Friday, May 15, 2009

EBC Choir Conference 2009

Evangelical Bible Church Choir conference 2009. If someone came to Africa for just one week wanting a complete cultural experience and stories to tell for years, this is where you would find it. Wild! Six days of intensity, so here is an attempt at a blog entry.

Although the conference was only 6 days, the preparation began well in advance. In the midst of sheer busyness, full days, our evenings leading up to the conference where spent practicing new songs with the choir. These lasted on average 5 hours and consisted of us trying desperately to get the songs and moves into our non-Namibian heads. One of the big emphasis at practice was to perfect the “competition song“. Every year a song is written and the lyrics sent to every church in EBC and then it is up to the individual churches to come up with the tune and the choreography, and then at they compete for the title. A week before conference they decide that I should be selected to the final 16 for the competition. The whole church was overly excited about this as I would be the first “chindele” in all of EBC history to perform in the competition. Really it just meant they were sure that they were going to win because of me!

Conference: This year the conference was held in a town called Katima which is the most North East town of Namibia bordering Zambia. It is about a 6 hour drive through the Caprivi Strip, full of wild animals like Elephants, Lions, Hippos and so on (can’t believe it has become almost normal to see such amazing creatures on the side of the road). There were about a thousand people at the conference from all over Namibia, South Africa and Zambia. We all stayed right on the church property in a village close to town. There were some structures built for each group to have a changing area but sleeping (minus the few of us that brought tents) for the majority meant a blanket on the dirt ground. Toilets consisted of a little structure for people to “bathe” and to pee. Number 2 meant finding bush, but due to the recent floodings in the rainy season, bush was hard to access…

Our first morning was a bit of a surprise as we awoke at 6 am to hear the host choir singing there hearts out in unison! Better than any alarm clock I’ve ever had, the only struggle is that no matter how good they sounded 6 o’clock always came way too quickly after singing until 2 am only few hours earlier…every day! The first session would always begin around 7 am and somehow Daryl, Nicole and myself always managed to hide in our tent until the session ended at 8! There wasn’t much sleep to be had as the speakers blasted the local language but it was better than having to face the world that early!
Breakfast was a couple pieces of bread and margarine…we had our own secret supply of apples and granola bars to help complete the meal. After breakfast it was usually our choir that “called people to the service” with singing and dancing for about 45 minutes. Next was the morning session lead by an amazing Pastor from Zambia who we grew to love and respect as the week continued. A genuine and solid believer with a heart on fire for the Lord, what a treat.
Lunch and dinner was the local porridge with some sort of meat. Our group slaughtered 2 goats during the week and that got us through most of the meals as they eat everything (some parts more edible than others)…but they proudly kept the heads on display for all to see. Under the blaring sun, you can imagine the odour at the end of the week!
Afternoons had a session and then sport. Boys played soccer as the girls cheered and played Net Ball, the first time I have played sports in a skirt (in fact it’s the first trip I have been on where I couldn’t even pack pants!). By the evening session, everyone was struggling to stay awake from sleep deprivation, until the session was over and the keyboard kicked it into gear from 9 until 2am!!!

Celebrity status: We thought it was bad in Rundu… Apparently there have not been a lot of white people attending this conference in the past so the fact that there were 3 of us was, well, exciting for them. It didn’t Nicole and I long before we began calling each other Britney and Paris. At first we were hesitating, but by the end we just had to embrace the status and have fun with it. Photos shoots with random strangers was normal after an introduction of “I need to show my mom that I was with a “chindele”!” People yelling “chindele” all day in our face is always hard to know how to react to that. The biggest source of entertainment was when it came time for Nicole and I to sing with the church. The climax was on the last night when the competition occurred (strangely it seemed no other church considered it to be as big a deal as our congregation!), and then later when for one of our last songs I lead the song on microphone in the local language. It was hit and a week later still is as anyone who sees me will break out into the song!

After the fact we feel we went through Africa boot camp. One of my lines I used a lot this past week was “I will never pretend to understand this culture!”. We laughed so much my abbs hurt, we made fools of ourselves, learned lots, strengthened relationships, had some meaningful conversations, and then at the end shed some tears as it would be the last time I would see the majority of my dear friends.

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