Breaking The Rhythm
By Aaron Aroriza, Uganda:
The tipsy slender white girl with blue misty eyes stepped on my toes for the eleventh time. I had stepped on hers twice since we started dancing – if what we were doing could be called dancing. It seemed more like jumping around and throwing arms all over with no regard to rhythm. But it was fun. And that's exactly what we had intended to have on our third day in South Africa.
“I didn't know black guys could dance to this music!” she screamed in my ears, competing with the loud booming music. Well, I'm not dancing, I thought: “Now you know!” I yelled back. Her face beamed with a mischievous smile as she turned her back on me in a humorous attempt at 'rub-a-dubbing' which only had the effective result of exposing my already afflicted toes to her high heels.
“Ouch, ouch,” I couldn't stand the pain this time round. Amidst the loud music, she must have instead heard “yahoo, yahoo” for at that moment she turned back with a self-satisfied smile: “I can do it better than black girls”. Oh yes I bet you can…inflict more pain on a poor guy's toes better than any black girl ever could, I thought: “Now let's try waltz.” I yelled, as a new song started.
I had thrown a struggling fish back into a lake. That slender white girl with blue misty eyes whose name I didn't get, can waltz! My, oh my. And for the next few minutes I stumbled into her, stepped onto her feet, bumped into her face, tripped on my own legs while she patiently kept stopping and gracefully tried to guide me. She might as well have tried to teach a pig how to write. Waltz that night, wasn't for me. Perhaps I will try it again some other time – in the next life.
Meanwhile Mpuga and Tim, the only two other black people in the all-white bar, had been watching anxiously as they danced, nay jumped, along. It was Tim's white friend who had brought us to the place and there had been some tension when Miss slender had tried her luck at rub-a-dubbing. I later learnt one guy who was either her boyfriend or just a white guy who didn't appreciate a black stranger getting lucky in a seemingly all-white bar had started preparing for battle. With the waltz however, that tension was gone and slowly, the circle that had earlier had three black men with one white man slowly enlarged to accommodate those who wanted to show case their waltz skills. Then we all, white and black, started jumping to the music, throwing our arms in the air like we didn't care and generally had fun. And it didn't matter what the beats of the music were like.
By the time we remembered to go back home, it was four in the morning. Maarifa, the humble and awesome Congolese, who had taken on the unenviable duty of hosting two reckless Ugandans in South Africa had tired of waiting and gone off to sleep. We couldn't get past the reception without our host. It was a coloured guy who, looking beyond the contrast between his colour and Mpuga's still assisted two suspicious looking strangers with a phone, in the wee hours of the night, with which we reached our host.
A day later, at O.R Thambo, a black airport official helped point two confused looking black foreigners in the right direction. But not before he asked, “Do you guys have all the documents? Could you by any bad chance have stayed beyond what your visa allows?”
“We have all the documents”, we said “and our visa would have afforded us 2 more days and we could even have stayed a third if we had found a place where people actually dance,” I added. He burst into laughter: “Oh… We have strict rules here and overstaying could get someone into some serious trouble”, and then artlessly feigning an afterthought, “but you know, with the right motivation, the right people like me can help you get away with breaking the rules.” This man must be Ugandan, I thought. I saved his number just in case I ever find myself in need of getting away with breaking the rules in South Africa.