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I teach abroad and continue to pursue the life I was given as if it was my last. Many people think it is. In my spare time, I enjoy lapping up ice cream, reading spy novels, and euthanizing manta rays.

Friday, February 17, 2012

My First Ever End of the Year Party in February

There is a common acronym used to make up for any shortcomings on this continent. T.I.A. (This Is Africa).

My reply: TITTFC (This is the Twenty-First Century).

Last night, Kyambogo University celebrated its end-of-the-year party at the Hotel Africana. A beautiful poolside setting and streaks of crimson and orange sky beckoned. Unfortunately, Kampala got its first real rainfall in two months and all plans were dashed, tables moved indoors, and hundreds of staff made to wait. And wait. And wait.

The party started at six. I arrived at five minutes to. The program got underway about 7:20. We didn't eat until after 8:30. In the meantime, hundreds of lecturers, admin, builders, mechanics, janitors, and librarians stood and waited in the outdoor corridors, looking around for some sort of direction to their evening out.

As I had nothing to do and no one to really talk to, I started noticing familiarity in the room I was sitting. And then it dawned on me: the room we were setting in was the setting in "The Last King of Scotland"'s State Dinner where Idi Amin woos Nicholas to join his staff. No sign of any actors on hand for this event, however.

Therefore, I had to turn to my other stand-by when things get really bleak: watching simple, normal Ugandans wait in utter disdain, with their arms folded, and their bellies rumbling, while the Deputy Vice Chancellor gives an inordinately long speech just after promising there won't be any speeches (he read from a copy of the Vice Chancellor's prepared speech (the latter cancelled at the last minute)).

Of course, the funniest thing about the entire event was that we were celebrating the End of the Year Party. In February. There was a cake, streamers, sparkling candles, and even a couple of sarcastic "Happy New Year" chants when the cake was cut. The official line was the party had to be postponed due to logistical concerns. That's African for 'broke'.

I sat with library and IT staff. Most of our good-natured banter centered around the old guard, who must have had to endure dozens of these galas that ran about the same way. Watching entire tables of disinterested and dispirited middle-aged Africans can be absolutely fascinating when there is nothing else to do. The only thing worse than watching these broken souls is sitting with them. I was very, very glad I found a group of young staff to share the evening.

It was very appropriate all of this was staged in a once charming and state-of-the-art hotel built in the 1970s that needs a touch of modern class and upkeep in order to compete with newer, grander competition. Somewhere, there's a metaphor in there.

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