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Kitchen Parties and the Agony of Love

"oh my god, you are stressing yourself out", my boss said today when I came into my office holding a pile of paper I just copied. We had electricity for two hours today, which is good, and I managed to copy some mock exams for the IT students. I slammed the pile on my little desk. I had printed them off the internet, seeing that I am teaching IT and know virtually nothing about it. "Well, Andrew, it's not like I'm not used to it", I said, thinking back to the ridiculously hectic days in recruitment. I had copied 20 pages and taught one class since 8am. It was now one o'clock in the afternoon. The day stretched on, it seemed, and 5pm would never come. Luckily my mum called, which was nice. Having a local number has made me feel so much more settled. Except that I frequently get asked for it. Especially by cabdrivers, security guards and pretty much any male zambians. But still. It was nice talking to my mum. I told her I had to teach two computer classes tomorrow and was therefore a Busy and Important Person. She sounded doubtful. "But...you don't know anything about computers!". Hmph. Why do people keep fixating on that?

On Saturday, I was invited to a Kitchen Party by Mrs. Banda, who teaches our tailoring class. Like most invitations in Zambia, it was done spontaneously and without consulting the person who's party it was. Not that it mattered, though, as everyone is welcome everywhere here. I said yes, without having the faintest as to what a kitchen party is. Never mind. If there is one thing I know, it's parties. I told my colleague, Oscar. He looked amused and worried at the same time. "it's like a hen night" he said, "but it is strictly only women and done at a rented function room". Ok, I thought. That sounds fine. Oscar still looked gloomy. "Just whatever you do, don't close your eyes. At any time". Right....

I arrived late for the party on Saturday, because I was caught up with my Finnish friend Hanna at Manda Hill. Manda Hill is the only place in Lusaka I have seen other white people in. It is a shopping centre, not especially glam, but the sort of place you find in Leicester town centre or Plymouth high street. But it has coffee shops that sell real filtered coffee, and no one stares at Hanna and me. To me, it's an oasis. The supermarket there stocks Crunchie bars, diet coke, tampons and face cream, which to me sounds like the promised land. I had bought a nice present for the bride, and rushed in, an hour late. Being an hour late in Zambia is a norm, so how was I supposed to know that Kitchen parties are one of the only things that run on schedule? The place was pumping with traditional drum music, and before I could even look inside, a woman grabbed me by my wrist and pulled me along "Where have you been, my dear? You are very very late! We have expected you!" I had never seen this woman in my life. She dragged me through a space as big as a football pitch, filled with roaring women, and up onto a stage where the bride was sitting and the ceremony master was dancing, wiggling her hips. People were screaming, clapping and singing. Someone took my bag and wrapped a traditional scarf around my hips. And I knew what was coming. I panicked. My eyes furiously scanned the crowd for Mrs. Banda. Surely she would save me? Jesus. They wanted me to dance. In front of all these 200 women. And not just dance, but to do that hip-wiggle that I sometime practice in the privacy of my bedroom when I know no one is watching.

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As a mzungu, though, I get away with most things. So I just hopped around like a paralysed frog for a bit, before leaving the stage. Someone passed me a beer. It was a 14-year-old girl, whom I loved more at that moment than anyone in the world. They made me dance with everyone. I got photographed with every woman in the house. I felt bad for sealing the thunder from the bride, but she didn't seem to mind. I just wished I had brushed my hair beforehand. Then, it all ended as abruptly as it had begun- by 7pm, the place had been cleared and I was staggering back to the hostel, ears still pumping.

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The evenings are a little quiet here, as Lusaka is hardly the most happening of cities. Sometimes I meet Hanna, or Miriam for a coffee, but generally I'm in the house by 7pm. And I have learned to love the TV here. Until the novelty wears off, of course. And seeing the only themes are fanatic TV preachers, bad swahili pop videos and nigerian soaps, that might be quite soon.

One day I was flicking through the channels and found the worst programme in the world. I was captivated. It was called "The Agony of Love", and it is basically filmed by a guy standing in the corner of a room, using a shaky handcam. When the dialogue starts, the music suddenly stops, as the two cannot be edited together. The background noise is often so bad that you can't hear the actors anyway, which is probably why they feel the need to repeat each line at least three times, in the manner of "I am so confused! Its so confusing! I do not think I have ever been this confused!". Or, that is, when they remember their lines. But not to worry, no need to cut out the parts where lines are forgotten. Just keep the camera rolling, the script will come to them in a moment. Oh, and in case you missed it- it is one of the soaps. There is a guy cheating on his girlfriend and another guy cheating on his girlfriend with the same girl. I wish they could at least throw in an amnesia or suchlike, in the grand tradition of bad telly. If an aspiring writer needs a job, there is a whole world of soap operas to be developed in Africa!

Milla is coming to visit me soon, and Lynn hopefully in December. Am hoping for more visitors, so people, start using those credit cards! I'm off to the Northern Province this weekend, and am starting to realise what a great country this is for travelling....

Posted by Ofelia 01:46 Archived in Zambia Tagged volunteer

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