Last Saturday I found myself in a local bar in Mbita, not far from a fishing village called Tabla Beach. I was accompanied by a fisherman I had spent a whole day with on a canoe in the lake. Young fellow, gung-ho, too eager to impress.
To get to the bar, we drove up a dark dusty road from my home, past a patch of tarmac, before suddenly Jamo (he insisted I call him that) said, “donj kanyo!” indicating some dark entrance. I swung the car hire left and tumbled down a rough patch before the lights illuminated a grey gate. We sat there for three minutes until I told him, “Maybe you should just open it yourself?”
Which seemed an insult to Jamo because he gave the watchman a dress down later. (“Do you think my job is to get out of the car and open the gates, bwana?”) The compound looked abandoned in the night, the headlights threw long shadows on shrubs.
La Place was like any village local, darkish with strobe lights. The floor was astroturfed. Tall metallic stools. TV hoisted up, hanging wires racing each other. Up a raised platform was what looked like a VIP of sorts. Better lit. Young men who perhaps owned the boda bodas parked outside, and sat watching a match, others danced, and three men huddled around a speaker, trying to get it to work.
Jamo referred to them as engineers. I ordered him a Guinness, the big one that looks like a missile. Water for myself. The waitress was a short flirtatious girl, not a day older than 20. “You don’t drink?” she cooed. I said I didn’t. She pouted, “Not even if it’s me serving it?”
They played nothing but Prince Indah who, I gathered from Jamo, is some sort of god. Up on the TV screens, Wolves were being mauled by Arsenal. I also noticed that apart from the staff, there was no single woman in the bar. I didn’t ask Jamo why. After 40 minutes I begged to leave. “Will you find your way back?” Jamo asked sceptically. “I’m a leopard,” I told him, asking for my bill which came in the form of a scrap of paper.