We are fast approaching November 19th, the biggest holiday of the year for Dangriga and much of Belize - Settlement Day. Some people call it Garifuna Day. In preparation for the holiday, the Belizeans crown their Miss Garifuna, and Steve and I attended the Pageant last Saturday, November 5!
It was held in the Parish Hall behind Sacred Heart Church. There was a small fee - $10 or $15 BZ - just to weed out the riff-raff. The spectators turned out in their finest Garifuna dress. Men wore the traditional garb - black pants with a dashiki of yellow, white and black. The women also wore traditional dress, but in MANY colors. The event was broadcast on national television and radio. Entertainment and music was provided by - of course - drummers! That's one the main things that the Garinagu (Garifuna is singular) is known for.
The pageant was NOT a beauty contest, although girls are pretty. They are judged on their presentation of the culture. They did a dramatic presentation, three different dances each, and their main presentation which was basically a speech with a story and more drama. Seven contestants competed, each representing a town or village - Belize City, Belmopan, Dangriga, Punta Gorda, Hopkins, Seine Bight, Georgetown. Everybody in the audience had their favorite, of course, but they were much more polite than audiences at beauty pageants in the States.
My favorite part of the competition was their "dance of choice." What that really meant was that they each did their own version of the chumba. According to one website - "The chumba is another dance performed by women, and done to a three-beat rhythm within the circle. Some Garifuna scholars claim it is danced as a defiant reminder of the days when women were the sexual subjects of the colonizers, and also as a form of protest against slavery in the sugar industry." These girls danced individually, not in a circle. I thought it looked like a dance portraying a woman working. They were always bent over at the waist, bouncing their hips to the rhythm. Their arms were chopping, or digging, or hoeing, or wringing (laundry?), carrying a baby on the hip. They all included some element of humor (show biz), like a shaky knee, a shovel breaking, a stubborn rock. Well, I laughed.
And the winner is . . . Miss Hopkins, Elisa Magdeleno.
|The 2011 Miss Garifuna Belize|
Did I mention that almost the entire show was spoken in Garifuna? Once in awhile the EmCees spoke English. Steve had a great time trying to pick up what was being said, identifying about every 10th word or so %-)))
|Making name tags|
|Why I like myself"|
I also had a major breakthrough this week. I spoke Kriol to one of the women and she didn't laugh! Now that sounds trifling, but it lifted me up. She said, "Yeah, Catty. You're getting the hang of it. You're gonna love Belize just like Debo did." Debo is a PCV who worked with them a few years back. Well, add that "triumph" to the fact that Steve's sisters are here and we're all enjoying ourselves like it's a real vacation, and you've got one happy PCV. This just may work out after all! Yay!
Steve here: Cathy and I were invited to one of the focus groups the Peace Corps is putting on in Belize. We had two facilitators who are former Peace Corps volunteers. In addition to volunteers from around the district, we also had some of the counterpart group. They are the work partners of the Peace Corps volunteers and are a vital link in the Peace Corps mission of transfer of skills and information.
After brief introductions of all the participants, we were told how our time together would be used. We divided into two groups with counterparts in one room and volunteers in the other and a facilitator in each room. The first few minutes of this session were for individual reflection and listing what we thought were the “issues” in the country. These would be areas where work could be done by the Peace Corps. Next we shared our ideas about the issues and looked for common ground among the group members; this involved defining the issue and combining similar issues. After narrowing the list to about seven, we did a pair-ranking study to to identify what was considered the most important.
The work partner group did the same exercise with their issues. Then we came back together to share the highlights and results with all the participants. The idea was to give direction for the overall program plans for Peace Corps Belize.
I felt good about the process and the results and was glad my opinion counted for something in the big picture. I think all of us had a hard time pulling away to go back to everyday life, and Cathy and I missed one bus back home as we continued to talk in small groups afterwards.
|Apropos of nothing - Steve making home improvements|