Day Seventeen: New Year’s Eve

Well, I’m falling so far behind in my story and I’m tired. But I guess if I don’t catch up it’s really not an issue.

On Sunday night, several of us went to a dance competition in Toubacouta because Mareama was performing with her friends. She’s the young woman who arranged for me to have Senagalese pantaloons made. She also tried on my glasses. I wanted to be there for her.

We showed up at 9:00 pm or so and had to wait for awhile as the crowd surged into the dance hall. As far as I could tell, we were the only white folks, and that was just fine.

The eight of us sat in the second row, right in front of booming speakers. What a rush … although maybe I won’t be feeling the same a year from now if I need hearing aids. I danced in my seat, slapping my thighs in all sorts of rhythms that came to hands.

Around 10:00 a drumming group walked onto the stage. Woh! Now there’s a frantic pace. I could fell the blows in my bones and the beat was hypnotic.

Finally, maybe around midnight, the first of the dancing groups showed up. I saw stories in song and dance and the first few were about slavery. The acting looked awfully real: black folks dressed up as slave owners were beating on black folks dressed as slaves. And the crowd’s reaction? Laughter. I didn’t understand.

As 1:00 turned to 2:00, I had one question: Where is Mareama? Patience, Bruce.

I was beside a young woman wearing what I took to be traditional Islamic dress. She sat sedately … that is until this major hunk came out on stage, wearing flashy clothes and able to twist himself like a pretzel to the music. My friend went wild, throwing her arms in the air. Women shouted throughout the hall. The guy was a sensation. Gosh, women have never reacted to me that way.

Sometime in the wee hours, five men and three women strutted out wearing gorgeous reflective silver costumes. The music roared and they gave ‘er. My God, how awesome it was to be there.

Finally, about 2:45, here comes Mareama and her companions, all dressed in white. For the first part, she lurked at the back of the stage, but then she burst out to the edge, arms flailing and eyes crazy. I loved it.

Jo and I were the only ones from our family who stayed so late. It was worth it, and Mareama appreciated our congratulations as we headed for the exit. Well done, my Senegalese friend.

We drove home on the highway and it was cold without a coat. It no doubt helped keep Jo awake on the moto.

***

Okay, that was Sunday and now it’s Tuesday. (Sigh) I’m having trouble remembering what was what yesterday. I do know that I woke up at 11:00. A group of us headed out with Curd to get his hair cut. The man likes it short. On the way home, we passed the Toubacouta soccer field. Two uniformed teams were going at it and I had to stay and watch for awhile. It was enthralling. It was a simple dirt field. Goal posts with no net. And speed! There were deft passes, wondrously controlled dribbles and blasting shots. I would have paid for a ticket.

On the sidelines four boys tried to keep a soccer ball in the air. A swordsman flowing with red ribbons swashbuckled his way through the fans. And the music blasted from the loudspeakers. Oh my, it was an event.

Our three families had dinner together at Eddy’s. Louisa had been vomiting the night before and was very weak but she didn’t want to be alone so her family made sure she got to the B&B. She lay back in a chair by the pool and sure didn’t feel like eating. But she wanted to see the food. Jan dad helped her up and together they staggered to the buffet, so she could salivate about the steak that would be a major no-no. It was beautiful to see the love between father and daughter.

Later in the evening, I had a great conversation with Louisa’s brother Jean. They both speak fine English, as well as French and their native Flemish. Jean fold me about Belgium’s different areas and languages. He, like many others, thought that me learning Flemish would be a major chore. But Bruce, I thought, go for it.

And so the evening waned. We all left for our rooms before midnight. Party animals we are not.

TFC

I’m sitting in a downtown Boston Pizza, wearing my TFC scarf.  That’s the Toronto FC soccer team for the uninitiated.  They dominated Major League Soccer (MLS) last year but tonight they’re playing Tigres, one of the best teams in Mexico, and TFC are the underdogs.  It’s two-and-a-half hours from game time.  I’m a 45-minute walk from BMO Field … and I have a ticket!

I bought my team scarf last year and I still don’t know how to wear it “right”.  Tonight I tied it in a knot around my neck and walked down the street.  It didn’t feel good but then again who cares?  So I held my fan head high as I strolled towards the stadium.  And … the knot just came undone and my adornment now hangs down from my neck.  Perfect!

Okay, I just entered BMO Field and found my seat, about 2700 stair risers up from the gate.  I’m getting high!  And my next door neighbours are a family from Mexico.  They respectfully suggest that TFC doesn’t have much of a chance.  We’ll, we’ll see about that.  The good-natured banter has already started and I’m sure I’ll have fun sitting beside them.

The Mexican fellow next door laughs a lot and so do I.  Lovely.  I like  bugging his son, a dedicated Tigres supporter.  And son laughs along with me.

Okay, it’s really cold in this open air stadium.  The wind brings the effective temperature to well below 0 degrees Celsius.  I bundle up and then bundle up some more.  How are those Mexican players coping with our Canadian deep freeze?

Tigres dominates the first ten minutes.  It seems like they have the ball all the time.  No big scoring chances though.  Both teams pass the ball magically, like it’s on a string.  The crowd leans forward, perched on the edge of our seats.  Zoom this way, zoom that way … and then it’s halftime.  0-0.

As soon as the referee blows his whistle I’m out of my seat, praying that a urinal has my name on it.  Trouble is, hundreds of other folks seem to have the same idea, unless they have a yearning for hot dogs.  The trek down the stands reminds me of the 401 at rush hour … a slow go.  And I thought it was just women who lined up at washrooms.  At least 50 guys were waiting their turn.  So much for that stereotype.  By the time I was back in my seat, the teams were five minutes into the second half.  (Sigh)

Tigres scored a gorgeous goal early in the second frame.  The folks beside were up on their feet in a shot, highfiving each other.  Being a curious type, I asked why they were so happy.  We chuckled.

All through the night, the TTC supporters behind the goal banged their drums and chanted their chants.  So exciting!  It’s how I imagine European sporting events to be.  And we amateur TFC supporters responded with “TFC, TFC, TFC!”  Lots of noise.

Jozy Altidore blasted home the tying goal later in the second half.  We stood as one, with the wave of sound no doubt reaching Niagara Falls 130 kilometres away.  My seated companions smiled (and grimaced a bit).

On and on the game went, with each side taking turns pushing the ball forward.  There were “oohs” of joy and “awws” of despair as the deadlock persisted.  And then … in the very last minute, a pass was slightly behind Jonathan Osorio.  He twisted around and nudged the ball home with his heel.  I was up.  My arms made a sky high V.  And 20,000 voices hit a note of ecstasy.  We win!

I shook hands with father and son.  Dad was still smiling.  Such a good sport.  We fans walked off into the night to our various cars, trains and streetcars, most of us with smiles plastered on our faces.  The wind had frozen us.  Sport had warmed us from the inside.  All was well.