Monday, August 25, 2008

Goat Races

Yesterday found us crowding the outside of a track with 10 goats who, with no strong proclivity toward moving herd-like in any single direction, much less any interest in movement at all, were being shooed and pushed from behind around a race track. Over three thousand spectators cheered at the Dar es Salaam Charity Goat Races, but the goats didn’t seem to be relishing their moment in the limelight.

Launched in in 2001, the Goat Race was loosely modeled on Royal Ascot, but with noble racing steeds replaced by ornery goats. There is betting, of course, and tents serving champagne and drinks, and spectators in big floppy hats, loud music, and a kiddie area.

One of TechnoServe’s volunteer consultants (“volcon’s” is what they are called in Hillary's office) stayed with us for 6 weeks while she worked during the break in her MBA studies. Young and single, she quickly tapped into a nonstop nightlife culture -- late night restaurants, clubs, music and dancing -- that Hillary and I had no idea existed in Dar. There is a party society that parents of toddlers aren’t told about, much less invited to.

The goat races contained a melding of these different worlds. We saw some of Bodie’s young friends scrambling around with parents chasing after them. Hillary ran into colleagues from agencies with which she was working on projects. We also saw denizens of the night scene - women in strappy little dresses drinking champagne, and couples in dark shades (it was afternoon so unwelcome sunlight to the vampire crowd) crowding the bar tents.

Bodie jumped and cheered on the goats. As he did so, I thought that if his intellectual pursuits don’t work, he he may well have the perfect build to be a fine goat jockey.

The goats were “bought” or sponsored by locals and companies and we can only imagine that much of the intellectual firepower of Tanzania has been tied up for weeks in thinking of clever names (Fartaway Faraday, Kid Rock, Ethel the Aardvark Goes Quantity Surveying, Ghoti, Furcoatnoknickers, and Deep Goat, among them.)

The races raised $50,000 for a eight charities working to help those with disabilities in Tanzania. It was a great way for these charities, which work quietly in the shadows with a poor country’s most disadvantaged, to have some visibility and support.

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