Saturday, December 15, 2012

Cultural Experience

What’s Up this Week

We have had a busy week, but that is how we want it.  The weather is the usual boring 85F in the day and 77 at night.  Often, though, there is a breeze, always from the east, and that keeps things nice and cool. Well relatively cool.  People here keep the air conditioners going at about 65F and that is too cold for us.  In fact we sometimes just open the doors to the balcony, shut the bug screen, and turn on the fan.  Sweating is just part of what happens here, so why fight it.

The big event of the week was a visit from President and Sister Alvarado and a group of elders and sisters with a Christmas Fireside of music and word.  But first a word about a program we attended last night.  We took no camera so we have no pictures.  It was the Extravaganza of Lights that is held every year at this time.  One of the YW of the branch invited us specifically because I mentioned that I play the violin and her best friend, Zamora, plays the violin in a government sponsored music education program in Road Town, the capital of BVI.  It would start at 8 pm, she assured us, following the Parade of Lights that would end at the Government Building where the program was to be held.  We wanted to get a good seat, so we arrived at 7:30.  There was a medium-sized tent-type shelter with 50 chairs under it set up in front of a stage.  I asked a lovely young lady carrying a violin case if this is where the performance would be.  She said it was.  I asked another young woman if we could sit under the umbrella.  She said we could.  I asked a little girl if we could sit by her. She smiled and said we could.  There was some Christmas music to a Caribbean twang and thud band playing loudly over the PA system.

Well, 8 o’clock came and there was not a hint that anything would be starting soon.  Okay, this is the way it is done on the Islands.  Island Time.  8:30 came and the recorded music started again for the third time.  There was one song I would like to get a recording of for our annual Patterson Family Favorites collection.  It had a really catchy beat and the Ho! Ho! Ho! was lively. (The name of the song is "How Will Santa Get Here?" sung by King Obstinate.)  The little girl next to me was singing right along with it.  Finally at about 9 pm there was a ruckus on the street and some people wearing Christmas lights came sashaying along the sidewalk.  The Parade of Lights had arrived.  Now we could start what we came to see.  The parade was okay, don’t get me wrong.  We are enjoying another culture here and it is fun to see how they celebrate Christmas.  

The MC was dressed in a red and green clown suit representing the Christmas Joker I suppose.  He tried to be funny and lively, but was largely unsuccessful at both.  We heard a very seductive arrangement of the national anthem, God Save the Queen, played very well on an alto sax.  I think somebody in the back applauded when it was over.  Then they had some 4-year old kids sing the Territorial Song.  I did not understand a word they said (shouted) into the mic, but when they finished there was a very loud cheer from the crowd that had gathered behind the tent where we were seated, but standing for the song.  It was easy to see where their loyalties are.  Then a preacher read a pompous prayer and we were off.  

The first event was a gaggle of 4-year old kids, the same ones that “sang” the Territorial Song.  The sound system was not very good and...well, they are cute kids.  Then came the Community Choir.  They get an “A” for enthusiasm, C- for intonation... well, they enjoyed performing.  Then came another choir with a guitar that nobody played.  Then it was time for the strings to play.  We could see Zamora dressed in a lovely black dress.  The people here do not dress shabbily when they go out in public.  Only the American tourists do that.  We felt comfortable in our shirt-and-tie-and-name-tag uniforms.  We decided we were both very tired and that we would leave after the string number.  It was about 9:45.

By 10:00 the teacher had set up all the chairs and music stands.  The young string players came onto the stage on one side as the other side was filled with young guitar players.  Looked like they were going to play together.  This will be interesting.  The instruments were tuned as well as young students can tune instruments and the downbeat was ceremoniously waved.  Not much sound from the strings, but their bows were moving so something was happening.  There were several random chords coming from one of the guitars.  I think he was sitting by one of the microphones, still trying to tune.  The strings played as if nothing unusual was happening.  They stopped moving their bows so we knew the end of the piece had been reached.  Then they played another number.  I think both were arrangements of some Christmas songs but the syncopated guitar accompaniment didn’t seem to match very well with what the strings were playing.  With a grand upward sweep of the bows signifying the end of the performance the young musicians stood for their applause.  There were loud cheers and clapping from the people all around us.  Either they were relatives, they were being nice, or they don’t hear any better than I do.  

We enjoyed the drive home.  I am glad we went even though the quality was somewhat lower than we had come to expect from beginning string ensembles in Twin Falls.  It was fun to be a part of the cultural celebration of these good people.  They are all kind and considerate and friendly.  There is no anger or social angst.  They accept all as equal and that is that.  I visited with one young man who had long dreadlocks, as many of the men have here.  I asked him how he did it.  He matter-of-factly showed me.  I asked him how long it had taken for his hair to grow out that long.  He said he had not cut it in five years.  The girls and women spend hours doing their hair in all sorts of creative braid and twist arrangements.  These are great people.

I will report on President Alvarado’s visit in the next blog.  Stay tuned.

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