Thursday, May 29, 2008

Parade Day

Yesterday I had the great pleasure of participating in my first Belizean parade. This parade was sponsored by the National Emergency Management Organization (NEMO) to raise awareness of the coming hurricane season. Since the entire country lies within 100 miles of the coast line, and a large chunk of the land here is no more than a few feet above sea level, hurricanes are a big deal here. A big storm could potentially put thousands of lives in serious danger and put thousands more out of their homes and property. And since people here don't all speak the same language and most are illiterate anyway, the best way to get an important message out to a large group of people is to create the biggest singing, dancing, marching, honking, and traffic-diverting commotion possible.

The parade started out as a pretty good time- there were a number of marching bands from the local schools who were pretty talented, a steel drum band, and the usual parade staples such as a fire truck and police escorts. And considering just about every school in the area had the day off so the kids could march in the parade, there were more people actually participating than were watching.

After about an hour, though, the parade devolved into a slow, grim death march. The parade had to pass through the most important streets in San Ignacio and Santa Elena, and apparently it needed to proceed at an ungodly slow pace so we could spend the maximum amount of time baking in the sun. The marching bands went through their whole repertoire, and started to repeat their songs, only much more out of key than the first edition. After about two hours, we returned to the starting spot with sunburns and the beginning stages of heat stroke. We all survived... but I'm not sure we learned a damned thing about hurricane preparedness.

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