen delivers her babies after conception?” Anshur immediately responded to him, “if you mate with it now, it would deliver many kittens for you right away”- another thunderstorm of laughter from the audiences.

We all agreed that it was a wonderful and enjoyable evening- a time well spent in a rare occasion.

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