19 September 2011

Fêtes de Wallonie à Namur Sept 17, 18

      I was indeed quite tired the first day.  It makes speaking/understanding French quite a challenge.  But I was much more tired even the second day.
Statue right in Namur of the echasseurs!
      The 17th we drove out to Namur (1 hour) on Saturday morning, my host mom showed me the house where we would sleep, and then we ate lunch 2 doors down at my other host grandparents house.  My host great grandmother is 96!  We then went to the building in downtown Namur where les Echasseurs are based from to change and get the drums.  We covered the faces of the drums with plastic in case of rain.  We then paraded around the city and made small exhibitions here and there.
        Namur is the capital of Wallonia, hence it hostst the Fêtes de Wallonie, which is, like most festivals here, an enormous block party.  In the states a city festival might close 1 or 2 blocks for a day twice a year.  In Belgium, they have holidays quite often and it involved the ENTIRE city!  Fêtes de Wallonie is a special case though, and is much larger than others and lasts for 3 days.  Wallonia is the French speaking region of Belgium, and the fete for it simply celebrates the culture and people of the region.  There is a lot of alcohol, shopping, food, and music.
There were a lot of stands with this: pekets.
Hard alcohol with flavor.
Here, it starts.
        The Echasseurs Namurois even get free beer between each skirmish!  But I didn’t drink, though.  It’s against Rotary rules.  Because it was the 600th anniversary of the Namur tradition, they invited other stilt groups from all over the world to celebrate together!
A bouncy stilt group from France.
A stilt group from Africa.
A stilt group from United States.
A stilt group from Asia.
A stilt group from Europe.
The citadel (before the rain).
       That night, I got together with some exchange student friends and we explored Namur, mounted the Citadel (in the rain), and heard some good live music!  It was my 18th birthday after all.  I have had several moments where I say to myself, “did that just happen?  Am I actually 18 after all this time?”  Yes.  I have yet to decide exactly what that means.
The echasseurs and me.
     The next day was the big day for the ceremonial echasseur match.  It lasted about almost an hour!  In the shadow of a grand cathedral dome, surrounded by several thousand screaming Walloons, they battled for an hour until the last jaune et noir fell down, and then amongst the rouge et blanc, they fought for a final winner.  The winner was awarded several trophies and then the spectacle was finished.  In that same square, all the other stilt walking groups had already performed that morning, so the Namurois were the grand finale.  It rained during the match and my fingers almost froze off while water collected in the brim of my hat.  Needless to say I was very glad to change clothes and have some soup for dinner.
        We then came home, and I am completely exhausted.  But give “I want you back” by The Civil Wars a listen if you get a chance.  School tomorrow.
     A strange thing about spending the day with the echasseurs Namurois is that I play the drums the whole time, so I spend the day in my head, thinking in English.  And then after it’s over, I have to try to speak/understand French!  It’s more difficult than I would have thought!

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