Wednesday, March 2, 2011

A Carnival of their own

i just got back from America Night in Well, the Netherlands.  This is the night that one of the local bars, Onder de Linden, dedicates to the Emerson College students; they bring the music they like to dance to.  Bars and college students aren't always a good mix, but they're an inevitable one, and somehow hanging out  with each other in a different venu than the castle they [and i] live and study in seems to make many of the students happy, and the proprietors are pretty good about not letting their young patrons get too 'trashed.'

but the linden folks did something this night that moved and pleased me. for love or money, they made this american night Carnival night.  In the southern netherlands, catholic through the centuries, carnival is a big deal, and in a little town like ours, the annual parade is a major community event.  like Mardi Gras, the idea is historically to provide one last fling before the sacrifices of lent start their 6-week reign.   (Years ago, when this was first explained to me, my dutch colleague added, "Of course, no one does the sacrifice part any more.")  People work for months creating elaborate floats  and corresponding costumes, all reflecting aspects of the town's current events and history.  The carnival parade is always a joy to me, and one of the few authentic local expereinces the students have: we are heartily welcomed to join in the festivities, but they will take place with or without any foreigners around.  This year, unfortunately,  carnival weekend coincides with the required class trip to prague.  no, i don't feel sorry for myself or even the students:  having to go to prague doesn't quite qualify as a hardship.  but still, i'm sorry they get to miss this unique expereince: i at least get to participate in carnival every year.

enter the linden.  simply by calling it carnival night and changing the rules--no student-chosen music; all carnival songs, which sound sort of like dutch polkas. with  the week being a leadin to carnival anyway, most of the dutch patrons wore costumes, and all the castle students came in hastily created  costumes. [so did i, of course].  i didn't stay long, not being much of a party fan, but long enough to see the students having a taste of carnival fun.

in reality, they did what they do every american night--drank a little or a lot, danced a little or a lot, laughed a lot. but they did it in the context of a special carnival night, and i think that does make a difference. 

it made a difference to me too. i pulled together a variation of last year's costume, stuff i had stored here when i left. last year i had been,as  i thought, a court jester, but  with a couple of bright boas, i looked more like a parrot, or so one of my students told me. this year i ignored the jester and declared myself a parrot. so i too had my taste of carnival. 

and we still get to see prague.  i manage to have my cake and eat it.  if i can get the damn feathers out of my mouth......

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