Trivial Pursuits

Aside from drinking, it seems to me that expats play a lot of games. I went to bingo a while back, it was pretty lit. Last night, I went to trivia.

It turns out, Triniti the nightclub is actually Triniti the bar and restaurant and guesthouse like 99% of the time. Apparently, I ain’t living right, because I only knew it as the former. Many of my RPCV friends feel the same way—it’s a bit embarrassing when some surprised expat says, “Hey, did you know this place is a club on the weekends?” and you’re out here thinking, “Holy hell, this place looks way different in the light of day!”

Every other week, Trinity hosts trivia night—a good pub quiz being a staple the world around, it seems. We put together a bro-centric team of mostly Americans (and one Italian!) and got ready to rumble. The theme was “religion” and our group turned out to be 100% Catholics in various stages of lapsing. What we lacked in breadth of religious experience, we’d hopefully make up for in depth of parochial schooling.

My buddy and I were naturally running late, because Tanzania time, but we lucked out: the projector was on the fritz. Classic developing world attempt to do something Western and running into the limitations of technology. While various host-looking types fumbled around with connections and a giant blue screen of no-input, we ordered some overpriced local beers and started thinking of a team name—there’s a prize for best name. All Dawgs Go To Heaven was a close call, and The Freemasons a wink at Tanzanian superstitions regarding the alleged Church of Satan, but we ended up calling ourselves Konyagi Communion. (Look it up.)

While projector cords were swapped out, we talked about our days and checked out the competition: ten teams of 4-6, almost entirely expats. Some old, some young, some we recognized from either work or just the impossibly small Western community that exists in the incredibly large city of Dar es Salaam. We were on the lookout for a group of very loud Canadians a friend of ours knew, but never determined which team it was—so many stereotypical obnoxious Canadians abroad to choose from, eh?

Perhaps the best part of waiting was our MC, a gray-haired Brit sliding past middle-age, who tried his hand at a few jokes. Real groaners, poorly delivered, getting nothing but dead silence. Like, bad. In some way, my heart went out to the guy, but it was almost impressive how bad he was bombing. Just straight up crickets. Embarrassing, uncomfortable, then finally coming full circle to being hilarious in it’s own way. I could’ve drank beers and not laughed all night with the boys, but finally the host team said forget the projector and we were underway. Big shout outs to the sponsors were taken care of as we tuned out, and then it was game time.

The proceedings would’ve moved rather quickly, but we were quickly bogged down by about half the questions being based on pictures and us being without a projector. Our intrepid host and his lovely assistant decided to instead run around the crowd, one armed with an iPad, the other awkwardly holding up a laptop, showing off the video clues. The questions ranged across cultures and religions, a mix of straightforward and pretty tricky—we felt we were in the running most of the time, though took some hits in Round 2. We had to argue the legitimacy of “Odin” vs. “Woden” as the name of the god for whom Wednesday was named, and our buddy who served in Peru got up in arms over confusion over the Aztec and Mayan calendars—that one wasn’t resolved. The hosts were lovely, but a little unable to flex their judgement. Also, they didn’t know much about religion. I had to patiently explain, after a visual clue, that our incorrect answer of “censer” was in fact a more accurate rendering of the answer they were looking for, “incense burner.” But they did their level best, and arguing points is an important part of such trivial pursuits, so we were happy.

At the end of it all, a last minute reshuffle in points bumped us up into tied for second, which meant a paper airplane fly-off: our team won, and received day-passes to the über-expensive Coliseum Gym in town, which was pretty cool. We were kinda bummed we missed out on either the first prize—a case of beer—or the third prize—a bunch of wine—but it’s probably for the best. And due to a silly “one prize per team” ruling, coming in second we were no longer eligible for best name! Luckily, the MC made a point of calling those who ended up winning “second best” more than a couple times and my ego was stroked. Konyagi Communion will always be #1 in our hearts!

The first-place team has apparently been rolling through trivia for 3.5 years now—I let them know that in two weeks, we’d be back and coming for the crown. Then, in typical expat fashion, we mostly talked about being from the West Coast and which part of which state and what’s better and damn, I miss Mexican food and cheese and stuff. It was a great time—prizes and egos aside, it was really fun to kick it with the boys and BS for the night. While it wound down, we filtered out into the crowd, greeting friends we had seen across the room and making introductions of our friends, the small expat community once again tightening its interconnected web. I like trivia. I’m coming back. I want to win. But mostly, I want to be in that competitive, semi-intellectual space that exists for people that are bad at regular sports. I want points on the board.

In the meantime, it’s work work work and maybe some play this weekend. There’s a good chance we’ll go out dancing with the crew and wind up at Triniti—the nightclub edition. I can’t wait to lean in to close to someone against the music, clutching an overpriced beer and smelling like No-Bite, to shout in their ear the stunning revelation of “Hey, did you know this club is a restaurant most the time? Yeah, with trivia!”

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One Response to Trivial Pursuits

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