You’ve been invited to a family function whose agenda hasn’t been made clear to you. “Come with your own drinks if you can, for I suspect there’ll only be sodas and juice,” says the SMS invite.
You understand, for it isn’t like it’s a wedding or send-off reception to which you go to consume drinks and food purchased from money you were coerced to contribute.
The function is expected to begin at 5pm but since this is Bongo, you aren’t bothered, so by 6pm you’re still having a drink with some washikaji at a grocery in your neighbourhood. You arrive at the party venue well past 7pm.
It’s a surprise crowd you find here, for besides your fellow Waswahili, there’re numerous faces of the Gulf extraction as well as those from the European Union.
Your investigation soon reveals that virtually all the non-Wabongo guests had been here minutes to 5pm. This doesn’t surprise you much, for you’re an adherent of Freddy Macha, a Diaspora M’bongo who pens “must-read” weekly columns for Mwananchi Jumapili and The Citizen (Friday), in which he never misses a chance to impress upon us how Westerners respect time religiously.
You get the impression Freddy is trying to tell us that our disregard to the importance of keeping time could be one of the major reasons there’s huge development and wealth gap between Africa and the West.
Much as you notice some of the wageni looking at you and their watches as you make your entrance, you comfort yourself that they won’t murder you even if they were given the chance to, because, whatever part of the world they might be from, they must have heard of the infamous phrase, “There’s no hurry in Africa!”
Furthermore, in all appearances, this is a garden party that’s very casual. Guests and hosts are mingled anyhow, with almost everybody making a trip to where a goat is being roasted, claiming they want to check how Odiro the nyama choma boy and his assistants are faring. Without exception, each meat roasting inspector comes back munching something.
“The cook is great… a few minutes more and it’ll be ready,” says Esaya as he munches and swallows.
“Oh yeah,” agrees Katherine (from Switzerland), while munching, “actually to me this is more than ready… I know you guys in Africa like you’re meat thoroughly cooked, us, we like it rare.”
After a lot of tasting (strictly by adults) and critiquing, an impromptly (or was he self-appointed?) picked MC, Yesaya, welcomes us to file towards the nyama choma bay. Rice comes around in huge hot pots from God-knows-where and soon, everybody is eating.
The young are free to eat from wherever they are in the leafy, dimly lit garden. The table is for wakubwa.
Thanks to modern technology, deejaying is no big deal these days; several amateur disc “spinners” are giving people what they want from their smart phones via a huge speaker placed on a tree branch: Bongo Lava, Zilipendwa and German songs.
You learn there’s a lot of German influence in Switzerland and German is one of the major languages there. You’re impressed by the way the young boys and girls in this function speak English with confidence and you’re bawled when they tell you that besides Swiss, they also speak English (of course, that’s how you’re able to interview some of them) and German.
It soon transpires this function isn’t just a family reunion affair; it’s also a birthday party for Katherine, a Swiss lady married to Bulbul Kannadi, a Tanga-born Tanzanian hotelier based in the EU. Their daughter, 16-year-old Ramona, plays for Switzerland’s national Under-17 Team.
A number of people get the opportunity to speak, including Steven Baker who, together with his parents and sister, is in Bongo at the invitation of the Kannadis. They’ve plans to visit numerous touristic sites and enjoy what his dad describes as “this beautiful country of yours”.
Says the 12-year-old Steven in his speech, “Tanzania is such a good country…your people are very good, we’ve been to various places…the beaches, streets, marketplaces and everybody says hello… where we come from, only a person who knows says hello.”
We all clap to that. We’re touched, more so because it’s a compliment from a child speaking in pure innocence. It’s not like a grown up alien trying to flatter us, the locals.
One of the moved guests offers the boy a free stay if he chooses to make another visit to Bongo in future.