Sunday, December 17, 2006

Office Christmas Party

Last night I went to my office's Christmas party. I'm a bit odd in that I think office Christmas parties are fabulous. I think it all goes back to the very first one I attended, when I was 19 and working in a bookstore in Washington, DC. The party was held in a big billiards hall, and I was immediately handed a wristband - the bouncer didn't even check my ID, as I was "with the gang."

I had two beers, which back in those lightweight days got me fairly tipsy, and then talked philosophy (or perhaps just talked nonsense - it seemed alright at the time) with my normally very uptight boss. It was the most unexpectedly fun evening ever. I felt so grown-up and cool.

Since then, no other party has quite lived up to that one, but I just keep hope alive.

For this year's party, I was expecting your typical early evening affair - beers, mingling, some deep-fried finger foods, but I found out in advance that there was actually an agenda for this party. That tells you a lot about where I work. So I got there on time, and of course beat almost everyone else.

I think most people expect African parties to be this big raucous affair, with poundingdrums, dust flying in the air from vigorous, booty-shaking dancing, and loud, boisterous singing. Alas, this is not the case. Every African party I have attended instead consists of very sober-faced men and women sitting, either at tables or in rows of chairs, drinking beers and sodas, and talking quietly. I am not kidding. I even took a picture to prove it. In some parties, people eventually get up to dance once they've had enough beers, but in Eritrea and Sudan they never moved.

So I joined right in: grabbed a buffet-plate full of food, and then sat for two hours. Occasionally someone walked by to shake my hand. Then came the ubiquitous speeches. But after the speeches, a wondrous thing happened - someone had arranged party games! All at once, everyone was out of their chairs and cheering and laughing. My boss came second in the most lively game of musical chairs I've ever seen. Rather than just walking around the chairs, all the Malawians boogied. They worked it.

I was enlisted to play the next game. Along with three of my coworkers, I was set in front of a row of bottles, blindfolded, and then told to step over the bottles without knocking any over. I did so very deliberately and carefully, but I figured that everyone else must have made a mess of it, given the rowdy laughter from the crowd. After lifting my blindfold, I saw that they had removed the bottles, and everyone was laughing at our earnest efforts!

I left early, as I had a birthday party to get to, but I was sad to have to leave just when the party was finally getting good.


Dad said...

When we were young we had church socials where we played party games and young and old alike thoroughly enjoyed it. It doen;s seem to be the done thing at Seattle parties, but I've been to a few English ones that involved game playing.
I can imagine our Kenyan friends at RBPC enjoying silly games too.