As we were finishing up on the day of the public speaking competition, we were told that we needed to go the stadium the next day, Sunday (one of our days off), for the award ceremony. Unsure that we really needed to attend, I asked for details and was told that there would be certificates for judging the competition and we must be there to receive them. Recall that certificates are important in this country (re-read this for a reminder).
We were told to arrive at the dar chebab at 10:00 am, and that we would all walk over to the stadium together. The stadium is brand new, just opened a few weeks ago, and therefore there was excitement over the fact that we’d be using it. We arrived at the dar chebab, and proceeded to wait. We weren’t really sure what we were waiting for (again, this happens often), but soon enough there was a crowd of children gathered.
We quickly realized that we weren’t just walking to the stadium. We were parading to the stadium. After waiting for about 45 minutes, there was movement towards the street and the parade assembled, as the police stopped traffic. There was flag waving and a lot of chanting and even more singing, all led by the animator and a few others. Along with the chanting and signing there was the expected amount of chaos that follows such a group of children. Finally, there was some sense of order to the cluster of children gathered in the street, and the parade began.
We marched 4 blocks down the street to the city center/town square, where we turned onto the main east-west highway that runs through our town. Another 5-6 blocks down this highway, with the police blocking traffic in our direction, then around the fountain in the roundabout, and another few blocks to the stadium. The kids sang at the top of their lungs the whole way. The main song that they belted out over and over again had a simple chorus that was perfect for getting stuck in my head for days: “Allah Allah! Allah Allah!” For the next week I sang Allah Allah to myself.
When we reached the stadium we paraded onto the field, and prepared to line up on the AstroTurf. Except for Michelle and me. We were told that we were sitting in the “VIP” area under a tent on the side of the field. At one point a man on stilts joined us under the tent.
There were many awards to be given; to the older folks that had participated in the original Green March, to the participants of the chess tournament, the Quran-reading competition, the soccer tournament, and more. When it was time to give the public speaking awards, each of the three winners’ names were called, and then mine and Michelle’s. On to the field we went to present certificates and awards to the winners, then to receive our own certificates, and finally to pose in pictures with the winners.
During all of this at the stadium there was the aforementioned man on stilts, two clowns (one was the same clown as the previous day, another was a replacement; the second clown from the previous day was now the man on stilts) and the (surprisingly patient) kids on the field awaiting their awards.
Once we had received our certificates and done our award duty, we made our excuses and returned to our house, very glad for having participated.
A few days later we were walking to the market and stopped to speak to a man we know that sells fruit. He greeted us warmly and then went on to say something in Arabic that I didn’t understand at first. We finally realized that he was telling us that he had seen pictures of us at the stadium ceremony and was proclaiming that we are now famous in our town. Maybe not famous, but how about easily identifiable?