Cultural and Tourism Festival in Guider, North Region
Last week, Peace Corps admin gave several of us permission to attend the Cultural and Tourism Festival in Guider, a town 110 kilmeters from Garoua. The festival is held every other year. Since I didn’t have any work plans, I decided to tag along. I had never been to Guider before, and I always love visiting other people’s posts. Plus, it was fun to spend more time with the new Volunteers, who had just been at posts for two weeks.
First, people waited around for the traditional chief to arrive. When he finally did, he was greeted by the many performers, including those on horses!
Then, the official ceremony started. As always, there was the national anthem. Next, there was more traditional dancing:
Then, there was the most popular part of the ceremony:
Partway through the dance, the women remove their pieces of fabric and dance half-naked…at that point, the audience clapped. We Peace Corps Volunteers weren’t quite sure how to respond, and we wondered about the cultural significance of it. I was sitting next to Bouba, the Peace Corps Regional Coordinator, whose hometown is Guider, and when I asked him, he responded, “I don’t know. Just enjoy it.” …
After the ceremony, we went around the stands, where people displayed artwork, food, and traditional medicine. I found this stand particularly interesting:
Oh, dear. I asked the Cameroonians around, though, and they didn’t seem to think that the mysterious liquid would actually do anything to prevent or treat HIV…
That evening, the Volunteers got together and cooked a giant meal together at one of the Volunteer’s houses. Carlos (an Education Volunteer) and I were in charge of making tortillas. I used to make tortillas regularly in Kolofata. However, this time… it didn’t work that well.. but good thing we’re Peace Corps Volunteers and have low standards! :)
The next morning, we went to the Gorges of Kola, a popular tourist site as well. None of us really knew what to expect throughout the whole festival, so when Bouba showed up with the Peace Corps car, he saw our flipflops and told us we should be wearing shoes. Of course, I hadn’t packed any. Oops. So, a few of us wore sandals and dresses, but we made it, despite lots of slipping around on the rocks!
Our mantra became “I can do anything in my babouches!” (Babouches is the name of the cheap flipflops here. I have gone through so many pairs, since they break so easily. But, I used to wear them regularly to the hospital in Kolofata, and they’re comfortable for everyday activities, like 22 kilometer bike rides to Mora or for climbing rocks, apparently – though probably not recommended…)
The festival wasn’t over yet, but another Volunteer, Avery and I, decided to go back to Garoua early, since I had to pack before I went to Yaounde. I am currently in Yaounde, at the Peace Corps transit house right now – hence why I am able to upload so many pictures, since the internet is so fast here. Peace Corps is making me spend a week here to do medical exams so that I can be approved to do a third year.
In a few days, I will go on “home leave.” All Volunteers who extend for a year get a month of vacation, with our flights paid for by Peace Corps :) I’m going to spend a week in Belgium for Christmas and then three weeks back home in America. So stoked.