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Friday, June 20, 2008

The Watering Hole

I recall a local Zambian watering-hole called Municipal Sports club (Muni’s) with fondness. It’s where all the “who’s who” of Lusaka would congregate to drink and supposedly solve the world’s social ills. This was a ritual to get ready for the rest of the night. The preparatory bantering and arguing -while under the influence of a lot of alcohol- would lead to more drinking, arguing and the occasional fist fights.

Saying guys would solve world issues may seem fat fetched. However to state otherwise would be to cheat the many men gathered of their prime belief -that their voice mattered. To suggest they keep the discourse on a country level would not give credit to the assembled intellect. Conversations were not focus on local politics unless it was about our beloved football which always involves politics.

Any topic could be engaged with some expert discourse. What is happening in Kyrgyzstan? You’d get an answer. How does that spill in the Puget Sound affect the environment? Another answer. Why have the World Bank’s policies not worked in Somalia? You would get an answer. How did Bush win the election? You would get an answer? Is the AIDS virus manufactured? Answer. Note; there is nothing in my writing that suggests that the answers proffered would make any sense, but, you would certainly get the bar-side politician point-of-view. I have seen many a fight manifest when a person over-questioned the veracity of an answer.

You see there’s a machismo in drinking your 14th beer, still having the ability to hold yourself straight while having a somewhat lucid conversation. Your peers are usually more in respect of your constant gulping and call for another beer than they are of your scope of knowledge. Now if you can also chat up girls while almost motherless and drunk, you’ve kicked it up a notch. Therein would lay the key to your success; beer, girls and the ability to argue.

I neglect to mention that while rambling at about 2AM in the morning, many of these ‘intelligent’ gentlemen had wives and children at home. If they were true believers, then they walked into the house after work just long enough to drop off their briefcase and maybe, change their clothes. Otherwise, it was straight to the watering hole. The die-hards would not even go home. It would be a straight line from the office to the club. The round table discussions would be in session. Presence at these conferences was vital. Upon arrival back at home around 4AM, there was an accepted expectation that wives wake up to ensure that each pundit did not sleep without food. Needless to say that each conference panelist would have already availed himself of numerous items from the club kitchen.

The watering hole fed the macho attitude bred into many young Zambian men. Negative attitudes and ideologies towards women were nurtured here. “Yes, it’s a man’s right to have more than one woman. In fact, it’s expected.” We became well versed in the game of cat and mouse. Intricate battle details were shared between sips of Mosi (local brew). We were taught how to avoid being caught if your girlfriend showed up at the club -while you were working another girl- “here’s what you do.” Mountains -of what then seemed like useful information- was piled into our heads. Its sole purpose was to build us into the drunken, womanizing, briefcase businessmen we were destined to become. Love was considered a sign of weakness, “So she dumped you because she caught you with another girl? Forget that @#$%, there are many other chicks!” You dare not respond to this with, “But I love her!” This could cause you to be heckled and derided for the rest of the night. “Here have another drink!”

So now, having evolved into a Christian, wife loving, immersed father, I look back and wonder how we made it this far. We should be dead. Many guys continue/d to play Russian roulette with sex in an environment rife with AIDS. Many of the pundits have died, or are dying. If you are familiar with the way some African countries address this crisis then you will know that it is considered an unmentionable. When you ask how a pundit died you will be told, “He was in and out of the hospital.” That is the complete answer. Very few will actually say, “It was AIDS!”

So you may ask, what has happened now. Has the club closed? Are there no more pundits left? Has there been a change in attitudes? The answer to this may scare even the strongest of heart. The pundits are still there, lined up waiting in the wings to take an available chair. So we spill a little beer for our fallen comrades., those who listened to the bad advice and died too soon, those whose children have never heard the words "I love you", those who didn't designate a driver and never made it home, those whose wives have left them. In the immortal words of a popular rapper, "This is for ma homies!" or in the language of my forefathers and one of my brethren standing at the Muni's bar “Iwe barman; leta ubwalwa!” - (Hey barman, bring more beer).

Written by Soneka K Kamuhuza©2005

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