#145 Truly Local Bars
Submitted by Mr Mlungu.
It’s Monday morning in the Country Office and talk turns to the weekends events. While some have attended the “Family Day” at the local International School and others have spent the weekend watching Premier League at the Expat Pub, there’s always that one Expat Aid Worker in the office who will announce in a casual manner; “I went to Ngwede Club” waiting for the inevitable response from the others “I’ve never heard of that place” which perfectly sets up the reply: “No, you probably haven’t. It’s a local place.”
The mythical “Local Nightclub” is a place where all EAWs strive to hang out. It’s full of local folk drinking local beer or local liquors like “Hankey Bannister” while, most importantly, dancing away to a local band playing local music. EAWs are drawn to these places not because they are full of host-nation authenticity, but because they may very well be the only mlungu in the place, thus giving them supremacy over other EAWs, as well as plenty of Facebook fodder for the next day.
These locales are usually situated in places far away from the international school, expat-friendly coffee shop, import grocery store, and expat sports pub. The local pub is a place so off the track that when a local colleague hears you went there, you will score a look of amazement. (How could you go to such a crime ridden part of town, so far from my own comfort zone as a well-off local aid worker? You could have been robbed, or worse!? Why would you even want to associate with those people? These EAWs are a strange bunch….)
The local nightclub is a place where the veteran EAW can truly feel and go native while dancing the night away, attracting both wanted and unwanted attention. It’s an opportunity to display longevity in host country by discussing obscure local poets and writers oppressed during the cultural era while stressing the correct pronunciation of their names. While at the local bar, the EAW will shun talk of Manchester United or Liverpool while gladly discussing the coaching deficiencies of FC Lusaka Free Star Boys Sporting in the domestic league. All of this is aimed to show that the EAW is one with the people, even though ordering a drink costs him or her 50% more than it costs ‘the people’.
The next day Facebook posts usually read something like “Hungover after a crazy night at Ngwede. Babalaza band was off the chain.” These status baits are dropped with the express purpose of triggering comments or messages inquiring as to the next trip there and can the commenter go too. On the few occasions when a neophyte is included in one of these local bar trips, the local-bar-connoisseur will inform the newbie that they are lucky to be allowed to tag along, as they don’t want to risk ruining the atmosphere by having it overrun by other EAWs. Because of this it is essential to keep the location secret.
On arrival with the newbie, the veteran will overplay his or her knowledge of club staff, hugging the bar tender or owner or manager like a long-lost brother and acknowledging the band like a former member, even though the veteran had his or her first drink in the place only a week prior. The veteran knows that come the next day the neophyte will be telling everyone about their crazy night at a truly local nightclub thus enhancing the veteran’s status better than any Facebook or Flickr update ever could.