Make Dance, Not War
There was an assembly on Friday, first celebrating the Colombian Independence from Spain, which is school theme of the year - 2010 is its bicentennial. We were also celebrating 17 years of the existence of Altamira International School. This was a bit more involved than assembly celebrations I’ve seen at other schools. The Spanish teacher told me it would take 2 hours. She was right.
It started out with the Colombian National Anthem, then the Barranquilla Anthem, and then finally the Altamira School anthem. Life at school is mostly all in Spanish, all of the time, and the assembly was no different.
Teachers for grades 5-12 were to represent a hero of the Colombian Independence. I was to explain a bit about a man named José Maria Córdoba. I had a student (my only Leo) represent for me in Spanish. I wore pants, which IS an elaborate costume for me, but others were significantly more dressed up. Most of the presentations were much bigger and better than mine – speeches, wartime dramatizations, etc.
That itself took over an hour.
Then because it’s a pre-k –12 school, students who must be seniors put on a very extravagant, if a little confusing, production. It started with an entire class of Cats in the Hats and a few clowns on stilts (believe me I wish I’d had my camera), parading on stage to the theme from the musical Cats. Oh, of course, that’s always what the Cat in the Hat has as his music…or not.
They lost me for about 5 minutes with some fake advertisement for the 3 cellular carriers here, Tigo, Comcel, and Movistar, and made a call in which all the talking was meowing.
Next, for some reason, they played the Wisconsin fight song and "Rum Tum Tugger" from Cats to introduce our hero, the Cat in the Hat. But who was the villain? None other than the Grinch himself, with the musical accompaniment of, “You’re a mean one, Mr. Grinch…”
The battle was on: Cat in the Hat v. the Grinch. But wait, we’re in Colombia, so how do they fight? They have a dance competition! Some little kids marched up on stage to dance with them. I’m telling you it must be in the blood, because these 7 year olds had more coordinated and sexy moves than I’ll ever have. Of course, in the end the Cat in the Hat prevailed. Hooray!!
This Colombian style ‘High School Musical’ was about 40 minutes long with music, costumes, songs, dance routines, and choreography, all in their second language – English. The amazing thing is they’ve only been in school since last week. Wow! I am most certainly impressed. Talk about collaboration. How they pulled this off, I will never know.
And to end, we had a small Catholic prayer in Spanish and a completely disorganized non-dismissal of about 620 students and 80 staff.
So, two hours outside in 90-degree heat and 100% humidity, how were the kids you ask? Well, they were pretty well behaved, not angels like at la misa, but considering the conditions, they were OK.
This whole celebration gave me a small taste of what Carnaval will be like here. I have a feeling it will be a crazy celebration of music and dance to top all others I’ve seen. Chaotic, loud, colorful, hot, and fun are some other words that should describe Carnaval, and also DO describe daily life in Barranquilla in general. I better learn how to dance along.
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