Saturday, February 11, 2006

International Youth Day

I'm getting more and more used to the fact that Cameroon evidently loves to celebrate on every possible occassion and therefore it came as no surprise that we were going to celebrate the supposed 'international Youth Day' on the 11th February (anyone else heard of it??!!) What was quite surprising however was that despite the fact that the celebratory day fell on a Saturday, we still managed to miss three days of school in preparation for it!

Unbeknown to me, marching is apparently of great importance in the execution of any kind of celebratory event. All schools from the area – maternal, primary, secondary, colleges and the like were to descend on Moutourwa to march around the sports field whilst the dignitries (ie the Mayor, the traditional Chief of the village, the divisional officer who represents the President of Cameroon in the district of Moutourwa etc) watched! This being the case, the three days prior to the celebration were taken up by march practise – yes you heard me right. This basically consisted of us heading out to the sports field at 7am and watching the students march around it for three continous hours whilst we shouted words of encouragement and advice from the sidelines – I lost count of the amount of times I found myself shouting « shoulders back, chest out, sing like you mean it ! » Army commander in the making I reckon.

The day of the actual event, we all converged on the football field at 9am to wait for the start of the events. Sticking with tradition, things didn't start on time so by the time the marching did kick off, we were already near fainting point what with the 45 degree heat and the absolute lack of any type of tree/small bush/plant in sight under which to seek shade! So, did all this marching practice come in useful I hear you cry.......well all I can say is that I was rather surprised to discover that instead of the entire tour of the football pitch that I was expecting, the 'march' consisted of a 10 metre stretch in front of the seated dignitries lasting approximatley 10,25 seconds! Not quite sure the three days of missed lessons was totally justified, but apparently most other members of staff and students were actually very put out that we didn't have the entire week off! - In schools in the town that is precisely what happens..it is just our Principal who decided that this was rather excessive!!

After the marching, certain of us were invited to the Divisional Officers residence where a cocktail had been laid on. Suffice to say lots of meat and a good few beers were consumed. We were meant to all reconvene at the football pitch at 3pm for the start of the afternoon's activities..the final of a football tournament that had been played in the week running up to the celebration. Leaving the cocktail it was already 2pm so the Principal, Xenia, Fodjo, Asongwe and myself all piled into the Principal's car and we headed off the the nearest bar to pass away the time before heading over to the footie pitch. Well after a good few hours in the bar, we decided that it was probably only polite to show our faces at the match and so we all piled in again and headed over to the pitch just in time to catch the final 10 mintues or so before heading back out in the direction of another bar. This being a major celebration in Cameroon, everyone was out in force and it was at about 7pm that the bars started to run out of cold beer, before finally ruinning low on actual beer stocks! After searching for a drinking hole that still had some drink to offer, we finally headed home at 10pm. At this point, I must say that the prospect of making it out to the 'soiree' that was organised seemed relatively low. Fortunately Fodjo was there to ply us with food and after a quick power nap and lots of water at his we made our way out to the fete where Xenia got to experience of Cameroonian slow dancing, or 'blocking' as it is commonly referred to in these parts (ie no moving, touching up kind of thing!) The necessary early rise the following day for Xenia's departure was quite problematic to say the least!

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