Festival Week 1

This week has been full of a variety of wonderful cultural activities set up for participants and delegation leaders. On Tuesday morning, the participants were divided into mixed-delegation teams for some “integration” exercises. Different stations were set up that were designed to encourage teams to work together and get to know each other. One station, for example, was a potato sack race (kids hop in plastic bags towards the finish line). Near the end of the activities, the teams sat in a circle and the participants talked with each other about their favorite activities and other topics. The different languages represented make the experience especially interesting. Activities are always introduced in English and then translated into French and Spanish. I have been drawn in as a translator to help with the French- and Spanish- speaking teams, which is a lot of fun for me. I love talking with the participants and team leaders in between activities. The delegation leader from Senegal has already invited me to visit and stay with his family! As I mentioned, some of the teams speak none of the three languages, so they have to basically mimic what other participants are doing in order to understand the activities. Yesterday, I spoke with a girl from Nigeria who told me about how she and the members of the Spanish- and French-speaking delegations use hand motions to communicate; I hope to have a chance to include her in the interviews that I will conduct next week since her comments are directly relevant to my research. I had a very interesting talk with the delegation leader of the Cambodian team, whose organization—Spirit of Soccer—is focused on using sport to teach children how to protect themselves from the land mines that are still very prevalent in the country. The delegation leader named Rachel (an American who works Spirit of Soccer) explained to me that before the festival, the Cambodian team members had never even seen a map and had no idea where Cambodia was in comparison with other countries. They also apparently have grown up with strongly racist feelings towards Africans, though they had never before met an African before the festival. Quite a culture shock when they were greeted by the coach of one of the Kenyan organizations to train with them on Sunday! Although they don’t speak English, French, or Spanish, I’m hoping to use their youth leader team member as a translator so that I could interview one or more of the participants. During several blocks of time, the participants rotate in attending one of the following (and all four by the end of the week): an AIDS workshop, a soccer coaching workshop, a tour of Alexandra, and a tour of Johannesburg. I went with a group on the tour of Joburg and we saw the Constitutional Court, the highest court in South Africa. We also went to the prison where Ghandi was once imprisoned while in Johannesburg. [caption id="attachment_177" align="aligncenter" width="212" caption="The beaded flag at the Constitutional Court"][/caption] The kids spent all day Thursday at a Lion and Rhino park, where they especially loved seeing the baby lions which live in large protected areas. And on Friday, they went to the stadium at Pretoria and had the opportunity to walk on the field and take photos. [caption id="attachment_206" align="aligncenter" width="300" caption="Me and a few girls from the Australian delegation"][/caption] One of my favorite festival activities so far has been the cultural performances that took place on Wednesday and Thursday nights. Each delegation prepared in advance a dance and/or song to perform in front of all the other delegations. There was such a variety of performances, with some being very traditional and some including more modern songs. The costumes were incredible. The Tahitian delegation even invited everyone outside for their performance so that they could twirl torches! [caption id="attachment_208" align="alignleft" width="300" caption="Tahiti's cultural presentation"][/caption] The delegations have a little rest this afternoon as they gear up for the soccer tournament, which officially begins tomorrow in Alexandra. [caption id="attachment_178" align="alignleft" width="300" caption="Argentinian delegation"][/caption]