Imagine this scene: the gliterrati of the region assembled at our hotel restaurant and bar, socializing, drinking, smoking (a sign of affluence) and enjoying live music. The men are beefy and hefty – some are in suits, some are in cool t-shirts and jeans and chains. The women are dressed to the nines, in satin and sequins and heels, and have spent all day getting their hair done. That’s HOT: Hotel Orion Tabora. It’s where we stay when we’re in Tabora.
On the Sunday night that Young Whan arrived, we ate a hefty meal of dagaa na ugali wa mahogo, small lake fish stew with cassava mash. I was surprised to see so many people at the bar on Sunday – the usual day of rest and prayer. But sure enough, the bar was packed with men guzzling bottles of beer and women drinking sodas.
We went back to our room to rest and allow ourselves to digest the heavy cassava meal, with a plan to return to the restaurant-bar when the live music started.
Some time later, instead of live music, we heard a very long drawn-out serious-sounding speech in Kiswahili followed by an American pop song that would start, then suddenly stop, and get interrupted by more boring speech. The voice was muffled from our room, so I couldn’t quite tell what he was talking about. This abrupt starting and stopping happened many times more, and we got curiouser and curiouser as to what was happening out there.
This is what we found: four plastic chairs assembled in a line and five of the beefiest, well-dressed men dancing around them when the music played, and then brawling each other for the last chair when the music stopped. They had been playing musical chairs that whole time. Musical chairs.
I often have to redefine cool when I’m out here.