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Es Carnaval, Pues!

Carnaval de Oruro

BOLIVIA | Tuesday, 26 May 2015 | Views [134] | Scholarship Entry

"Siguenme!" yelled Dani over his shoulder as he darted through the crowds of the Oruro bus terminal, his words muffled by the enormous ball of chewed coca that he kept expertly stored between his teeth and inner cheek. We followed him through windy streets to a small brick house that was teeming with people. It was 4 a.m. but several family members of varying ages, from grandfather to toddler, wandered over to greet us in a flurry of kisses.

We were led to our room which was a clean, bare space the size of a small living room where we laid out our sleeping bags in rows on the floor. We later learned that this was the master bedroom, and that the heads of the household had squeezed in with their children to make room for us. Music filled the house and we were invited to partake in soup and beer. Finally, at almost 7 a.m. we crashed, only to awaken 4 hours later to the sounds of firecrackers and drums in the streets outside. Unwashed and still half asleep, we made our way to the stands where our seats were reserved.

Along the main roads of the town, stretching for miles and miles, rickety stands, about 15 meters tall, had been constructed to seat the some 400, 000 spectators. Dani instructed us to each by a plastic raincoat and a spray can of foam. Bewildered, we donned our raincoats and watched the parade. A glorious march of colour and dance progressed, led first by the women, in heels and wide skirts who twirled by with serene grace. But the real spectacle was the male dancers who donned shiny suits with huge shoulder pads and gelled hair. They carried large cymbals which they crashed together in their mesmerizing choreography of running leaps and jumps. We soon found out why the raincoats were necessary when, during a break in the parade, we were bombarded with water balloons and foam. It was a the biggest water fight I had ever seen. People clamoured over the divide and into the streets to douse each other with buckets of water. We joined in, hiding from children who chased us with water guns.

By sunset we were drenched and exhausted, after one of the most exhilarating days of our lives. We knew there was no way Dani would allow us to sleep that night, so we thought it best to sneak back to the room for a quick nap. As I climbed into my sleeping back, I turned to Dani exclaiming, "I can't believe this is real! It doesn't seem possible!" to which he replied, his voice mumbly and half-asleep, "Of course it's possible! Es Carnaval, pues!"

Tags: 2015 Writing Scholarship

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