Chapter I

Sasa was standing in the middle of her bedroom pondering how she would manage to put an end to such a mess in such a short time. In the beginning of the previous week Sasa had strategically left the papers, books and DVDs that she had to look at, urgently, lying on the floor of her bedroom, so that they could easily and constantly catch her eye, thus insisting on being read and watched. Throughout the week these had become intertwined with all the other papers, books, DVDs, clothes and jewellery that had been left lying around because she didn’t have time to put them back in their designated places. A bit of disorder didn’t particularly bother Sasa — she would even cherish it — but it had now escalated to such a degree that all the singularities of her belongings had been erased. They had all blended with each other becoming a formless homogeneous ‘being’. This was not a sight she liked to wake up to; Sasa had jumped out of bed at the sound of her alarm clock, quickly slid in some clothes and had only really woken up when she was already dressed and standing in the middle of her bedroom. There is no methodology that could be put in place to annihilate this hideous blob — Sasa said to herself — the best thing is just to attack the ‘beast’ and hope for the best! And once again I set the alarm clock for later than I should have! Sasa was also fighting a battle against time, she had to be at the airport in a few hours, to catch a flight to M. Sasa moved swiftly and determinedly around the bedroom — attacking the ‘beast’, as she had called it. When she finished restoring the particularities of her things back to them, she grabbed one of her suitcases, opened it and quickly threw into it an array of toiletries, clothes, shoes and books, called a taxi and off she went to airport. The flight attendants at the check-in counter informed Sasa that her flight was delayed indefinitely, but still, that they hoped that it would take off in the next 5 hours. That’s annoying ! — replied Sasa — What is the cause of this delay? One of the flight attendants said that the airlines had miscalculated the impact of the air traffic controllers’ strike in W, a neighboring country. Sasa decided to sit down in a café and read a newspaper. Most news is practically equal to the news of the day before, and week before, and week before that one: an endless loop of economies contracting leading to unemployment and cuts on people’s wages which led to more contraction of the economy leading to more people getting fired and taxes getting higher — thought 1

Sasa; and she suddenly imagined that the whole economy would implode — The strikers would invade all companies and governments, occupy them until every company and country would go bankrupt; and somehow everyone would need to start from 0. There wouldn’t be any more abstract debts! Nor any ridiculous disparities between people’s wealth! A whole new economic model would be put in place! But that would never happen and the plane is now ready to go. Sasa sat on the plane and looked out of the window, looking for some traces of daylight, but it was now nighttime. She felt the plane rocking her and soon she was in a room illuminated by red light, looking at some photographs that depicted two blocks of flats, Sasa thought they seemed familiar, but couldn’t really place them anywhere. Her friend Clara was there also, she was leaning over a basin full of photographs of the same blocks of flats; she turned to Sasa and said — Your turn, I’ll switch off the light. In a few seconds the room was dark. Sasa adjusted the negative on the enlarger and then switched on its’ light. When the light switched off she threw it the basin closer to her, then to the one next to it and Clara turned on the red light again. Sasa looked again at the photographs, this time she recognized the buildings depicted in them—they had been constructed in the 70’s on one of M.’s most attractive beaches, for tourism purposes. At some point in the late 90’s, perhaps because people lost interest in going there, the restaurants, bars and cafés slowly closed down and the two towers slowly became empty. They survived for a decade until, the company who owned them went bankrupt and the government decided to demolish them, and got a new company to do a new luxury resort on the same site. Alicia went to pick Sasa at the airport as she always did. Over the years they had developed a ritual they were both very fond of: Alicia would pick up Sasa at the airport and they would sit for a couple of hours in a café or at her flat catching up with each others lives, while sipping tea or coffee and smoking cigarettes. It was quite late and most cafes were already closed, so they went to Alicia’s place. Alicia was upset with work, a new fungus had recently appeared, it was highly adaptable, and could live in non-humid areas. It had crept its way into the museum where Alicia worked and had colonized all the textiles. This museum was also responsible for three historic houses, one one of which had already been contaminated… They only had sufficient funds to restore 2

the textiles of the museum itself; for restoring the textiles in the house they now needed to apply for other sources of funding. Alicia was particularly concerned with how long it was taking for them to make a move: the damage on the fabrics was increasing by the day and there was the danger of it spreading to the other houses. Sasa inquired what was holding them back. Alicia said that they couldn’t agree on whom to ask money from. If they asked from a certain textiles company in B. they would have to replace all the originals with replicas (these would be shiny and new) and store the originals. If they asked from the H. they could keep the originals on display. Both Kate and I want to keep them on display — said Alicia — but the new museum director says we are old-fashioned, and that we have romantic ideas about museology. But his solution, replacing the originals, embraces the tradition of preserving a house as a museum for patriotic and idolizing reasons... that is the logic behind most historical houses in B. The houses there weren’t preserved for being the houses that they were, their architecture, décor… It was about who had lived in that house, only the houses of “important” people were transformed into museums. He says that is absolutely not true, in his views, employing the same methodologies doesn’t mean employing the same politics. But from what I’ve seen from him so far, it seems that his idea of museum is very similar to the one we have of Disneyland! You look like you’re undergoing an immense struggle to stay awake. I’m also pretty tired, lets go to bed! Sasa nodded, apologized for her sleepiness and wished Alicia a goodnight.



Chapter II
Sasa woke up and slowly unpacked her things. After delaying until she could no longer delay, Sasa brought herself to call Zamani. She dialed the number and waited. Zamani answered the phone. After realizing it was Sasa - that she had finally arrived and was calling her, she became very animated. — I’m so happy to hear your voice! You arrived last night right? Around 1 am? I heard you arriving; the airplane! I went to bed and lay down under a mass of blankets and waited very quietly, attentively listening. I sharpened my ears and heard the plane descending… — A turmoil of emotions rose in her and soon it was spiraling in and among all her particles. Sasa interrupted her — No…. It wasn’t the same plane. I landed at twenty past eleven. I guess the plane made its way to the airport by a route that doesn’t fly over your apartment. — No! — Zamani’s emotions were now rapidly approaching the threshold of flooding — I’m sure I heard it, and I knew it was you! It had to be you! — These emotions then dissolved into an awkward listing of what had happened during her day, where particular emphasis was given to some domestic affair involving potatoes and that it had been announced on the evening news that Troika had demanded that four public holidays should be cancelled — two religious and two public… Sasa had never managed to grasp the origin of these outbursts from Zamani, nor what triggered their dissipation. Why can’t she show affection without suddenly starting to speak about something like potatoes? Or worse, about what someone had said on TV! — thought Sasa– She speaks fondly of people who had died before I was born; still I wonder if the happiness in her voice comes from remembering them or if it is nostalgia for those times? Sasa tried to recall the times she had heard Zamani say the verb ‘to love’, at first she thought never, but then it struck her that she had heard Zamani say at least on two occasions: that she loved her country and its flag. Sasa remembered a conversation she had with Zamani over tea the last time she had been in M: When you are abroad and you stumble across our flag don’t you get moved at once? To the point that tears come to your eyes? — Zamani had asked her. Sasa had said — No. After receiving what was to her eyes a disappointing, even shameful, answer Zamani continued — I get so moved; or when I listen to the anthem, sometimes they play it at the beginning of football matches. 5

The players put their right hands on their hearts, and I follow them — Zamani swung her right arm up, close to her body and then rests her hand on her left breast — and … Why don’t you feel moved? — she paused briefly to re-collect herself and then continued — You know when I was abroad, with dad, grandfather, when he was alive and we traveled, my chest would fill up with pride when came across our flag in foreign lands. How come you don’t feel pride whenever you see it? And how dare you say that’s it’s ugly! It’s such a beautiful flag! It’s our flag! Zamani paused again, this time for longer, so to tame the anger that had been growing inside her chest. Sasa’s lack of interest and respect towards their nation felt like a lack of interest and respect towards her. Zamani then decided to ask her — And how do you like the country where you are living now? I don’t find it at all pleasant! — To her delight Sasa had expressed discontentment towards her new country of residence. Zamani then told her — I love our country! It’s so beautiful! No matter what anybody else says, and those crooks running the government do to it; it’s my country and I love it, and there is no other country as beautiful as this one. Sasa wasn’t a bit interested in the conversation, she didn’t understand nationalist and patriotic feelings and had grown to loathe them. She would have liked to say that she was head over heels for that country, that it was the best place ever! But she was forced to admit to Zamani that she was not so fond of the place. Sasa really disliked living there, but she knew that if she said she liked it, the strength of her aversion would pull up her upper lip and nose while bringing down the corners of her mouth and eyebrows, resulting in a vivid expression of disgust! 6

As the phone conversation progressed Sasa understood that Zamani had gone out of the house earlier that today — I needed some potatoes — she explained, and quickly returned to her story — I also tried to get some Heirloom tomatoes, you like them right? On the other day I was talking with Alicia, and she mentioned you quite liked them. But I couldn’t find them anywhere! Oh! — interjected Sasa — Thank you so much! That’s very kind of you; but really, there is no need… Well, you do really like them, don’t you? — asked Zamani — And Alicia said you really felt like having some, so I want to get some for you! Thank you very much! But well, you couldn’t find any, so… We can have some another time! — said Sasa. I’ll go again tomorrow to look for some! — Zamani continued — But only tomorrow, if you knew how much I already walked today! My feet are so swollen! She did say you liked them! Ah! — thought Sasa — I hate getting caught in the middle of their issues! The relationship between these two women is a strange entanglement of fears, shared sorrow and feelings of possession and duty. Perhaps even sadism and masochism… She then suggested that Zamani soak her feet for half an hour in warm water with sea salt. That might be a good idea — said Zamani. Why didn’t you take the bus? Or the tram? A taxi? — asked Sasa. I don’t know why — replied Zamani — I thought I wouldn’t have to walk much… I can now loosely foresee how the rest of this conversation will unfold — thought Sasa, she used to think of these episodes as ‘confused sadomasochist’ fits. Zamani would do or try to do something nice and unexpected for a person, generally for Sasa or Alicia, but in order to do it she would undergo some tortuous journey. Afterwards she would share in detail with the person to whom the nice gesture was dedicated to, the pain such venture had caused her. Thus sabotaging her generosity and upsetting all parts involved! But why didn’t you go home when you felt tired? — asked Sasa. I don’t know why — replied Zamani, the timbre of her voice carried her exhaustion and how sorry she felt for herself — First I went to the grocery shop that I normally go to, they didn’t have any, so then I went to the 7

one down the road from that one, they didn’t have it either, so then I went to that supermarket behind the park, again no luck! My feet hurt and ached, but I continued walking; I went to so many shops and still wasn’t been able to find some; so tomorrow I have to go out again and look for it. What a horrible punishment! It was hell! My god, why such torture? What have I done wrong? What sin have I committed to deserve this? I make no harm! I don’t understand! God, why? I haven’t harmed anyone! Why Father? Please don’t send me the same fate tomorrow! — She told all of this with growing pathos to Sasa, who was getting more and more upset by the monologue and had started daydreaming to prevent further irritation. When Zamani went quite, Sasa swallowed her exasperation and said — I really appreciate all the effort but there is no need for you to go in search of it again… Please stay at home and rest. — Despite Sasa’s efforts to sound kind she delivered this words with a slight bitterness in her voice. Sasa felt that they should to end the phone conversation and talk some more later on the day, but as she started saying goodbye when she became conscious that the conversation had shifted, Zamani was now giving her instructions on now iron pants with creases: — You start by turning the pants inside out, iron the waistband, pockets (on both sides), fly area, seams and hems, in that order. Then, turn the pants right side out and pull the waistband over the pointed end of the board. Iron the waistband area and any pleats along the front of the pants below the waistband. Lay the pants lengthwise along the ironing board with both legs together and carefully line up any preexisting creases. Take the hem of the top pant leg and bring it toward the waistband, folding the top leg away from the bottom leg. Iron the inside (hem to crotch) of the lower leg. Turn the pants over and repeat for the other leg. Smooth out both legs carefully and iron the outside of the top leg. Give extra attention to cuffs, if the pants have them. Turn the pants over and iron the outside of the other leg. Hang warm pants immediately to avoid wrinkling. Fold them through a suit hanger to avoid crushing. That’s how you do it! I used to be so good at it. My mother was so proud when they complimented me in relation to how well ironed his trousers were. After he, father, I guess he was jealous, asked me to iron his also, and off course I did and grandfather, great-grandfather was very pleased with my ironing. And when he married, because he married before I did, and then he didn’t have his trousers so well ironed anymore… that wife of his doesn’t know how to keep her house! When he told me that he saw him ironing his own trousers while his girlfriend 8

stood looking at him, instead of doing it herself… I was baffled! Where… She seems to function — thought Sasa — between a triangulation of self-assertion, a common sense rational, which is grounded in the same principles as those of a 1950’s middle class housewife, and the conduct of respectable catholic women, all intertwined with a growing neurosis that is sporadically visited by paranoia. You know how to iron properly, right? — asked Zamani. Yes… — answered Sasa, while thinking that she was terrible at it — Shall we have dinner tomorrow evening? Yes! — said Zamani — Come over my place. What would you like to have for dinner? Whatever you feel like having! — answered Sasa — I don’t have any cravings, thank you for asking! Is 8 o’clock good? Yes! — answered Zamani — Goodbye, have a nice evening. You too, sleep well. — said Sasa. And they hung up.



Chapter III
Some readers are perhaps wondering if a character with such a name, Zamani, is long gone… and that perhaps our character Sasa is maintaining conversations with a ghost. That is not the case; to relate to the names of these particular characters one needs to move closer to an allegorical realm than to anything else. In Swahili culture people are rarely thought as singular individuals— as there is the belief that humans are social animals in constant interaction with others and not hermetic entities, a person is mostly thought as a plurality of relations. Time/people/communities are conceive as being part of one of following realms: Sasa and Zamani. These realms are both dimensions and ontological states, that can be affected both quantitively and qualitatively. When translating them to Western thought one could say that Sasa is the present time, the near future and the recent past; and Zamani is the realm of the distant past. Sasa is formed and populated by the living, and by the deceased who, in their life time, met people that are still alive; Zamani is formed and populated by the ones who have for long been dead; i.e. when all the people who had known personally a deceased have died, then this deceased becomes part of Zamani. Nonetheless Zamani is not only the realm of the distant past, it is also part of the present; because for some of the living go about their lives having weaved myths into their quotidian, and myths were—and still are—created with the stories and histories of Zamani. It was our character Zamani who explained me all of this, soon after we met— at that time I hadn’t named her yet; the characters’ names came much later. A long time ago Zamani lived in L, a country in the East African coast. L was at the time a colony of the country where she was from; her husband had been offered a very well remunerated job there, and so they went. They were still living there when her husband was diagnosed with an incurable illness. When she recognized the gravity of his condition and the certainty of its fatality, she left the hospital and walked aimlessly for hours around the whole town; she walked up and down the hills of the city. She was exhausted and endlessly sorry for herself. Her feet hurt and ached, but she continued walking. She found herself in the desert. It was in this moment that our paths crossed and I met our character Zamani. She could not clearly say how she had 11

arrived there, she was so full of sleep just at the point of entry, she could not say if it was exhaustion or a dream. I had been looking in vain for some water when I came across her, and asked her if she had some. She thought I was a hallucination, and didn’t really understand why a hallucination would need water, but she still gave me some. I told her how I’ve gotten there: I had just escaped from a merchant who was transporting me together with other shellfish to the house of a wealthy, powerful man who lived close to the desert and who was going to have a feast the following evening. He had demanded that the best seafood would be served—he wanted to show his guests that he was a man of so many resources, that even being more than 15000 km away from the ocean he could still serve fresh wild seafood. Zamani was clearly upset and as I was quite lost myself I decided to stick with her. She kindly carried me on her shoulder. After some hours of walking in silence she jumped in awe — There is someone there! And I know her! I know this face from somewhere! — said Zamani — There was a photograph of her in my parents house, resting on my father’s bedside table. She is my great-grandmother, from my father’s side. She passed away before I was born. I see no one! — I said. That’s probably because you are a crab! — remarked Zamani — and next to her, surrounded by fog is King S. do you know who he was? No! And I still don’t see anyone! — I replied. There is a whole crowd! — continued Zamani — King S. ruled over my country, many centuries ago — I don’t really know when — but I remember his story. The throne of a neighboring kingdom had been usurped by traitors, the former king after having managed to escape a fate in the hands of those traitors went to King S. court and begged him for his aid in reclaiming his sovereignty. King S., as the noble soul that he was, joined him into battle and there he disappeared and no one has seen him ever since. But, it is said that he will return when, by some horrible misfortune, chaos takes over our country. He will come in a foggy morning, ridding his horse and will put everything back into order! Zamani sat on the sand and stayed quite for a long time; she was looking rather pensive. I know where we are — she said ripping the silence blanket that was covering us – We are in Zamani. Somehow, we ended up here. Those wretched people were right. I always thought Zamani was nothing more than the nonsense born in the poor minds of those savages. 12

It was then that she explained all about Sasa and Zamani, or at least how she had understood it. It seems that she had learned about it by eavesdropping on the conversations of her servants; she had gained this habit after the servants of one of her friends rebelled, and Zamani wanted to make sure that no rebellion would happen in her house. Also she was afraid that they might be doing some witchcraft against her family. She then said — If this is Zamani, then my husband will inevitably, in some years be here. I should wait for him here. Suddenly Zamani disappeared. Zamani’s description of Swahili culture had a great impression on me… Maybe because I was born in P, a western country, she assumed I shared her views on time, people and so on… But these things don’t have anything to do with geography. Maybe it’s because she believes I’m a hallucination, born in her mind, a part of her; she expects that I share her reasoning… That makes even less sense! Even if I am one… a hallucination, which I’m not! A hallucination and the psychotic mind who creates it are very rarely in accord. But whatever the reason, she explained me things as I have done to you. Well, not exactly in the same way, but assuming that I think of myself as she thinks of herself ! It was very confusing. A crab is never separate from ‘other’ crabs. Never! We are a constant plurality. Crabs have many crabs living inside them; I carry many crabs inside me! We are cannibals; not by the same reasons of the Korowai people, who eat witches who have put curses on people in order to stop the curse, and who truly dislike the flavour of human flesh. I think crab’s meat tastes fantastic! We believe, such as the Tupí people, that when we eat another of us, they become part of us, we absorb their strengths, weaknesses, everything. For the Tupí the absorption happens in each bite they give, in the chewing and swallowing, so they are very selective with the people they eat — they capture the strongest and bravest warriors from enemy tribes and keep them in captivity testing their bravery. Once they are certain of the captives’ qualities, they prepare a ceremony where they will kill and eat them. For a Tupí to be eaten is a great honour, its an external validation of their accomplishments. We, crabs, eat all other crabs, without testing the quality of what we are going to eat, it just happens. Even if we observed a crab for a long time… what would that prove? He can have hidden sides that are only revealed in certain situations. Anyway, crabs 13

only absorb the other through digesting, we retain the parts that we want to, and we expel the rest. Because of our cannibalism we are always many crabs, and we see no difference between recent and distant past, nor with the present—the dead, the figures of the distant past, are part of us. Zamani appeared again, they didn’t allow her to become part of Zamani—she would have to wait.


Chapter IV
Zamani woke up, opened her eyes and smiled. She lay still for some time, trying to figure out what would be the best way to go about her day—Zamani wanted to make sure that she wouldn’t forget any of the necessary ingredients for a warm welcoming dinner. Zamani had also noticed how her days had recently grown to like playing unannounced mischief on her…She found the constant disruptions these caused on her routines very distressful. I like when things happen the way they should — thought Zamani — so I write down everything I need to buy before I go shopping, I double check everything, I keep all letters, receipts and papers so that when the tax office asks me for more money I can ask them: why? I do everything accordingly to how it should be done so that everything will come out well. I like things well done! With care, method, zeal, precision and attention. I can only sleep in beds made with sheets that have been meticulously tucked under the mattress after having been vigorously ironed and stretched. I need to feel that all the softness of the fabric has been tamed, and that now the sheets resist adapting to the shape of my body. Rigidity and constancy are my weapons against chaos! Mornings wouldn’t break into afternoons, afternoons wouldn’t break into night, there would never be any cooking done on Sundays, a café wouldn’t break into a dance floor, men wouldn’t break into women and women wouldn’t break into men. We make plans to meet at certain times and we meet at those times. Zamani thoughts shifted back to concerns related to the dinner she was hosting that evening and her apprehensions about possible disruptions led her to recall her previous day. She had left the house early in the morning to run some errands and when she got back home she found a paper on the mailbox notifying her that the postman had tried to deliver a registered letter and that she would now have to collect it at the local post office. I was hungry — recalled Zamani — so I thought I should have lunch before making my way to the post office. I remember that I put the note inside my purse as soon as I finished reading it. I had lunch and then put my coat back on, grabbed the same purse I had used in the morning and left the house. When I arrived at the post office and requested the letter, the note was no longer in my purse. I came to find it later on that day by the telephone. Today there will be no time for becoming disconcerted or frustrated over these incidents — Zamani said to herself — I will have to find a way to move around them somehow… I will see Sasa today and we shall have a delightful dinner 15

without any disorderliness! When Zamani found a scheduling solution she was pleased with she became aware of what was to her contiguous; there was no noise coming from the streets or from the adjacent flats, as there was no sunshine trying to force its way in through the blinds. She reached the bedside table where her watch was lying; it was 5 o’clock. In an attempt to get back to sleep she closed her eyes, rolled to her left side and curled. After remaining static for quite some time, it became clear to her that her attempt was useless. Nervous excitement had cause her blood to become fizzy and the evaporation of all the melatonin in it, and this prevented her from going back to sleep. There was no point in getting up and start to go about her day, as the first thing Zamani had to do was to go shopping, and the market only opened at 8 o’clock. So she decided to fill the time with memories. I remember — said Zamani — when my mother told me that on the following day she would teach me how to cook Steamed Clams — it was in the week after I turned 14. It isn’t a difficult recipe, but she had said I could help in all the steps! I got so very excited! I had been allowed to help around the kitchen before, but just for mixing things and beating eggs. I wasn’t authorized for example to chop things, nor to add spices and herbs. Now it would all change! I was getting closer and closer to becoming a woman! I was so excited that I barely slept all night and the following morning, just like today, I woke up very early. I knew that from that day onwards my mother would finally start grooming me for becoming a good housewife. ***************** Zamani had made pumpkin and green bean soup as a starter, for the main dish she had prepared entrecote and potato mash and for desert, chocolate mousse. It had been a quite laborious day…. a good mash does take some time to make… and chocolate mousse requires a lot of energetic beating. When Zamani finally took out her apron she checked the time, ten minutes had passed from when her guest were suppose to have arrived. Sasa and Alicia are late. The entrecote will soon start cooling… — thought Zamani — no dish is good when eaten cold, entrecote being one of the worst! She had spent hours preparing the food and wasn’t at all happy that after so much work she would eat a 16

mediocre meal because they were late. The excitement Zamani felt over Sasa’s visit had kept her going through her day without ever feeling tired! She had cooked without a break, now that annoyance had taken over her excitement and irritation was emanating from every nerve of her body, tiredness started creeping in and soon she was feeling exhausted. I constructed my life in segments — Zamani carried on thinking — fixed rigid segments, or else everything would be a mess; and I can’t deal with that. Making one’s way through things is no way of going about life. I need for things to stay in their designated places. What I’ll never let anyone ever know is that I’m afraid of the formless — the form that is not stably fixed, whose nature keeps shifting. I construct my life in segments, each segment leads to another. And they all have predetermined lengths. And when the unexpected comes along, I hold myself tight to these segments. Or else things become messy, slightly chaotic, and that’s no way for one to go about life. Sasa goes about life in a lines that sometimes becomes three, or five, then it becomes one, it spirals, goes strait until it splits again. It makes no sense! I am faithful to my upbringing, and proud of it. I know they see me as a ghost. I am one! When they did their revolutions they thought they would also expel the self-righteous, the housewives, the patriotism from our bodies, from my bodies. But what do they know? They didn’t expel anything, and now I’m a phantom that will haunt them until order is once again ruling! Zamani jumped at the sound of the doorbell ringing. Sasa gave Zamani a tender smiled and hugged her tightly. Zamani also smiled, her annoyance and tiredness seemed to have drifted away when she opened the door. Alicia and Sasa apologized for their delay — Alicia had got stuck in a meeting, and Sasa was her ride. You should have told them that you had dinner plans… — Zamani answered — it’s ok; but lets have dinner, the food is getting cold. At the sight of potato mash Sasa got very excited and exclaimed — Ah! Thank you so much!! I love potato mash! Especially yours! That’s why I made it — said Zamani — its just potato mash, I find it very amusing that you like it so much. Did you have a nice day? Not really — answered Alicia — well… it turned out ok! We finally persuaded the director that we should apply for the funding from H. But we argued about it for the whole day. Hum? — asked Zamani Do you remember that problem we had with the fungus at the museum? — asked Alicia. 17

Oh yes — said Zamani — Did you manage to convince him not to replace the textiles? Yes — answered Alicia — We’ll start drawing the proposal tomorrow. Congratulations! — said Sasa They continued chattering through out dinner, and then they decided to see the evening news. The current state of affairs was pretty bad… the economy of the country (of every country it seemed) was sinking fast; the government’s strategy to dodge bankruptcy was to make cuts on education, healthcare, wages… They now wanted to merge together schools with not so many students, mostly in the countryside areas. This would mean that for some homes the closest school would be 50 kilometers away. Alicia and Sasa started protesting at the sound of this new proposal… Why don’t they sell the “government cars”? — said Sasa — Do they really need to be driven around by chauffeurs on such a regular basis? Can’t they just take the bus like everyone else, or drive their own cars? Shush! - said Zamani — they can hear you! Who? — asked Sasa. Just be quiet — said Zamani — they know what they are doing! What a nonsense, politicians taking the bus! What do you know about running a country? You are not a politician. And do you want to get in trouble? No! — replied Sasa — but that doesn’t mean I can’t spot corruption and … Sasa — Alicia whispered — She lived most of her life on a society that wasn’t allowed even to think ill of their government, I sometimes wonder if she doesn’t think she is living in those times.