Monday, February 15, 2010


The last couple of days have been full of festive activities as Carnaval is in full swing here. The past week has been full of planing and promoting our Disco for Haiti. The kids promoted at all the schools and sold tickets and even raffled a sheep. They made tons of decorations, cooked food to sell for the event, posted signs around town, and in general put their whole hearts into it. The night of the event (Saturday) all the girls were getting ready, putting on makeup and wearing ribbons in their hair. The boys smelled like cologne (which was just funny) and everyone waited in expectation. The DJ was really late, several hours and not many people attended the disco. When the DJ finally got the lights up and the music blaring, Johanna the secretary and I had to rally up the kids to get them onto the dance floor. We had a great time for about 20 minutes until the power went out the first time. This happened about 5 times. The equipment was just too much for the aged electrical system here and it hadn't been tested before. The kids were so dejected! People started to leave, and by 11:30 it looked like the dance was a flop, and over.

Then the DJ and his crew got power from somewhere and we had the dance anyway. Started at about 12am with primarily Hogar kids who wouldn't go to bed without getting their dance on. Bless them for being tenacious and making a good time out of it anyway! We danced until 2:30am and it was a blast. There was lots of reggaeton and then it merged into some kind of fast Mexican disco polka. I felt like I was jogging in place. All the kids were singing along at the top of their voices and I couldn't help but laugh out loud as William, my dance partner at the time, was so dramatic in in his singing I felt like I was being serenaded! Falling into bed close to 3am, I felt impressed by these kids abilities to make the best out of what originally had seemed a dismal failure.

The next morning, feeling so, so tired, I clamored abroad the combi for Coita and rode with the kids to sell snacks at the festival. Coita was a crazy, musical mess of marimba music, dancing in the streets and people covered in talc and foam, and sometimes eggs.

According to Carnaval is an official Mexican holiday that kicks off a five-day celebration of the libido before the Catholic lent begins on Ash Wednesday. Beginning the weekend before Lent, Carnaval is celebrated exuberantly with parades, floats, costumes, music and dancing in the streets. Carnaval is equivalent to Mardi Gras in New Orleans.

The costumes are really amazing. Bright colors with amazing detail, flowers on hats and painted masks, bells covering dancing feet and many carrying toy noisemakers, guns and machetes. I even saw a guy with a wooden toy gun covered in a raccoon skin. That was weird. He was holding it like a macabre guitar. Many costumes included drums hanging from straps attached to outfits, and and garlands made of corn.

I hung out in the main square for a while, people watching and staying with our crew at the table. Very quickly the carnival atmosphere took over and I was out with the guys roaming the streets with a canister of colored spray foam. We looked like a teen street gang with our sunglasses protecting our eyes, our bandanas around our faces, and all of us covered in talc and filth. We joined a couple neighborhood street dances and linked arms and skipped in circles. I'm grateful to these kid for taking me under their wings so to speak and showing me a good time. I would imagine having a 30 american woman to lead around could be kind of lame, but I've felt nothing but welcome since being here.

I was so tired and grubby when we got back. A bunch of kids were watching "Blue Lagoon" in the main courtyard on the t.v. and I've forgotten what a racy coming of age movie that was! It was fun to drink horchata and veg out in front of the t.v. for a while. I went back to my room to bathe and wash my stained clothes. I literally felt like a zombie the rest of the evening. Sometimes I forget the average 15 year difference between me and most of these kids and am surprised when I don't have the same energy they do!

Carnaval is for 3 more days. The kids don't have school until Thursday, so everyone is around and has time to play. I think I need to start drinking coffee again in the mornings to keep up with the energy level! :)

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