Saturday, December 20, 2008

Hip hop

Aside from the local string bands and a love for Bob Marley and reggae, hip hop music seems to be the next music genre love of Vanuatu. There are tons of hip hop groups here and competitions here and there. We were able to attend a hip hop competition last night. "We" includes Houghton, Luwi & Monique's kids = Susan, Fred, & Timo, Jesiah & Gwen, and me. Gretch didn't get to go cuz Addy is contagious with impetigo, poor thing!) It was advertised as being from 4-9 PM so we arrived at 5PM thinking being an hour late might put us right on Vanuatu time. Well, we waited until about 6:30, and then they started making announcements. Around 7, the crowd started arriving and the event had started. By 8:30, the place was packed - people standing, sitting on the floor all the way around the dance arena. The event went to 10PM and I think it didn't go later just because the emcee's were from New Zealand and kept things moving. Very interesting to see culture at play. They had to fight to get the crowd to participate and to get the participating dance crews to come to the stage when it was their turn. They'd call the name of the group multiple times, conclude that the group wasn't present, then give up on the group. About that time, someone would convince the group to show themselves so they'd slink up to the dance arena, still hanging back from actually entering. At prompting from the emcee, they'd finally come in. Aside from that, it was AMAZING to see these ni-Van dancers. Some groups had kids so it was super cute to see little guys strutting their stuff. Each group performed individually to self-picked music, then they had the "battles." The judges chose winners based on crowd sound for each competing group but the final 1st and 2nd place were chosen by the judges (from a New Zealand hip hop group, Sweet & Sour).

Other notes about the event - this gym is the one I've been going to my workout classes in and it's pretty ghetto. The floor is concrete so imagine doing head spins and flips on that (and not smoothed concrete, for that matter)! Also, it's up to the season of hotness here now where you just feel like you have a constant fever - breezes give you goosebumps cuz your body is so hot. Imagine now a gym with some metal louver walls letting in a bit of a breeze, but packed to the gills with people and then dancing hip hop in that kind of heat. Insane.

Also, before the event started, I left to go back to the car with Gweny to get the snack/drink sack Gretchen packed for the kids. When we were walking back to the gym, a whole crowd, along with multiple police officers were in our walking path, escorting a squirming prisoner. Just that day, in response to unrest about conditions in the "high security" prison, prisoners escaped and the prison house was burnt to the ground. I put that in quotes because just in the time since we've been here there have been 2 successful outbreaks that I've known about with multiple prisoners escaping. Reportedly, (as written by this morning's newspaper), the prisoners gave government officials a deadline for addressing concerns about conditions of the prison before they were going to walk out. The deadline came so prisoners got an ax and hacked the locks on the cells. They used a thick Bible with "peace" written on the side, placing it upside down on the razor wire. They then climbed a tree and jumped over the prison fence using a branch and the Bible to avoid cuts. Of 65 prisoners, the newspaper reports 26 prisoners being detained (many with gunshot wounds from chasing police and wire cuts) and doesn't report any still at large. Prisoners were moved to the "low security" prison and those low risk prisoners were moved to the VMF (Vanuatu Mobile Force) barracks. Not sure how that's all going to work out. Anyway, I moved as far to the side as I could with Gweny to stay out of the way but when I got back to the gym everyone was pretty stirred up about the catching of this prisoner. An event organizer got on the microphone and encouraged everyone to enjoy the event and that it was just a prisoner who was caught. Hmmm, no big deal I guess. Our team was just talking the other day about needing to make a plan in the event of some sort of military coups or government collapse. It seems not too far fetched to have something like this in place. BMW does also have emergency evacuation plans for missionaries. Please pray for the government and people of Vanuatu - for wise and moral leadership and protection of this country. For the most part, things are peaceful and friendly here, but tempers can flare quickly and people can get stuck in the middle. Military and police here don't seem to necessarily be trained or organized in a way to be very effective in handling problems.

Despite all of this, the hip hop event was very fun to watch and Luwi and Monique's kids seemed to enjoy it. Jesiah and Gwen went home part-way through but seemed to like it too.

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