Sunday, 20 July 2014

Rotaract District 7030 Conference, Day Three

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

This here’s the third and final instalment in my Rotaract District 7030 Conference series of blogs. I would like to take this opportunity to thank everyone, who read until the very end. Your commitment and comments on Facebook and WhatsApp made my heart smile. Love abounds!

And that’s enough niceness from me. Below is a recap of Day Two.

I was sore from the night before. I did not want to get off my bed, but I had to. Today was District Assembly. It’s a glorified meeting of all the stakeholders in the Rotaract organization. I needed to be there. I complained about how poorly my blazer was made. I might have referred to the tailor as a colossal caca-hole. There were a lot of reports. These seemed to have lasted a decade. I was struck by how far-reaching the organization is. I compared myself to a tooth on a cog. I fell asleep a lot. We took a photo in the hot sun. I was very excited when the bus came to take us back to the hotel.

The theme of the 2014 Theme Party was Candy-Land: Colours of the Rainbow. My club and I went as Skittles. I was orange. I looked really cute and rotund. We made Skittles-flavoured rum in the 421 Distillery. We could not take it to the party. We were sad. At the party, there was a long line for food. I was annoyed by this line jumper, dressed in yellow. The food was worth the wait though. I drank Black Cat and danced the night away. I was drunk. I spoke Spanish non-stop for 45-minutes. I helped push a trolley.

If that recap spoke to you, you can read the entire account of Day Two right HERE.

Now, that that’s out of the way, I present to you the happenings of Day Three. Enjoy!

NB: The story picks up after the Theme Party.  

The date was Sunday, July 15th, 2014, the time was sometime after 3:30AM, and I was making a prank call.

Alcohol fills me with energy. I’m not the kind of person to dive straight into bed after a party and sleep it off. I eat, I have conversation or I clean. There was a post-Theme Party party, hosted by the Rotaractors of Guyana in Room 307. Members of the Sangre Grande Central club, all gathered in Room 421, decided to prank call the party’s hosts.

The actual making of the prank call was my responsibility. You see, I have a flair for the dramatic, and had learnt a few Dutch greetings during my stay. Plus, I had a lot of energy to expend. After adopting a crazy HisDuFreNi (Hispanic-Dutch-French-Trini) accent, I called Room 307 and pretended to be a member of hotel staff.

The first call was unsuccessful. So, we figured that we needed to make our story more convincing. We needed facts. Luckily, we had a secret weapon in our club, Yvonne*, The Queen of Disappearing Acts*. We sent her downstairs for a bit of recon.

Armed with more details, the second call was made. This time, I was more specific, saying that guests had complained of a door constantly slamming, as though a lot of people were entering and leaving their hotel room. He tried to feign ignorance again, but I advised him not to lie to me because the hotel had surveillance cameras.

It worked. He went to investigate the source of the noise, or at least, pretended to. He blamed his room-mate, and assured me that he had spoken to him. I wasn’t so easily swayed, so I threatened to throw him and his room-mates out of the hotel if the noise persisted. Then, I promptly hung up.

Laughter followed as we were very pleased with ourselves. When we replayed the video of the prank, we registered the fear in the guy’s voice and laughed some more. I was in a celebratory mood. As such, there was some dancing to the Dog Days AreOver by Florence and the Machine. Don't believe me? Click HERE and see for yourselves.

I might have spent some time under a table. #DontJudgeMe
NB: A few days later, we learnt that the “Room 307 After-Party” was stopped. Apparently, my HisDuFreNi accent was more convincing than I’d thought. Oops!

I had no idea when I had stopped dancing and went to sleep. What I did know was that I got up, in my hotel room, at 7:50AM in absolute panic. As I flew off the bed, I muttered, “Oh crap, crap, crap, crap, crap, crap, crap, crap, crap...”

You see, the Community Service Walk for the Blind was scheduled to start at 8:00AM. My “Oh crap(s)!” turned to “Oh shit!” as I realized that I had to bathe, iron, leave the hotel room, have breakfast, and board the bus in the space of ten (10) minutes. It was an impossible feat; my baths are longer than ten minutes. Shit! Something-someone-anyone-Jesus help!

“Oh shit, I need clothes!” I flung open my suitcase, looking for the white T-shirt and shorts that I had put aside for the morning's event. I berated myself as I threw clothes to and fro. Why did I have to drink so much? Why didn’t I come back to the hotel room and iron my clothes? As a matter of fact, why didn’t I iron everything the first night? This must be pay-back for the prank call during the wee hours of that morning. When I did find my pants and T-shirt, I decided that drastic times called for drastic measures, and did not iron a thing. “No one would notice”, I reassured myself, “I’m not that important.”

“Oh shit, I have to bathe!” If I’m being honest, for two seconds, I considered not doing the deed at all. I don’t smell, and I’d be sweating, anyway. Drastic times, drastic measures, right? I’d just not sit close to anyone. But, then I had a flashback of all the dancing I had engaged in at the Theme Party, and decided that a quick wash was very necessary.

“Oh shit, it’s 8:00AM! Where is my floppy hat?” In hindsight, I probably deserve a medal. I think my bath-time was 2-minutes. At 8:02AM, I was leaving the hotel room. A bit ramfled, not that clean and hung-over, but leaving nonetheless. When I got to the lobby, I was happy to see that the buses had not yet arrived.

NB: I apologize for the excessive “Oh shit(s)!” That morning, I was a hot mess, and it was the only word in my vocabulary to truly capture how much of a wreck I was.

“Oh shit, I still have to eat!” (Sorry!) At the breakfast station, I brought to life the saying: “running around like a headless chicken”. I zoomed from entrée to entrée with a Styrofoam box; I was picking up things to eat, but not really picking up anything. In my haste, I had even forgotten to get a cup of Lipton. It was Sundhini*, who reminded me. I said a silent prayer to the heavens that my immunity to its power had only lasted one day.

We arrived at Palmentuin in downtown Paramaribo. The park comprised of hundreds, if not thousands, of towering palm trees, and was to be our start and end point for the day’s Walk.

In my hung-over state, I had become hyper-sensitive. My head was pounding. The hustle and bustle of the city reverberated in my brain. My floppy hat was squeezing my gargantuan head. The sun was too hot. The grass was too wet. The air was too fresh. The morning people were too delighted by the prospect of a 3K Walk-A-Thon before 10:00AM. Ugh!

Definitely, "ugh"...
The morning of the third Conference day is normally reserved for the Community Service Project. This year’s project was entitled, The Red and White Walk. The project was aimed at helping children with visual impairments. The goal of the 3K Walk was to raise awareness, show solidarity and raise funds for the Braille School. With respect to the latter, we had all donated $10US to purchase school supplies for the students.

The PR Goddess, Melissa led us in a short prayer, the Four Way Test, and introduced a gospel-rap artiste. He was entertaining. Once assembled, I noted that we all looked nice in our white T-shirts and red ribbons wound around our arms in solidarity.

As we made our way out of Palmentuin, the Rotaract saying: “Service above Self”, came to mind. I had been so self-absorbed and grumpy that I hadn’t stopped to smell the proverbial roses. I thanked God for the opportunity, and resolved to be more appreciative and involved.

The route was a scenic one. My eyes feasted on the colonial houses in Fort Zeelandia, the flags of CARICOM countries, blowing in the breeze, and the ever-present and boundless Surinamese river. The walk was surprisingly rejuvenating. My blood was pumping. The sweat and rain was detoxifying; I felt the bad juju and vestiges of last night leave me.

On our return, we were given lollies, before we gathered under a thatched-roof hut. There, the principal of the Braille School was presented with the school supplies. There was music, line dancing, and Chinese food. The morning’s activity had ended on a high note. #Hallelu

Service to man is service to God
That evening, the three days of fun, fellowship, and food culminated in the Closing Ceremony. The dress code was formal, so I unearthed my graduation suit from the wardrobe. As usual, I had a small meltdown, while I was getting dressed. I was appalled at how the front of my pants was pulling at the crotch. My belly had a mind of its own and tried to escape the confines of the white shirt. Thank God, I had a jacket, yes. Sigh!

After a couple of self-affirmations, I calmed down and made my way to the lobby. For the past three days, the Rotaractors had kept back the organizers. This evening, the tables had turned as the Rotaractors waited on the organizers to sort out a technical glitch. In local parlance: current went.

"We're so fancy, you all ready know"
One bumpy bus ride later, we arrived at Cherics. The venue was quaint, picturesque, and decorated with twinkling, fairy lights. Guests had their photos taken on arrival. It was all very red carpet-Hollywood-movie premiere. I thought that everyone was too posed, so when it was my turn, I went all “hood in a suit”.

The highlights of the evening’s proceedings were: 1) The Four Way Test, 2) A Prayer, 3) Opening Remarks and Greetings from Important People, 4) Dinner, 5) DRR Speech, 6) Dessert; there was a chocolate fountain, 7) Touching Tribute to the terminated Rotaract Club of Chaguanas, 8) Handing Over of the DRR-ship, 9) New DRR’s Greetings, 10) Announcement of District 7030 Theme: “Share Rotaract, Live the Experience!”, and 11) Presentation of Awards; we didn’t win any. 

The moment I had anticipated was upon us. At every Conference, persons are appointed Sergeant At Arms. These persons remain anonymous to the other Conference attendees, and their job is to be a part of the action, on the look-out for bad behaviour, and dole out charges accordingly at the end of the Closing Ceremony.

On the one hand, the wait had been nerve-wracking. At our table to the back, my fellow club members and I went over the events of the past three days, highlighting instances of bad behaviour on all our parts. My paranoia set in as I recounted all the stories I had heard about the types of charges that are usually dealt out.

Dancing scandalously? Check! Rushing for buses? Check! Not adhering to the dress code? Check! Not being a good comrade? (I had left my Incoming President in the lobby on Day Two) Check!

On the other hand, it was amusing. We spent the better part of 45-minutes, guessing who the Sarge’s were:

“It must be our Incoming President? He was way too calm. What about the guy from Barbados? He did ask me what my entire name was when I purchased the raffle ticket. I assure you it’s not me, I’m a newbie and my conduct was too poor. Could it be the Conference Chair? I did wine on her. I’m sure she enjoyed it, but you never know. Maybe, it’s Yvonne*? She did disappear a lot.”

And on and on it went until the PR Goddess asked the Sarges to reveal themselves. Slowly, they came out of the woodwork: “Oh shit!”

I had trembled, rather violently and perversely, on that young lady during the Theme Party. I had told that guy that another guy’s shoe was coskel. I had prank called the Frenchie on Day One, and told him that his photography skills were abysmal earlier that night. I took out my wallet, prepared for the worse. 

The charging process turned out to be hilarious. Some were charged for not adhering to the formal dress code; ladies with dresses above the knee, gentlemen without jackets. The new DRR was charged for not waking her room-mates. The previous night’s birthday boy had to pay up for stopping the Theme Party, and not sharing his birthday cake.

In total, I got charged six times. There were those I shared with my fellow club members; we had taught the Frenchie “bad words”, like cyat, and had worn our pink T-shirts, instead of the Conference green for District Assembly.

Separately, I was called out on my drunken, 45-minute Spanish speaking, the prank call I had made (I had called the Frenchie and sang “Do You Want to Build a Snowman”) and my comment about his photography skills, and for being a part of the A/C crew during District Assembly

The Conference was officially called to a close. Overall, it had been an eventful three days. I had learnt so much. Partied so hard. Had several crises. Made new friends. And forged a stronger relationship with the other five members from my club. Joining Rotaract had been a good decision. Thus far, it had been a worthwhile experience. I'm yet to regret it. 

Next week, look out for a tribute to Suriname. 

NB: (*) not their actual names

Until the next post! Toodles!