30 Day Travel Series: Pantless in Africa
Do you understand that Julian is down there in the club without any pants on? Last time I saw him he was running in his underwear past the bathroom attendant to a stall.
Julian and I are very different people, we both know that, but when people first meet us they often say we are exactly the same. I think it is because Julian and I are plagued by the same social disease, which is the reason we get along so well and the reason we both love to party.
Here are the main symptoms: we love people, we love watching people be bold, we love being around people expressing themselves, and we’re always willing to take it up a notch with someone in terms of partying or self expression. We hate seeing people being repressed, even if the repression is just a bouncer not letting a friend in a club, and if there is something we can do about it, we will try. I am more likely to jump in right away for someone, but if you nudge Julian a half of a nudge he will jump in and lie himself on the line for someone more boldly than anyone I have ever met. I love to nudge people too so that also makes us a good match.
In day-to-day life, people have often referred to us as "too much," but when people are partying, we are usually just right for them.
Wednesday is the party day in Uganda. Luckily for us, because our workshops were always on the weekends so weeknights were better for us to go out. One Wednesday night, Naveed, our Pakistani friend who lives in Uganda, was wearing yellow and black shants. I don't know if shants are an actual word or if that is just a word Julian made up for shorts that are too long to be considered shorts, but too short to be considered pants. He had just finished a cricket match at his mosque when he met up with us. We decided to go to Cayenne, a club in the Bukoto area of Kampala.
Eight of us tumbled out of the minivan in the parking lot of Cayenne. Naveed, who was already there because he had come by motorcycle, met us by the van. "They won't let me in," Naveed said motioning to the security guards just feet away. "They say shorts aren't allowed."
I walked up to the security guards and, maybe talking a bit inside their personal space, explained to them that what Naveed was wearing were “shants” and these were high fashion in the States. Naveed didn't give the guards time to call me on my bullshit; he pulled me away and said, “I'm just going to go home and you all should go in without me, just go have fun.” I saw Julian stiffen his back. "Absolutely not," he said to Naveed.
Yesss, I thought, Julian is on board. I had the solution, but I needed a willing boy to help. Julian could see that I had an idea and said to me, “Let's do this.” I told everyone to wait; we'd be back in less than three minutes. Our friends -- two Ugandans, one Pakistani, one Eritrean girl from Ohio, an Italian, a Brazilian and a guy from Ivory Coast -- stood in a row, some with their arms crossed with looks that ranged from totally skeptical to hesitantly trusting us. Julian and I linked our arms and went into the club. We pushed through the crowds and across the dance floor to get to somewhere we could talk.
"I'll take your pants back up to Naveed," I said. A nervous grin lit up Julian’s face. "Okay," he said and led me to the bathrooms. Amidst the pounding pop music and bustle of high fashion Kampalians, Julian quickly undid his belt and dropped his blue khakis to the floor. In his tight black undies, he handed me the pants and told me to come back for him. He marched into the bathroom. As the door shut I saw him greet a very confused bathroom attendant and go straight into the stall.
I could barely breathe because it was the funniest thing I had ever seen, but I didn't have time to stop and laugh. I stuck the khakis under my dress and ran back through the club and into the parking lot. I asked Naveed to come to the van with me. I got in the driver’s seat and Naveed got in the passenger’s seat. I handed him the pants.
He smiled. "Whose are these?" he asked. "Julian's," I said. He was flattered that we'd do that for him; he smiled and then tried to refuse. He expressed that he couldn't accept such a favor. I tried to speed up the process by just not saying a word and allowing him to formally thank me, hoping he'd wrap it up quickly and just throw on the pants. But he continued, "That is so nice. Thank you. I don't think I should accept." He needed time to process what was happening because I don’t think he’d ever encountered men exchanging pants at a bar before, but what I needed him to understand was that this was a very urgent situation for Julian.
"Naveed, the only way you could disrespect Julian right now is if you keep dragging your feet and not put the pants on,” I said. “Do you understand that Julian is down there in Cayenne without any pants on? Last time I saw him he was running in his underwear past the bathroom attendant to a stall."
The seriousness of the situation clicked for Naveed and his shants came down with a fury. He whipped the khakis on and smirked at the security guards as we ran into the club.
Naveed swung the bathroom door open. "Julian? Julian?!" he shouted. "Naveed!" I heard the relief in Julian’s voice as the bathroom door slammed shut.
This is one of 30 untold stories of launching a global project (with my boyfriend, Julian) about love, story telling and connecting change makers.
Read all 30 days here: http://www.smithmag.net/community/people.php/HBOX
Throughout Vietnam, South Africa, and Uganda, we engaged with 650 everyday people working to make the world a better place to share their stories. Inevitably, there were parts of our adventures we couldn’t tell while on the road, because we were a start up trying to prove our merits as a serious social change project or because of nervous families monitoring our journey. But the truth is while we worked passionately to bring our dream project to life we also had an adventure of a lifetime. Here are the stories behind the stories of the Million Person Project: http://www.millionpersonproject.org.