Tuesday, December 21, 2010

The Motorcade.....

December 21, 2010

Lets start with the obvious --- nothing, and I mean nothing, about coming to, or being in, Algiers bears any resemblance to anything any of us have done before. Forget that everyone but me just set foot on the African continent for the first time. Forget the disconnect of staying in a seaside resort with a private balcony of the Mediterranean where, within the first 10 minutes Jason was naming the cockroaches (of an apparently very, very impressive size). Forget the currency -- where 1500 dinars is $20 and where I just found a Christmas present  -- a copper bracelet -- for $2.00. Those stories go on and on and on and are really a part of so much travel in the third world. Forget, for a moment, how kind everyone is in the face of chaos that transcends any we've ever experienced regardless of what country we've gone to -- to say the festival here in Algiers is a fly-by the seat of your pants would be like saying its cold in the arctic in January. 

What starts it all over is the motorcade. The one with the motorcycle escort, and that ubiquitous European siren blaring above the endless roar of even more endless traffic jams. Try driving in a secured perimeter where the seas of vehicles part whether they want to or not and where driving in the lane of traffic flowing in the wrong direction is not anything startling. That's the part that takes you by, you know, surprise. 

Coming yesterday from the airport, where we went waiting for a loooong time for luggage that will get here sometime tonight or tomorrow (the show is tomorrow) we bolted out of the airport and you thought, perhaps, for just a moment that if you looked in the front seat you'd see Vin Diesel driving, or the dude in the Transporter movies in the escort/chase car, or any of that (right now, sitting on the front steps of the National Theater of Algeria, where the kids from the Republic of Georgia who did a hip hop show last night are b-boying on the stairs for the various cameras) -- {I'm working on the longest sentence in the english language right now, I realize}. And honestly, I've never gone that fast in a van in my life. Didn't think it was possible, really, without, you know, tipping over. 

Turns out that's the way foreigners roll here. 

On the plaza now there are people from a dozen countries who have come together for the Second International Contemporary Dance Festival of Algiers. To my left a djembe is being pounded with a rhythm somewhere between Middle Eastern and African. And the musician is a Georgian teenager who, chances are, learned it about 24 hours ago. Last night the dance company from the Ivory Coast roused the crowed with an opening celebrating the solidarity of two countries who had thrown off French rule and who, to this day, struggle with its legacy. 

We've been here a day....

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