I don’t know why it was called “Gala Dinner” but one researcher was so excited about it and kept reminding this writer and fellow journalist from Ghana not to miss it. Out of curiosity we decided to make time for the ‘gala dinner’ and it was worth it.
It was a night to remember. It was the Gala Dinner to mark the 10th INDEPTH Network Anniversary and the 8th AGM held at the White Sands Hotel in Dar es Salaam, Tanzania. It was a gathering of about 200 scientists both young and old as well as funders.
Day one passed successfully with its loaded programme and a cocktail or “turkey tail” in the evening. All the while my friend and I were struggling to file our stories to our newsrooms in Accra but the internet was very slow and frustrating, preventing us from joining the group as early as we would have wished. All the same, when we finally joined them, it dawned on us just how journalists and scientists are still trying to become ‘friends’. We were at the meeting as representatives of the African Media and Malaria Research Network (AMMREN) which was established two years, to spearhead such noble efforts. It was however glaring at the meeting that “friendship” between the two groups will be a gradual process as granting interviews to journalists is still a frightening experience for many of the scientists.
Day two also passed and paved way for the General Assembly and election of officers to steer the affairs of INDEPTH Network for the next two years. This saw the re-election of the Director of the Kintampo Research Centre, Dr. Seth Owusu Adjei as Board Chair.
Then came the night of celebration – what my friend described earlier as ‘Gala Dinner’ – I’m still not sure if he meant anniversary dinner.
I can’t tell exactly when the gala dinner started because my colleague and I got to the venue late. To add a local touch, the entrance to the Hotel, the venue for the dinner, was lined up with local lamps popularly called ‘osono’ in Ghana, mounted on stands. This reminded me of an ‘osono’ presence in the house of one Professor for a similar occasion. But the ‘osono’ at the Professor’s house had a purpose; to drive away mosquitoes as they were strategically placed at vantage points. The atmosphere was so serene and the set-up was perfect with the guests seated by a swimming pool. The live band in attendance also lived up to expectation playing cool music while food was served. Indeed it was a night to remember as the guests feted and exchanged pleasantries.
When the local dancers took their turn, the atmosphere became electrified. A Ugandan researcher on our table described the sound of their drums as gong gong beating. They danced as usual for some time in their “territory” and later decided to mingle and invite guests, particularly whites for a dance and some dollars. Honestly I didn’t see when a snake man came in. I was busy sipping a bottle of coke accompanied with some snacks. I saw people leaving their seats and others stretching their necks to catch a glimpse of the guests dancing. Suddenly I heard shouts and a splash! Boom! What was that about? Apparently the local dancers had been displaying a huge live Python around the necks of some unsuspecting guests for a photo opportunity. But this was too much for a guest. He was so scared that he jumped into the swimming pool with his ‘party regalia’ without waiting for the ‘commander’ of the snake to remove it from his neck. I don’t know what would have happened if he didn’t know how to swim or if he had run amok into the sea which was nearby. It was as frightening as much it was funny. An African guest could not help but comment, ‘Eh! In Africa if you know you come from a difficult home you don’t joke with such things’. Then I remembered my friend’s earlier insistence that we should attend the ‘gala dinner’. This was indeed a night those present will not easily forget - the In-depth 10th anniversary Gala Dinner.