Today is Youth Day. It is
a national holiday and there was a parade. It seems a little strange that I am in the same place this year as last year. I know, for most people that isn’t so unusual, but the year I had last year seemed to include many different “homes.” I am happy that I am putting down some roots – at least to the extent that I went to the Youth Day parade in Garoua Boulai both last year than this year!
So, I couldn’t help but compare last year and this year. Similarities: Lots of people. Lots of people selling food: hard-boiled eggs, bananas, oranges, pineapple, coconut, beignets (a kind of doughnut), grilled meat on a stick, ice cream (well, at least it looked like ice cream and was sold in cones and kept in a cooler – I wouldn’t eat any because it is probably full of amoebas), even apples, and then other foods, some of which I recognized...
The official start time was 8:30, but realistically, officials don’t arrive until about 10 with the activities about an hour later. First there was a taped speech from Paul Biya, President of Cameroon. (I couldn’t hear it because I was too far away and even up closer, the sound system is distorts voices pretty effectively.) There were traditional dancers who performed for officials who sat on the reviewing stand. Students from each school wore uniforms of the same color. They lined up across from the reviewing stand initially. Later, they all lined up along the parade route – youngest to oldest. Lots of sun!
But in some ways, this year was different, too. I swear there was more dust. I mean February is always the dry season, but I don’t remember quite so much dust blowing around with the wind and kicked up by so many feet. (It’s hard to take a picture of dust…) Last year I went with a friend and observed. This year, I went with the students from the Bible School, so I stood with them – and marched with them. I took my umbrella this year (parasol, really) and was glad to have it. I also took water, but didn’t want to drink too much at any one time because I knew I couldn’t easily find a toilet! I have been drinking lots of water since I came home.
The Bible School students had uniforms made. They invited me to have one made, too. The material is a dark green and very smooth. A quality fabric. The uniform consists of a shirt and pants or skirt.
Note: I don’t understand the fashion world and tailors who won’t make pockets for most women’s clothes! The men got 6 pockets each (3 in the shirt and 3 in the pants). We women got ZERO! The tailor said that he couldn’t put them in the shirt because they wouldn’t lay right with breasts. I might believe that for the breast pocket (but not really since I have other shirts with a pocket there), but for the ones at waist height for the shirt and side pockets for a skirt? Even a back pocket on the skirt would have worked!
We are, however, getting pockets. Both Marie’s and my skirts were too long. We had to roll them up to be able to walk. (Yes, my continuing frustration with tailors in Cameroon.) Still, the clothes were OK for the parade. We went back afterwards and the tailor will fix the length and add pockets, but just two.
I caused a bit of a sensation marching with the Bible School students. The Director and other two professors sat in the reviewing stand. The students were very interested in having me march with them, so I agreed. As we went up the parade route and past the reviewing stand, numerous people greeted me, commented, or reached out to shake my hand/touch me. Later, the director told me that the people in the reviewing stand applauded as we passed. My presence? Or, maybe it was only because we had such great outfits and marched so well!
OK. I did my “duty” and caused a bit of a stir, but I still don’t like parades! I would have been more than glad to stay home and relax. Maybe I can arrange to be out of town for parades in the future. There will be parades in whatever town I visit, of course, but since I don’t live there, I won’t feel obligated to go…
Or, maybe you can convince me that parades are necessary and fun. Why don’t you write to me about your parade experiences?