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February 22, 2004

Sports Fever!

I remember talking to Mirthlyn (my counterpart at the special ed school) at the end of the last school term and saying how I thought that the first term seemed so chopped up by elections, Christmas, etc. that I felt like it was hard to set a consistent routine. I'm really looking forward to things settling down next term was what I said. Her response was a clear forecast of the break in any perceived routine that was about to happen due to "Sports". Now I see what she means! There are 3 terms every school year and if the first one is a bit unfocused because of the readjustment from summer and culmination of Christmas, the second is pretty much consumed by the sports events taking place. Many days I'll go to school and have kids or teachers missing because they're running heats. My after school teacher groups are ill-attended or canceled this term because of the distraction. I didn't really understand how this all worked though, until I attended a few sports days last week. St. Andrew's Roman Catholic Primary School and St. Andrew's Anglican Secondary School's (SAASS) were both held (separately) at Victoria Park which is a sports field with a small stadium here in Grenville. For a small entrance fee ($3-$5 EC), you can attend the school's events and enjoy the action. Every school (primary, secondary, etc.) divides its students up into "houses" which are essentially sports teams. Each of the 3 or 4 teams have a designated color (red, yellow, green, etc.) and a name. The names are typically surnames (Noel, Goretti, Pierre) of families or people that were significant in the community. The rivalry is fierce and children and teachers alike are loyal to their house and colors. The primary school's events opened with the "March Past". The students who were actually racing that day were dressed in their house colors and were joined by other members of the house in the school uniform to march, in formation, around the field carrying a banner for their house. (By secondary school, this march gets much more elaborate with drums, formations, dancers, etc.) The winner of the march gained the first points for their house for the day. These were added to the points already gained by preliminary heats and the cross country competition run previously. The march was followed by much formality--a message from the principal, a message from the athletic director, official's and athlete's oath and of course a prayer.

With the events offically underway, athletes participated in a variety of running events including relays, sprints and long distances. Most athletes, especially at the primary level, run all the events barefoot. This doesn't seem too bad on the grass track, until you see the athletes running the cross country races on the regular roads. Children running on asphalt, over bridges, etc. with no protection on their feet (nor from the hot sun overhead). They are much braver than I! Besides the running there were a few fun events--sack races, lime and spoon race and my favorite, the school bus race. The athletes have their whole school uniform (skirt, shirt, socks shoes) in a pile and at the whistle must race to put on their uniform properly and run 100m to "catch the school bus" at the finish line.

The whole day reminded me a lot of "field days" I participated in as a student and then observed as a teacher later, except for a few major differences. First, most sports days (especially for the bigger primary schools) are covered by the local news and highlights are shown on the 7:00 news. Second, there are multiple vendors there selling chicken, snowcones, candy, popcorn, sodas and BEER! Now that's my kind of sports day! Some of the vendors are teachers from the school and some are charged a "vendor fee" to help support the school. The event is really a community gathering, not just of parents and relatives, but of anyone wanting to lime for the afternoon--good food, loud music (it is Grenada afterall) and lots of friends. The final difference though is that this "field day" is only the beginning. This Thursday will be the entire parish of St. Andrew's primary school sports. (There are 6 parishes in Grenada, they function similar to counties in the US). Each school in St. Andrew's will send their best and fastest to compete for spots on the line up for St. Andrew's. The final contest then, is the national primary school sports event held at the national stadium in St. George's. From what I hear, this is all out war. St. Andrew's vs. St. George's vs. St. Patrick's vs. St. John's vs. St. David's vs. St. Mark's. I think we all know which 5 parishes are going DOWN! I can only imagine the competition will get fiercer, the music louder, the food better and the parish pride stronger! Can't wait! And that's just the primary schools--evidently the secondary schools nearly create a civil war down at the national stadium.

So, here's to St. Andrew's taking it all and to me getting some work done NEXT term!

A few pics of the students doing the March Past.