Raising funds for one thing or another is a very common need here. There is never enough money allocated from the government or any other source for HIV/AIDS activities. One of the more popular ways of raising funds for something is to hold a Fashion Show or Beauty Contest and charge a nominal entrance fee to the contestants as well as the audience. As with most things here, the events are usually highly disorganized and everything is done in a rush-rush manner the day before the event. Advertising is almost always left til the end, and done the day of the event, and as a result, attendance is usually poor.
However, also as with most events here, somehow they still manage to take place, they accomplish at least part of their goals and for the most part everyone seems to have a good, relaxed time with no finger pointing or criticisms about how it could have been done better.
Such was a recent Beauty Contest that I was asked to participate in.
Last week on Wednesday, I was approached with the request to be a contestant, on Friday night, with a randomly selected partner. Carol would not be a contestant as all the contestants were from my work place. I volunteered to create some cool Admission Tickets that could be sold for 25 Pula (Roughly $4.00) and a Program and a Flyer for advertising. I whipped up some nice documents but no one was around to review or accept them until Friday morning, so our driver spent 4 hours driving his big truck all over town, at $5 per gallon, to hand deliver some notices of the event to a few key people, in hopes they would attend.
The event was scheduled to start at 8:30 pm. As usual, at 8:30 pm, when i arrived in the frigid cold, un-decorated gymnasium, there were about 200 empty chairs and a group of 3 guests so far and no organizers. Around 9:30 pm organizers showed up and began to get things going. Around 10:30 pm the boys and girls had been separated to different rooms and had adorned our first set of attire, Jeans and T-Shirts. We met up with our partners and paraded around the gym floor and greeted the 3 judges. We then all met in a back room and because the theme of the night was “Workplace Wellness”, each couple was assigned a word having to do with “health” such as Water, Diabetes, Cancer, Exercise and others. Our second and final parade was in our formal wear (I can’t believe I still remembered how to tie a tie!) and we all had the opportunity to spend 5 minutes addressing the judges and (very small) audience with our thoughts about the significance of our assigned word and how it relates to Workplace Wellness.
As happens more frequently than not, the power went out on the Amplifier and so we lost our music and DJ and microphone half way through the event. It took about an hour for the organizers to decide whether to continue the event with no music and no microphone, or to call it quits. It was 1:00 am and it had been 3 1/2 hours so far and everyone was very exhausted, there was only a handful of people left in the audience, no electricity and we all just wanted to go home. Again, as happens here on just about all occasions, the organizers were fixated on protocol and procedure and insisted we continue with the rest of the show without the electricity, because that is what was “supposed” to happen.
Again, as so often happens, they somehow managed to get the electricity going again about an hour later, so at 2:20 am, the judges finally chose the top 3 (of 10 or so couples) and yours truly and my beautiful date, Khumo, were chosen as the Third Place Winners!
This story of good ideas, poor planning, forced implementation, inevitable obstacles and ultimate partial success is quite the model for just about all functions. It’s frustrating and takes superhuman tolerance and flexibility to not criticize, but it shows that things can be accomplished here, and in the end, it is another fun memory.
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