As I wrote earlier I took pictures at a private school nearby called Cardiff Preparatory School. Since it so nearby I sometimes just stop by to say hello to Florence Kamara, the head mistress. She is really loving, caring person and so energetic. And the kids are always great. They come up to shake my hand or to give me a hug. They call me “auntie Betty”.
Today was their Christmas program. Christmas is a big holiday in Sierra Leone. People started wishing me Happy Christmas back mid-November. There are lots of carnivals and parties being advertised.
The program was supposed to start at noon. And I kind of thought that it would start late but then I thought if the parents were invited it might actually start on time. So I arrived at about 12:20 to find everyone still setting up. It was obvious it wouldn’t start for a while but I didn’t feel like climbing back up the hill to our apartment. And it was fun watching the kids run around waiting for the program to get organized. The ice cream man arrived and he must have sold a hundred or so small ice cream cones to the kids. That made for good pictures as you will see. So even though the program started late everyone was enjoying them selves and no one really minded.
All the desks from the classrooms were brought out into the schoolyard. A bamboo structure was partially built to give the audience some shade but it didn’t get finished. Parents, mostly mothers, started to arrive and still the program seemed a long way from starting. I got a typed program so I could see that a lot of thought and preparation had been made. There was a very scratchy, loud sound system with a DJ that played local pop music while things were getting ready. Finally around 2:30 it got started.
The program consisted of singing some very familiar carols, at least the words were familiar, but the tunes were not. The keyboard that accompanied the singing was hooked up to the sound system. So what would have been some lovely singing to listen to, because the students obviously loved to sing, was masked by a lot of static. The Christmas story was acted out and narrated by older students, all of whom performed with great confidence shouting into the microphone. The baby Jesus was a two-year-old boy who let himself be wrapped up into a white sheet and held by a young girl, playing Mary. The angel walked around in a blue choir robe waving his arms. But the most unusual part of the skit was the narration of Herod telling his soldiers to kill all the children less than two years of age. To act this out several girls were sitting on the ground with some dolls and some boys as soldiers attacked the girls snatching the dolls and acting like they were killing them. I know that is part of the Christmas story but I have never seen it acted out in our Christmas programs. So that took me by surprise.
All in all it was a very lively program, with all the students really participating with singing, acting and narrating. And they loved using the microphone, which was passed around to each performer.
The cutest part of the program, of course like all children’s programs, was when the nursery students sang and danced. Even two year old “Jesus” was up there holding the microphone and dancing.
And for the audience to show their appreciation for various performances there was a box placed on a small table in front of the “stage” where people could come up and throw in money. Mothers were especially appreciative when their children performed well. This is a way for the school to raise extra funds.
All in all this event seemed to really tell me a lot about Sierra Leonean culture and to note the differences to the way we do things. In this school many of the students are Muslim yet they were acting out a Christian story and for the most part Christians and Muslims are very tolerant of each other here. Also, though what I saw seemed to be total chaos, in terms of getting the program started, it was well planned out judging by the printed program and later the program itself. And everyone really enjoyed themselves in ways I don’t think you really see in our Christmas programs. The programs here are definitely livelier for both the students and the audience. And the acting out of the King Herod story, though very violent in my way of looking at it, is part of the story and it isn’t ignored.
So four hours later I was back home in our quiet apartment ready to watch another beautiful sunset. It’s hard to get the Christmas spirit without some cold weather. But we are heading to London soon and I am sure then we will wish we were back here!!!!