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Drunken Dreadlocks

18 April 2010

In South Africa, holidays of any kind were a big deal.  Not so much in terms of purchasing and decorating, but in parties.  And their parties were generally big ones which included (unless you were a member of the church) free home-made beer for everyone.  In fact, these home-brew celebrations were not limited to holidays, but included birthdays, funerals, and often just weekends.

Often funerals were even listed in the newspaper, inviting anyone and everyone to come and get free food and beer.

One of the interesting things about this was the manner in which this free drink was given.  The beer was made by the barrel, and everyone would sit in a big group – some on chairs, some on the ground, and others on buckets or logs – and a bucket full of beer would be passed around.  Each person would take the bucket and drink from it, and then pass it on.

One time we were invited to a birthday party for one of our investigators.  We decided to come in support of the investigator and stay just long enough to wish her a happy birthday and then leave, but there was quite a large group.  While waiting for a chance to speak to her, we sat down.  Within a few minutes, we began to notice a man with long puffy dreadlocks walking around.  Well, at first he was walking around, but soon he was running around, and eventually he was dancing around and shouting.  He was obviously quite drunk.  We had already passed up the beer bucket a few times, so it had made it’s rounds.  We wanted to leave right away, but we’d not yet had a chance to speak to our birthday investigator.

About the time we thought it might be good to just leave anyway, our dancing dreadlock friend came and took a seat right next to me.  He had been  laughing and shouting, but calmed a little after sitting.  He turned to me and began asking about where I was from and such.  I could smell the strong and now familiar stench of home-brewed African beer.  I tried to give closed answer responses, so we’d have a fair chance to get up and leave, but he rambled on.

Just following some laughter and joking on his part, I asked him where he worked, and he told me, and then said, “but they don’t pay me enough.”  His tone of voice wasn’t at all upset, but when I said, “that’s too bad,” he suddenly began to cry and said again, “they don’t pay me enough!” followed by some heavy sobs.

Shortly after this we made an opportunity to speak to our investigator, wish her a happy birthday, and be on our way.

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