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Monday, April 22, 2013

at the mingle

I always wanted to go for the mingle. I loved the idea behind it: bring your own alcohol, meet other people who bring their own alcohol and start doing it(this is what is known in some circles as a pervert trap) while the sun shines. On Saturday I finally did

The thing is though that until that moment when it happens you don’t really know what it means to bring your own alcohol. I called just to make sure, I took a ticket and did a very un-Kenyan thing, planned for the future. The person at the other end of the phone told me that you can bring a drink but not a soft drink. Make sure it’s alcoholic. We went on Saturday having stocked up in a bag that one of three would have to carry until we eventually went home. This time it was at the ngong racecours. They asked for id, they asked to search the bag. They warned us that we shouldn’t bring in any food.

“I hope hakuna food hapo, makali tu.” I hope there’s no food in there, just liquor.

“makali tu, hata wine haiwezi ingia?” only liquor? You mean even wine can’t enter?
Wine ni sawa wine is ok.

We walked in and someone offered to take polaroid picture of us, for free, we promised to return and did something that we would do a lot that day, we walked to the end. It was afternoon so it wasn’t packed yet. We said hello to a few people we knew as we walked to the edge of the field. There were all kinds of stands apart from the photo booth, there was basketball, there was a bouncing castle and a trampoline, and one of those catapult things you get inside that a launch you into the air, and a bubble of air in a swimming pool that you stand inside of and enjoy the disorienting pleasure of always falling, I mean who came here and didn’t want to fall for something. It reminded me immediately of one of those carnivals you see on American TV, I thought I would run into one of those shows where a guy swallows a sword especially after I saw that there was also cotton candy.

I had gone with my brother and my cousin and once we got to the edge of the known world we kept walking. The racecourse is made for watching and betting on races, there are stadium tents arranged all over it and the further away you get from the main action the quieter it gets. We went to the furthest one and had a seat. We took out our glasses, poured them for everyone and sat down to enjoy a drink. In the distance there were people playing golf because…diversify. Even further the forests of ngong began to come into view and just like that we weren’t in Nairobi any more. I love cities but after a while a view of green is necessary just to make you feel part of the world. On one side music and games played on the other golfers did. On the bench below us there was a guy with a gun. An AP who had been posted there for the day, when he saw us come with a drink he asked if we would share and after pouring some we took it down to him.

“I hope haujaweka mchele” I hope you haven’t spiked it (mchele is a word used to describe not only rice but a drug of a more potent kind, pour a little of it into a drink and the poor man-Kenya being so feminist that there are higher instances of guys being roofied than anyone else-  goes to sleep as you relieve his wallet of whatever’s inside. Someone told me once that one of the ladies who do this was interviewed and she said, “hawa walevi ni wajinga, unawawekea mchele na wanarudi kesho tu, wanadhani ni pombe imewapeleka drunkards are stupid you spike their drink and they are back tomorrow, they think it was the alcohol they couldn’t handle.”)

What I will remember about the mingle is how it’s a mini-walkathon, at least the way I do it. We got up from that place and began walking, looking for some trouble to get into and immediately looking for a way to get out of it. By the end of the day there were thousands of people there (maybe not though I cannot estimate these kind of things) I kept losing the people I had arrived with and then not caring about it anymore. I kept meeting people I knew from before, exchanging conversation, a hug, a drink, an awkward pause in conversation, a goodbye.

By this time it had roared into life. Over there a game of football was going on in earnest, over there people were playing in a pool, closer still someone just loved the way it felt to dance in the rain and still the alcohol flowed. The sun set and I played the only game I would play that day. I went and shot hoops. At first it was simple but I kept missing and then we got the hang of it and then it became complicated and I kept missing. Afterwards I was dragged to a trampoline. That was when I got a call to go back to the place it had all begun.

I went to sit and talk and drink. The view by this time was grey and the firs in the distance looked black. They looked like sentinels posted to guard the evening sky and make sure no one stole what was being provided at that point, a view to break your heart.

As we walked back to the party I happened to look down at my shoes. Because of the rain, because of my walking, because of the mud they were brown. There was an even coat spread all over them, thing is they were boots and I couldn’t figure out how all these other people, some of them in open shoes, some even in sandals managed to look so clean.

I took out a bottle of wine I had been saving for just such an occasion, all it needed was a corkscrew and I reasoned that there must be one in all these purses and so my search for that began in earnest. I got so much advice about how to open wine. I sometimes forget just how theoretical advice can be.
“just push it in” (that’s what she said)
(against my best instincts I said) “I don’t know how to” (and now when I look back at that interaction I wonder why I’m surprised she didn’t give me her number)

In the end I made for the bar. There is a Japanese word that means the bliss you feel when you are lost in a crowd. I felt it as I walked to bar, wine in hand, glasses in the other swinging both back and forth, being stopped by all these people who knew me or, at least, knew how a bottle of wine looked. I got a corkscrew from the barkeep and began walking back. Swinging more wildly, swigging a tad unwisely until I was back where I began talking to the most honest girl I had ever met, showing off my success about opening the wine and hoping this meant she would forgive that I didn’t know how to push it in. (the patron saint of lost causes is one of my best friends)

As the night wore on more and more people got more and more drunk. Thankfully I was not one of them because of a regime of water and water. Every once in a while someone would be dragged out by a bouncer for causing too much fracas. They also helped girls take care of their too drunk friends which was a great thing.

Towards the night when the stars come out I was wondering what looked so familiar. It wasn’t the carnival that I had come for because all that was was fictional memories put there by television (a cousin of mine when she was very, very young used to call out “TV, TV” when she saw white people on the street.) then someone captured it perfectly, “hii ni funci” it was just like those things, girls to meet, trouble to have except we had all the trappings of adulthood. There are very few feelings as nice as having the opportunity to do a childhood thing again except have no rules because now you are over 18.

So, my advice? Go for the next mingle.

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