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Sunday, August 16, 2009

Goat Races

A flyer for the Dar es Salaam Charity Goat Races

Yesterday I finally participated in a major Dar right of passage, the Annual Charity Dar es Salaam Goat Races. This is the fourth time the Goat Races have happened since I’ve been in Tanzania, but every other year I was on home leave in August when the event was held.

This year, not only did I participate, but I was one of the lucky few to actually sponsor a goat in the races. Two goats, actually. My rag-tag team of about 20 people included a goat for the kids (Hanna Goatanna) and a goat for the adults (Bobgoat Marley). Teams are supposed to dress up in costumes to support their goat. Our team wasn’t into doing anything too outrageous… so the kids wore Hanna Montana t-shirts and the adults (and some of the kids) wore knit Rasta-style hats.

(You should have seen the look of shear joy on the face of the guy from a stall on the side of a road selling knit Rasta-style hats when I pulled up and bought 17 of them on Thursday. Priceless.)

Because we were owners we got to sit and celebrate in a huge owner’s tent where we were served Tanzanian, Indian and Middle Eastern delicacies and beer, champagne, and other such delights under a very hot and humid midday sun. Everyone around us was happy and drunk. Because we were mostly Americans (and let’s face it – compared to our South African, British, Australian and Dutch counterparts who all seem to party hard and drink a ton at any minor or major occasion, we Americans in the development community are not nearly as much fun) our team was kind of boring and not the slightest bit buzzed. But the people-watching was good and the kids had fun – even if Jaden was disappointed because he had thought we were going to the Ghost Races.

On the hour, every hour, the merry reverie would stop and the masses would crowd around the goat track. Sponsors of the goats running in the upcoming heat would move into the center of the track and tell the audience why their goat was the winning goat and parade their costumes for all to see. Then the gun would sound and the goats would be off… Well… actually the goats needed to be pushed around the track with a giant bar, otherwise they wouldn’t run at all. But thanks to some hard-working goat chasers the goats would make their way around the track twice and a winner would prevail. The winning team would then make their way over to the podium where they would be awarded with a “big check” (you know, like Publisher’s Clearinghouse) and a big bottle of champagne.

When our heat came up – at 4 PM – it had cooled down a bit and clouded over, so it was nice to parade around the center of the track and look for familiar faces in the audience. When the gun sounded and the goats were off it was Bobgoat Marley in the lead for at least the first trip and a half around the track. But in the end Hanna Goatanna pulled out from behind and beat the field of 10 goats by a head. We were victorious!

On the winner’s podium, a lady from British Airways (the sponsor of our heat) handed us the big check for 1.8 million Tanzanian shillings (about $1500 US) which we promptly turned over to charity. Frankly we did it because we thought that is what we were supposed to do, but it turned out that we were the first ones to do it, and so the organizers made a big deal out of it and it landed us on TV. We kept the giant bottle of champagne which we drank back at my place a few hours later. That was fun, too.

Just after our heat they did the raffle. Up for raffle were two tickets to the UK, a beach weekend at a nice hotel in Zanzibar and all sorts of wonderful things. As they pulled for the first raffle prize of the evening I heard my name called and then all of a sudden people were telling me that I won, I won! I raced with the kids up to the podium to claim my exciting prize, which turned out to be a camping stove and lantern.

Not to be ungrateful or anything… but I would have preferred the all inclusive weekend in Zanzibar. (Sadly it has been about 10 years since I last went camping.) So now I think I’ll be holding a raffle for my household staff to unload the camping stove and lantern. They will actually have good use for these items.

In the end the goat races were fun enough, and truth is, it was nice to have something special to break up what feels like the monotony of my life these past few weeks.

Now I am Hally Mahler, mother of Kindergarteners (who has to wake up at 5:40 every weekday morning), Chief of Party (although HIV is no party at all), karate (instead of soccer) Mom, Sunday pool-goer, home-owner with limited electricity…

And now… Goat Race victor!

P.S. I have no idea, and don’t want to know, what happens to the goat after the race.


Anonymous Becky said...

I knew I was missing a lot by not being an expat in Tanzania, but this is one reason I am really sorry I am not assigned to Tanzania! goat races! what could be more fun! so far that trend hasn't hit DC.
sounds like a good time, and you earned a good chunk for charity.
too bad you didn't win the weekend in zanzibar.

5:18 AM  
Anonymous Melanie said...

Hi, busy writing the script for the goat race insert on the upcoming Studio 53 on M-Net Africa. You're on it! Looks like a lot of fun - loved that your one twinnie thought they were Ghost Races. My twins LOVED that!


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