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Wednesday, July 28, 2010

Ready to depart

This will certainly be the last posting from Gannat. I didn't expect to even have time to write today. We have finished our work, and now our party for whoever wants to come is about to start. It is a barbeque. Harold is doing most of the work. It seems to be his thing. Hyun-Jae, Pepe, and Ayub are helping. I guess the male barbeque thing is international.

We don't really know how many people are coming. I just found out that Jean Roche, the founder/director of the festival is coming, which surprised me. Nearly all the groups have gone, except for the Khazistanis, who are staying at the hostel that is part of the Maison du Folklore. Without their costumes. they are just a bunch of cute kids, plus several adults that are the singers and musicians. They are going to two other festivals in France, before heading home,as are the South Africans. Now that I think of it, it may well be the same festivals.

The festival tents, stands, booths, etc. are almost entirely taken down. A lot of the work we did was just picking up chairs and tables and loading them into trucks. There didn't seem to be all that much to do. For us, that is. There were at least 40 men doing the heavy duty stuff. All that was left when we left the site this afternoon was the chapiteau, the big tent. I would like to have seen that come down.

For lunch today, we were taken in the back of a truck to the same place where we worked before the festival, and where all the festival equipment, scenery, etc. is stored. There is a small kitchen there too. One or a couple of the burly workers had cooked us all a lunch. We had a carrot salad, potato salad, tomotoes and hard boiled eggs. Delicious. Oh, and rum punch. These guys take their drinking seriously. It's the same men who we worked with in the early mornings, cleaning up with before the festival opened for the day. They do work hard, but I don't know how they do it, with the amount of beer they consume, starting early in the morning. I didn't realize the salads were just the first course, although I should have. Then came some braised ribs and macaroni. No dessert, probably a good thing.

I walked through town today, which I have done a few times on my own. I have to say it feels good to be on my own, away from the group. It was market day, and one stall had wild blueberries, of which I bought a half kilo, planning to share them with the group. I couple of people took a couple of berries, most people didn't want to even try them. I think a lot of them hadn't ever seen them before. So I ate a lot of blueberries today!

Then back to the festival, to stack pieces of wood from the typical Aubergne house we had taken apart the day before. We stacked them on pallets, for a forklift to carry off to one of the trucks.

I can smell the barbeque. The picnic area is right outside the Maison de Folklore, from where I have done all my blogging. I think things are going to end on a nice note tonight. I hope so. I have to confess that since the festival ended, a couple of days ago, I have been eager for the project to end, as well. I just haven't felt the same camraderie I have in all of my other volunteer projects. I think some of it is just that I don't speak French as well as most of the volunteers, and some things just go by me. But some of it is certainly the group organization. I've already written about my travails with Laure. Now Romain, her co-leader, is in charge. I don't think he has much experience supervising anyone or leading a group. I asked him today how I could get to the train station tomorrow. I am the first to leave, and there are three people taking a train an hour later. He started a rant about how he couldn't ask Pepe (who drove here from Barcelona and has been helping with some of the daily transportation and shopping.) Then he said that Pierre-Julien, to whom we are officially responsible, probably couldn't take me, he has a family and responsibilites of his own, etc. etc. I was just trying to get a word in and ask if he could call me a taxi. He said he would, or at least get me the number of a taxi company. Never did, of course, so I wound up asking Pierre-Julien, who promptly made the arrangements. Romain never did follow up with me, which doesn't surprise me. It doesn't seem like he's really concerned about how or if I get there.Just a small example of the lack of organization, or caring, about this group.

Well, enough about that. As I said before, the most striking thing about this whole event has been the experiences behind the festival. As Jean Roche has been quoted, the whole goal is international understanding and tolerance, and especially that children have this experience. And I have certainly seen that, in many ways. Watching the local kids interract with the performers is so touching, and watching the groups interract with the others, as well. An interesting observation about the performances - I have seen similar threads in some of the performances. Both the Auvergne local group (the one Jean Roche founded before he founded the festival) and the Yakuties do a similar piece, a dance about wolves hunting another animal. The Yakuti wolves hunt and kill a reindeer, and the rest of the herd returns to scare off the wolves. In the French version, which is quite different in style, music, costumes, it is a flock of sheep, hunted by a wolf after the shephard falls asleep, leaning on his staff. In this version, several shephards come back to hunt and kill the wolf, which they then carry off, to cheers from the audience.

The other common element that struck me is the part of a dance like the Virginia Reeel, where each couple comes under the arched arms of the first couple and then becomes part of the arch. I have nticed it in several dances here, including the group from Provence and the South African. How does something like that originate and then travel from culture to culture? The small instrument that is a two sided drum that one twirls between ones hands is another example of an element that I have seen from various cultures, including Thailand and Peru. In some cases, it seems likely or at least possible that it evolved separately. Certainly the wolf theme would naturally evolve in various cultures,and probably exists in many others. But how does a bridge under which the dancers move in pairs evolve in separate cultures? It's something I would like to know, just as I would like to know how the bread on a stick greeting came to be at the festival cafeteria!

Well, that's it from the town and festival of Gannat, a truly remarkable event that I would highly recommend!

Now, off to the barbeque, and then, Paris!

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