I suppose it’s an embarrassing dad thing. My daughters would call it “inappropriate”. Showing off my moves, throwing some shapes, getting down and groovin’ to the music. Except that I do it when I hear certain funky cell phone ringtones. They just set me off. I was consulting with Nurse Marvis Mwanza in Kakumbi Rural Health Centre last week. (That is how her name is spelt, by the way.) Her phone’s ringtone is a cracker, and I couldn’t stop myself from bursting into dance. Not wild Fergal Sharkey moves, but more subtle, shades of Prince in his heyday, action. The patient and Nurse Mwanza looked at me in horrified fascination. It only lasted ten seconds until the nurse hurriedly pulled the phone from her bag and answered it, but it made a lasting impression. Crazy Doktolo.
I don’t mind being thought of as rather strange. After all, I am a stranger, from a different culture. As Sting would sing, “I’m an alien, I’m a legal alien.” I feel it gives me a licence to do odd things. I use humour a lot in consultations when the patient speaks good enough English to understand. I challenge the usual way of doing things. For example, when I started working at the health centre, the staff must have thought, “Great, another pair of hands, that means less work for us.” But I wanted to work with the nurses during their consultations so I could find out what they were doing and teach informally, solving the clinical problems. This meant that we see fewer patients, so obviously, I have to take into consideration the length of the queue.
At the end of morning surgery, Marvis asked me, “Doctor Ian, do you take beer?” At first I thought she was asking if I wanted a drink at lunchtime. She is married to the other nurse working at the health centre, so I was just about to turn down her offer of a boozy session at the local pub, when she continued, “If you like dancing, and alcohol, then you must be aware of the Guest Houses,” she said. “There are many harlots in this town and they will entice you into their houses, and once you are there, you will find it difficult to come out.” I thought it was an interesting use of the term “guest house” to mean bordello, given that there are a dozen genuine guest houses in the town.
I reassured Marvis that I was a responsible drinker and that it was very unlikely I would be stepping out at night in the local hostelries. Not even to the legendary “Twobeers Pub”. (At first, I thought it was a BOGOF pub (buy-one-get-one-free), or two beers for the price of one. Then I found out that this establishment was meant to be Tobias’ Pub, but the spelling was phonetically mangled.)
Other bars include “Obama”, “Shining Star”, “Cobra”, “Uncle Rich” and round the back of “Captain Biggie’s”. There are fifteen official bars for a town of just under 10,000, which seems quite a lot to me. The available beers, Mosi (local), Windhoek and Castle (imported), are relatively costly, but there is a wide range of locally made spirits which are gut-rottingly cheap.
The local music is surprisingly good. I really enjoy the gospel songs which Chanda, the unpaid volunteer at the health centre, plays from a USB stick attached to a fake Coke tin speaker, when he is working in the lab. Trognes, the lab technician, belongs to the Seventh Day Adventist Church, so she plays religious songs previously broadcast on radio on a continuous loop. There is also the close harmony church choir music which I hear when driving down “Church Road” (the Roman Catholic Church, Reformed Church of Zambia, Kingdom Hall of Jehovah’s Witnesses are all within a hundred metres of each other) on my way back to the Lodge after work.
More funky is the unique blend of African and European rock music which has developed here, known as Zamrock. Open a beer and check it out on YouTube. Perhaps you will like it. Even if it could lead you into the grasp of harlots.