Saturday, January 9, 2010

Nkhotakota dance par-tay!

Well, here I am in Nkhotakota, at the Sungu Motel. It meets my benchmark for hotel standards – there is a towel, soap, a mosquito net, and a fan that works. In fact, this place is rather four-star by Malawian standards – there’s a TV and what looks like a cable box, although they don't actually work, and I've been provided with sandals for the shower. However, I am not sure that wearing sandals that have been worn by countless other guests is really any better than standing on a shower floor.

Something in here smells like urine, though, and I’m pretty sure it isn’t me.

So our big event was tonight. I naively arrived on time, then waited an hour and half before everyone else showed up and we were ready to start. (Still, I just know that the one day I decide to show up late, everyone else will get there on time. So every time, I wait.)

I made my speech, and I think it went pretty well. It was mostly coherent, and I tried to not talk so fast. I always figure with public speaking, if you talk loud, clear, and slow, you’re halfway there.

Anyway, for once the speeches weren’t the main event here. Unbeknownst to me, this was not your typical NGO-government formal-schmormal talking heads evening. No, this was a shin-dig. A hootenanny, if you will. Open bar, DJ, and people drunk before the party even started – it almost felt like I was in New Orleans again.

As soon as the speeches were over, it was announced by the MC that I should take the floor with the District Environmental Health Officer, along with three other assigned couples made up of the bigwigs of the night, for the first dance. Now, I might seem like a pretty outgoing person, but dancing in front of a room full of people – ummm, not really my thing. But I did it, because this is my job.

And actually, I had a really great time. The other Malawians eventually took the floor, and the men, once they’ve had a few drinks, dance with such joyous abandon that you can’t help but get sucked in. The women are a bit more reserved, but even they get in on the action. So there I was, getting jiggy with the top brass of Nkhotakota district. A few guys even asked for my number (I politely declined). Seriously, it was like I was in New Orleans again, only with lots of termites flying around and me wearing a suit. Good times, man, good times.

Oh, and eventually I will get the pictures of me and my "first dance" off or our Communications Officer and post them here. But I have seem them already, and I can assure you, I look like a tool. I think a long career of looking awkward at official functions awaits me.