Sunday, March 1, 2009

A Riddle

What do you get when you combine two different teams of majorettes doing routines to 'Do You Believe in Life After Love', a lightening fast 1000 m footrace won by a teen wearing jelly shoes and so much dust in the air that the temperature was nearly 10° cooler than normal?

Well, my village's celebration of the Fete de la Jeunesse, National Youth Day, for one. This week long celebration began with several nights of cultural soirees (shows) put on by students from many of the schools in and around the village, featuring many choreographed dance routines to both African and Western music, skits on subjects like corruption, health and disease, and gender relations in Cameroon, which the students had spent weeks preparing. There was a huge turnout for each show, including all the important elected and appointed government officials for the village as well as hundreds of youth, and the performances ran past midnight. All in all it was quite a party, although I did dramatically storm out of the first night's show when a drunk man in the audience took it upon himself to handle the crowd control of the young kids crowding around the sides of the stage to see the show, by whipping them savagely with a branch. This behavior was explained away by his intoxication, but no one in the audience moved to do anything to stop it for several minutes, so I decided I had to leave rather than just sitting there complacently. I might have been better served going to speak with him, but I'm honestly not sure what I would have said, in French, as when I'm flustered I tend to come up with some pretty incomprehensible French. The next night the crowd control measure were much less violent.

The week finished up on February 11, the official National Youth Day, with students from many of the schools in the surrounding area gathering at the stadium and parading in front of the authorities of the area. Each school wore their uniforms and marched in formation while singing songs about the youth of Cameroon in English and French. After everyone had marched about 8 of the schools came back and had a number of their members perform dances to a highly varied musical selection and on several occasions featuring brightly colored sticks or hoops as props in the dances. After a brief midday break, the festivities recommenced with the championship game of a youth soccer tournament that had been going all week, as well as several footraces featuring the winners of earlier elimination rounds. With live announcement of each step of the action in all contests, there was hardly a dull moment. Following the matches the prizes for the best acts from the cultural shows of the week, the parade and the sports contests were given out by local personalities and then the crowd headed to the market to eat, drink and socialize for the rest of the night, then return home to recover and prepare for the next big party, coming the 8th of March for International Women's Day. I promise an account of that every bit as riveting as the preceding one, which I think reads a bit like a newspaper article, because my creative writing skills are failing me today. Thanks for reading along anyway, and thanks for all the posts, they make my day, even if I'm not very good at responding.

1 comment:

gael lynch said...

I think about how much less of the community type gathering when I read this, Katie. We've lost a lot over the last thirty years or so in the US. That beautiful innocence (with or without the intoxicated gentleman)
of a community that comes to celebrate its youth is a great thing. Thanks for your post, Katie.We think of you often!