Tuesday, November 25, 2008

Non-Stop Bhangra (at least for tonight)

Tonight Rico and I attended a party put on by my new organization for a colleague that is leaving after 7 years in Mozambique. We had a dinner for 30-odd people at Khana Khazana, one of my favorite Indian restaurants here in Maputo. It was a funny event, a bit awkward as most corporate gatherings are at the beginning, but especially so given that this is Social Event #2 the organization has sponsored since, oh, I don't know, the last decade? Seriously. These people are all fun-loving and interesting and like to drink/dance/cut loose...and yet they never get together outside the office. It is bizzare.

Tonight was pleasant, though. We danced to a lot of Bollywood-style music (there was a very cheezy live band), ate good food, laughed together, took silly pictures of dancing that can easily serve as blackmail 6 months from now. Several of my seemingly-serious Indian colleagues totally broke loose and were shoulder-shimmying and heel-tapping and doing all the fab choreographies that the rest of us wished we knew.

I wonder if this will start a trend. My boss joked that I joined the organization at the right time, just before the parties and the end-of-year holidays. I certainly hope it's not a once-off event. I think I'd be happiest in an office that promotes being social after-hours...


NOLAGringa said...

I understand your position, but I'm the opposite - I really don't much like socializing with my co-workers. I do end up becoming close friends with some, but that's the exception rather than the rule. I like the different aspects of my life rather separated, and I like my professional life to be less casual. I have a good time with other people, but I work with my co-workers - I don't want them to know my business, and I don't want personal relationships in the workplace. I think because I come from a small town where everybody knew everybody else's business that I'm private about different aspects. SOOO I understand them not having frequent social gatherings - I'm much happier in offices that don't, and I have to think seriously before taking a job that does. Don't get me wrong - I support a highly congenial workplace, with friendly openness. I just don't want to spend time with these people when I'm not getting paid. Too many other people to spend time with!

I also find it troublesome in some fields - not yours probably, but when lawyers only hang out with other lawyers, or doctors, or teachers, or any profession like that - it really skews one's perspective. And once the socialization is instituted, busy people then don't spend much time getting to know people outside their highly limited milieu.

Just another perspective. :) And it sounds like you had a very lovely time!

judy in ky said...

I think it's nice to see the people you work with in a different setting. As you said, some can open up and you see a whole new side of them. You are having so many interesting experiences. I have very limited experience with Bollywood type films, but the ones I have seen are fascinating.

Ali la Loca said...

~NOLAGringa - I get *your* position, too. I think this was mostly my viewpoint when working in the US, as I had a strong social network outside work, and was content to spend my time doing 1,001 other things that didn't involve interacting with colleagues.

Here in Moz, however, my perspective has changed. The whole social and work context here is different. One of the main things is that the population (of expats, at least, though Mozambicans as well with study abroad opportunities, etc.) is so transitory. It's hard to find friends that aren't here for just 6 months, or even 1 year. Most people have limited contracts, and then are on their way out.

This is cool, on the one hand, because you meet interesting people all the time, from just about every corner of the world. However, there are also a lot of goodbyes. It's hard to find a stable, long-term social group. Here in Maputo, we have about 5 friends who we know are here for at least another 2 years. Five! That's including both my friends and Rico's.

Work colleagues - especially when they are people you genuinely like and can relate to - can be a welcome addition to a social network because most of them are here long-ish term. In particular, when working in the field or in a developing environment (urban or rural), work colleagues take on a different role than in the typical corporate office in the US, I believe.

Interesting to think about...there are definitely downsides to too much blending of professional vs. personal (I should know after living and working with my colleagues and future husband for so long!), but for now, for me, in this particular situation, having a social relationship with my colleagues is definitely a plus!

~Judy in KY - There is a big Indian/Pakistani population in Mozambique, both people who have been here for multiple generations and now identify clearly as Mozambicans, as well as expats from the Subcontinent who have come for work. The cultural mix here is fascinating!

Masd said...

It was nice to read " Khana Khazana" on your post. Urdu words. It means (you may already know this)"Food Treasure" and " Bhangra" is typical Punjabi dance. Did you pick some more words of Urdu/Hindi?

Ali la Loca said...

~Masd - Thanks for the translation of Khana Khazana. I had no idea what it meant, just that is a place for delicious food. :) There are many people in Mozambique whose families originally were from India and Pakistan. Several words here come from Urdu or Hindi or any of the other principal languages from the region and are incorporated into Portuguese. One of my favorites is the word for chapatti here is "Apas". Apparently it is the specific word they use in Goa to refer to these flatbreads. Unfortunately I just know a few words - mostly for food - but still, what better area to know some vocabulary, no?