Friday, 18 July 2014

Rotaract District 7030 Conference, Day Two

“Nothing becomes real till it is experienced”- John Keats


Welcome to the second instalment in my three-part blog series that chronicles my experience at the Rotaract District 7030 Conference in Paramaribo, Suriname. Below is a summary of Day One:

The Rotaract District 7030 Conference started. I was late for the first event. That event was RETS, which stands for Rotaract Executive Training Seminar. It was a day-long exercise. We were to learn skills. We had four sessions that gave us lessons in emotional intelligence, leadership, ethics, and event planning. It was most instructive. I got a certificate. I was proud.

Later that evening, there was the Opening Ceremony. I was excited. I love culture. And culture was the running theme during the evening’s festivities. There was a Flag Ceremony. Then, a Surinamese drum ensemble took the stage. There was an Amerindian Chief as well, he looked like Powhatan. I was left mesmerized by the entire experience.

Finally, we went clubbing. The club was named 22 Yards. It actually measured 22 yards. There was no space. It was hot. I was annoyed. I bitched about it. But, a shot of tequila and an appearance by Queen Elsa put all that to bed. I managed to enjoy myself. I might have let out my inner jamette.

Day One was exhausting.

If reading that made you curious about the finer details of the day, you can satiate your curiosity right HERE. You might even have a laugh or two.

As to the happenings of Day Two, you can find them after this paragraph. You know the usual, do enjoy and please come again!

The date was Saturday, June 14th, 2014, the time was 7:15AM, and my muscles were sore. I figured that my wotless behaviour from the previous night’s clubbing experience had a lot to with it. We were to leave the hotel at eight to go to the venue for that year’s District Assembly, but I had no zeal to get off my bed.

What my body lacked in inactivity, my mind made up for with a running commentary: “Why should I even go? It’s probably going to be boring. And I might just fall asleep. I wonder if the hotel’s tuck shop sells 5-hour Energy. But no, if I take that, I’ll eventually crash and miss the Theme Party. I hope the omelette lady is there. Her eggs are heavenly.  I should get up. My team would look bad if one of its members doesn’t show up. Plus, I’m new at this Rotaract business; I just might learn something today. Good thing I ironed.”

Half an hour later, I was praising Lipton Yellow Label Tea for its ability to wake me up as I boarded the bus. We arrived at the Surinamese Olympic Stadium after a short drive. The venue for the day’s activities had a nice interior, but the exterior and surrounding infrastructure left much to be desired. Ah well, you can’t have it all.

Presidents, Incoming Presidents or Representatives of the President of each Rotaract club in the District had their seats reserved for them at the front of the Assembly. I was elated, and promptly bade our President a hearty farewell and gravitated to the back. But, before I could be seated, a tiny photo-shoot to show off that day’s attire needed to be had.

Usually, I like having my photo taken. It not only feeds my vanity, but it’s a service to mankind. I mean, who am I to rob the world of my smile?  But, the prospect of taking a photo did not fill me with the same joy on that particular day. You know why? Two words: my blazer.

Flashback- WTF, Mr. Courtney!?!

Our club had always wanted to invest in a Rotaract blazer. So, when the Conference newsletter stated that it was part of the dress-code for District Assembly, we seized the opportunity to have them made.

One member found a reputable tailor in Sangre Grande, named Courtney to sew them for us. My Granny- a seamstress- spoke highly of his abilities, he seemed to know what he was doing while he was measuring me, and he charged $300. I saw no reason not to trust him.

The day before I was to leave sweet T&T for Suriname, I came home to find my blazer in my room. I immediately took it off its hanger and put it on. The sleeves were abnormally short, the stitching atrocious and the blazer itself looked dejected. It was a burgundy mess! Like, WTF, Mr. Courtney? I thought you were supposed to be good!

At first, I was nonplussed. Then, I got angry. My voice turned into a screech as I berated Mr. Courtney and his craftsmanship from afar. I called him a host of names like, a colossal caca-hole and an overrated anus of a tailor. I could not believe that I had paid $300 for a blazer that I wouldn’t even use as toilet paper. Steups!

End Flashback

Three days later, I was still seething. However, I was comforted by the fact that we all looked like well-packaged maroon boxes in our Bullshit Blazers made by Courtney. With the photos out of the way and my blazer hanging on the back of my seat, I was ready for the day’s events.

They don't look so bad, right?
The District Assembly brings together the District Committee, Rotary representatives, and Presidents and members of the thirty-five (35) Rotaract clubs in District 7030. I had been forewarned that it’s often a drawn out affair, but given the novelty of the entire experience, my mood was anticipatory.

It began with a prayer and the Four Way Test. Important persons were acknowledged. The minutes of last year’s Assembly had been reviewed in advance, and when no one had anything to say in terms of corrections, we moved on. There was an infomercial about the Rotaract District Committee (RDC). Reports from several District Committees followed.

A cross section of the Rotaractors gathered
When the District Rotaract Representative (DRR) began her report that listed the number of Rotaract clubs in the District, outlined the achievements of each club, and detailed her visits to the different clubs, I was struck by the enormity of the Rotaract organization.

Now, I had always known that my club could not have been the only one in the District, but I had never sat and thought about the big picture. Think about it, there are thirteen (13) countries that make up District 7030, from St. Kitts to Trinidad and Tobago to French Guiana to Guyana to Suriname. In total, there are thirty-five (35) Rotaract clubs with thousands of members.

The District Committee is just a bigger Rotaract club that represents all the clubs in the District. Well, that’s how I see it, anyway. Don’t even get me started on the fact that District 7030 is just one District, and that there are other Districts that encompass the Caribbean, and the world.

In essence, I am one tooth on a cog (my club) that is attached to other cogs (clubs) that turn the giant machine that is Rotaract District 7030. And in the grand scheme of things, District 7030 is yet another cog in the Rotaract machinery, and so on and so forth.

I sat there, thinking: “I am a part of something that’s so much bigger than me!”

The three to four hours I had been sitting there, listening to all those reports, had felt like a decade. Given my sleep deprived state and the heat of the room, I started nodding off on myself. I drank two cups of green tea, but I had apparently become immune to its restorative properties over the course of the past two days.

Trying to fight the sleep and failing miserably was so frustrating. Every time I thought that I was winning, I would jump awake, look around and register the sniggers of my peers. On several occasions, I could have sworn that a camera’s flashing light had startled me awake. Fighting was futile. My ending up on Facebook in the official album of Conference sleepers was inevitable. I gave in.

My nap did help, but I think having to stand under the blazing Surinamese sun in a sweat-box of a blazer, surrounded by a group of persons, posing for the official Conference photo, went a long way in keeping me firmly in the Land of the Awake.

Lunch quickly followed and we moved into the afternoon session, which comprised of a bid to host next year’s conference- Barbados won-, elections, more reports, and a small disagreement that went on forever. I wanted very much to go back to the hotel, and did not hesitate to jump in the bus when it arrived. There was more fun to be had later that evening; I needed a little rest.

The Theme Party is yet another part of the Conference experience. This year’s theme was CandyLand, and invited persons to dress up in colourful, candylicious outfits. My proclivity for bright colours, over-enthusiasm and eating candy meant that I was looking forward to dressing up and attending.  

We settled on a Skittles inspired costume; each of us would choose a colour and wear a uniformed bottom- a skirt for the girls and pants for the boys. I chose the colour orange because it goes well with my complexion. An important part of our overall presentation was giving everyone shots of Skittles-flavoured rum. We needed a distillery.

Flashback- The Distillery in Room 421

The night before Conference officially began; the Grande massive took over Room 421 and turned it into a distillery for their Skittles-flavoured rum. The main ingredient was White Oak, which, in my mind, is one step above Hard Wine in the Ghetto Rum Classification, and Skittles.

First, we separated the Skittles by colour. In our case: red, green, blue, orange, yellow, and pink. Second, we divided the three bottles. Third, we dropped each colour into the rum. Fourth, we shook the concoction like our lives depended on it. Fifth, we named our creations: Red Light District, Horny Wheatgrass, Indian Tonic, Bup Bup Juice, Sunrise Venom, and Bubblegum Kotch.

The fumes from the White Oak, the vodka and orange juice we had been drinking, and the general vibes in the distillery had obviously influenced us. Ha!

End Flashback

Unfortunately, the venue for the party did not allow patrons to enter with alcohol. Oops! But, the show had to go on. We got dressed in our multi-coloured garments, and looked splendid and uniformed as we made our way through the hotel’s main lobby. Other Rotaractors had gone all out for the festivities, and I was giddy just from looking at them.

The mode of transport to the club made me very nostalgic. It reminded me of the chiva rumbera I had gone on when I was in Colombia back in 2010. This was an uncovered party bus that boasted a stripper pole, seating accommodations, and a number of railings. We were treated to sweet, Soca music, and given a small tour of Paramaribo before heading to the club.

#GrandeMassive #SkittlesCrew
Serving Skittle realness! 
Havana Club was much larger than the club we had gone to the previous night; a fact that I was very grateful for. The host Surinamese clubs had gone all out with the decorations. It was as though I had actually stepped into a Candy Land. I imagined a troupe of ballerinas alighting from the woodwork, outfitted with giant confetti cannons that shot out shining dust and candy and pies. 

In the food line, some persons were behaving as though the food would finish. I hate line jumpers, more so, when hunger is gnawing at my stomach. There was this one girl, who seemed to appear out of thin air (no easy feat given her bright yellow costume), and stood on the side of me, inching closer into the line, bold as brass. I was fuming, silently. I gave her pointed looks, but she paid me no mind. Heaven knows she tried my patience. (If you happen to read this and want to apologize, feel free to private message me on FB)

As it turns out, the food was worth the wait. I was fed. I was content. The music was pumping. There was ample room to dance. I needed to shake a leg, badly! Oh, there was an open bar. 

I decided to try the Surinamese rum, Black Cat. By itself the liquid wasn’t black, but that all changed when Coca-Cola was added as chaser. It was so good, and I committed myself to drinking it the rest of the night. The party was even better under the cat's influence. I unleashed my inner jamette for the second time in two days. I think my jamette level was pretty high, since I pulled a muscle in my leg after wining down low.

I didn't realize how drunk I was until I found myself dancing to and singing Rasta-people music out loud. It was all downhill from there, and I ended the night speaking Spanish to non-Spanish speakers. I always insist that one's proficiency in a second language improves under the influence of alcohol. Ha! 

I'm a helpful drunk :)
NB: Day Three debuts on Sunday. 

Until the next post. Toodles!