Monday, September 08, 2008


A new Cuban Restaurant and Bar recently opened in Kampala and already I’ve been there several times, but the opening night was by far the most interesting night. The Ugandan DJs took a while to get warmed up and actually playing Latin music but once they did, many of us converged on the dance floor. Along with my friends whom I had come with there were many people hailing from Spanish-speaking countries, and a host of characters including a sleazy older British man who owns a popular bar in town, a Ugandan break dancer/break dance instructor and a marine.

I had previously met the break dance instructor and he had invited me to his class but we hadn’t actually talked shop – not that I make a living from dancing but we had some things to share. He saw some of my swalsa moves (ok, I just made up that word for the combination of swing and salsa that a person like myself does when she’s actually trying to do salsa but her muscle memory requires swivels) on the dance floor and asked about them. We exchanged some moves and learned that the basic step – top dropping, I think - for break dance actually looks a lot like Charleston. We talked a little more and he asked if I could teach a class here. I thought about it and told him that if he’d teach with me I’d be fine with it. Plans are in the works.

Next, onto the sleaze. He walked up to me and started talking to me, I obliged in the typical conversation of “where do you come from?” “how long have you been here?” and “what do you do?” until in mid-sentence he walked away from me to light the cigarette of a pretty, young girl who happened to be part of the group I arrived with. More in awe of the sheer comedy of the situation than insulted, I shrugged it off.

Next, I met the marine. We started chatting and I have to admit, I went into the conversation kind of closed-minded and thinking I really wouldn’t have much in common with this guy and sure enough as the conversation turned to the war in Iraq and politics and we walked away shortly after, agreeing to disagree may have been too friendly a statement. It wasn’t a surprise; I was Peace Corps, he is Marine Corps, and that seemed to be only the beginning of the differences.

Later on in the evening, he asked me to dance. He’s pretty good at salsa and I love to dance so of course I accepted. All of our differences and the heated discussion we had earlier floated away on the dance floor and we had a great time. Still a klutz even after a few years of dance classes, I managed to stumble over my own feet when the music got a little fast. I was in a free-fall toward the floor in the middle of a crowded bar when my strong and able dance partner saved me from certain embarrassment and injury and caught me. I make sure to save him at least a couple dances now.