Mali, February 16, 2005
Cuz its so dark you can't even see the toubobs!
Its happy hour in Bamako, Mali, and I'm at the Blue Box Bar with the Geekcorps. Now we call it the Blue Box not because there is any official name, no we call it the Blue Box because that is what it is; a big metal box painted blue. And as a metal box in Africa its baking hot on the inside during the day and still warm even at night. So we sit outside, in the soccer field, sipping our beers.|
The field, if you wanna call it that, is a open space of hard-packed dirt where kids play soccer while cars, trucks, mopeds, and people wander through randomly. None are headed to the Blue Box as its not yet dark and no one in Mali drinks till its dark.
Mali is a Muslim country, and maybe technically dry, so the consumption of alcoholic beverages is not celebrated, and you'll only find foreigners knocking back a few in plain view of the street. Locals drink inside or wait for nightfall and drink in the dark.
That's right, in the dark. No lights, not even streetlights, illuminate the usual local bar. Add to that the dark skin and clothes of Malians and you generally drink beer by Braille in Bamako. You can see the rim of your glass and maybe the level of your beer in the bottle, but not whom you're sitting next to. Not even if he's a toubob!
Oh need to worry what beer you're drinking though, for there are only two choices: Castel and Flag. Coming in a big or small bottle, its easy to order here and even easier to drink since both beers are made by the same brewer and have the same taste. Luckily, the beers are cheap, big bottles are maybe $3 at nice places and usually only $1 at your local.
Due to the ever-present dust, actually drinking that beer, again at night, has its own ritual. First, you get a glass and the waiter pops but does not remove the bottle cap. Then, you rinse out the glass with beer and fill carefully so as not to overflow with the easy-to-foam brew.
Next, just before you drink, you put the bottle cap back on the bottle, and when you drink, you keep your right hand over your glass. Fail to do either of these last two steps and you'll have dust and grit with your lager.
Or you can go to the toubob places that have less dust and more light, But why do that? I say go local and have your beer by Braille in Bamako