Thursday, March 09, 2006

International Women's Day

Yesterday was International Women’s Day. On Monday my colleagues (all of whom but one are men) asked me if I would be marching in the parade.

Me- “What parade?”

Them – “The women’s day one.”

Me – “Tomorrow's women’s day? And a parade?”

Them- “Yes. You HAVE to march. You are our (fill in the blank of my organization) woman!”

At this point they stepped into action. First, I needed to buy the pagne (brightly printed cotton material) that our partner organization was wearing. It’s essential that we all have matching outfits. So we grabbed one a guy who knew the correct pagne went to the shop where the women had bought their material. Mission 1 accomplished. Of course it’s not what I would have chosen (stripes AND polka dots, with blue, red, yellow, white and black. Oh my). We dropped this guy back at the office and I continued with a male staff who works for me as a field supervisor. We went to the tailor, who was busy with many matching pagnes, but agreed to step into action to make mine. My first rule – absolutely no puffy sleeves. Some outfits here have puffy sleeves that would even put a 1980s prom dress to shame. I just said “something simple, pointed to a sketch, and he got working.” I stopped by three hours later, still with my colleague, who insisted on seeing the mission through. I sat for thirty minutes as they finished the dress. I rarely spend time in town, since being a white person means just being stared at, and there’s really not many places to go. So I liked just sitting in this little shop, which was pretty much a shack with no glass on the windows. A little girl sat next to me and we talked a bit. I explained that I worked in town and she told me about school. I tried the dress on. The guys thought it was nice but it needed a inch or two taken in, which they promptly did. When I put it back on they were quite happy and very impressed with both my appearance and their work.

Pagne - $4.00
Tailor - $3.60
Total - $7.60
Me wearing a Congolese outfit- Priceless

So yesterday was the actual parade. I was invited by the organizers and got to march with the first group of prestigious women (wives of leaders. No matter than I have no husband). The I sat back in the pavilion as the other groups passed. After three hours, they were still going. MONUC women. Cleaning women. Business women. Women from local associations (they are MANY. Who knew?). Women from every church known to man. Basically, thousands of women who all did a little dance in their matching pagnes as they marched by. By hour 4.5, my colleague and I realized we needed to escape. This thing was going to keep on going till nightfall. So I pretended to take a phone call and snuck out of the pavilion. Five minutes later he left, and walked the motorcycle to the road, where we met up and fled. Sitting side-saddle on a motorcycle is quite a balancing act!

When I explained that this day wasn't really celebrated in the states, my colleagues were aghast. It was like saying we don't celebrate Christmas. I'm not sure how I will break the news about Parent's Day and Teacher's Day (which also have parades).


Blogger Kingston Girl said...

Any parade here has to have a dance. And specially written songs for the occassion ...usually versions of popular songs with all the rude bits replaced with meaningful slogans!

3:41 PM  
Blogger Congogirl said...

Where, o where, is the photo that goes with this entry?? I can just imagine the scene!

11:14 PM  
Blogger Sahara Sarah said...

Congolese can dance all day. In fact, just learned that the governor halted the parade because it was going too long (he did so as the PPRD women were going by - his rival politicl party!).

Congogirl, have posted the photo (internet was too week yesteday). What do you think?!

3:20 PM  
Blogger Mom said...

Sarah, I read this whole entry to Baba T. (and showed him a print-out of you in your matching pagne) and he really enjoyed it.

5:57 PM  

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