Bujumbura, August 14
Waiting some more, and some sexy dancing
I had to stop writing my last entry, because we finally left Kirundo, “only” about 45 minutes after the time we’d meant to leave. We all (the Dutch contingent, I mean), wanted to get to Bujumbura as soon as possible, so we could do a last bit of shopping before the flight left this morning. Nevertheless, we had to stop halfway through the trip, which I didn’t mind, since I needed to use the toilet. But, as usual, it wasn’t a quick stop. We ordered lunch, only sandwiches, thinking that that would be quick. It wasn’t. It was at least a half hour before we got our cheese sandwiches.
So guess what I’m doing now! You guessed it … waiting. We left our hotel only about 15 minutes late to catch our plane, so we got to the airport about an hour before the flight was due to leave. Surprise! No plane. The flight’s been cancelled. We’re sitting now on a beach on Lake Tanganyika. There’s another flight this afternoon, and the airport manager says that we should get on it if we get back to the airport by about two hours before the flight. Otherwise we’ll have to stay another night and try the morning flight tomorrow. If we catch this afternoon’s flight, that would be fine, since we were going to have to wait for eight hours in Nairobi anyway to catch the flight to Schiphol. We’ll see.
So while I’m waiting I’ll tell you about last night. We went to a nightclub that was right near the hotel. From the outside
it just looked like a big bar with tables set outside on a porch with a roof. But when we went inside, it was like we’d been beamed to some cosmopolitan city: New York, perhaps, or Amsterdam. The dance floor was framed by those industrial looking structures that are used for hanging lights in the theatre. There were various constantly changing and moving lights, and a whole row of disco balls hanging from the structure which, of course, reflected the lights everywhere. There were also blinking lights on the floor, though I didn’t manage to figure out if they were set into the floor or projected onto it. There was a light projection of some sort on one wall, and flat screen t.v.’s lined two more walls, showing some sports channel without the sound. The d.j. stood on a platform one storey up above the dance floor, also built from the same sort of structure.
It was all so clean, too. Everywhere else we’ve been in this country is dusty, with a deep red dust that seems to work its way into everything. So even if a room is clean, the walls and floors look dirty, with a reddish tint that I think only disappears if the room gets a new coat of paint. This place was spotless, and I noticed that when someone across the room spilled a drink, people came and cleaned it up right away.
I had witnessed Burundian dancing the night before. After all of the formalities of the closing ceremony, a d.j. played various music for us, and everyone danced. What surprised me was how they danced. It was the sort of dancing that I associate with the 1950’s, but I don’t know its name. The partners hold hands, and the man leads the woman, steering her into his arms, out again, perhaps around in a circle, and so on. But they added a level of intimacy that I didn’t expect. Teachers who I knew were married (not to each other) danced very suggestively, rubbing against each other, etc. The Dutch call this kind of dancing “schuren”, I think, which means “to scrub.”
I danced with several of the teachers, and they danced the same sort of dancing with me. One in particular made me very uncomfortable. When we were dancing at times he pulled me into the classic dance posture: he had one arm around my waist and held my other hand. But he held me extremely close, so close that, well, if he’d been excited by me, I would have known, if you get my drift…
But that was what was surprising about it all. What to me seemed very sexually expressive dancing was just ordinary dancing to them. I realized this when I saw the same man dancing with another man, and he was dancing just as close and just as suggestively.
This was another surprise for me. Men dance with men here, and that’s okay. I had already seen that it was acceptable for men to hold hands with other men, or with women with whom they are not having a relationship, and that they often sit or lean right up against each other, but the dancing was new for me. At the same time, homosexuality is absolutely not acceptable here, and I think it might actually be illegal. If you asked anyone (I didn’t), I’m sure they’d deny that there are any gays here.
So when we went to the nightclub last night, they were playing salsa music, of all things. There were just a few couples on the dance floor, and everyone was watching them. I would have taken them for professional dancers, they were so good. Later the music changed to more technopop, sometimes African, and lots of other people started dancing. Again, it was this very sexually suggestive, intimate dancing, but again sometimes men danced with men or women with women.