Mike's View of Eritrean Independence Day Celebration

Hi there,

Eritrean Independence Day was Thursday and the festivities started Wednesday afternoon. It started for me at 5pm Wednesday when I got up from an extended nap and went into town. I happened to walk in on the tail end of the parade of floats and managed to get a couple pictures of them. The Rose Bowl parade it wasn't but people here seemed to think it was pretty special. The most popular float was a group of people dressed in silver and green and red costumes riding on a platform that had a big birthday cake wishing Eritrea a happy tenth birthday. The thing that made it so popular was that it was pulled by two camels and that everyone on the float was throwing off handfuls of wrapped candies. The kids were going nuts.

I walked the length of Liberty Street, about a mile, and turned around to head back. There were about six bands playing along the street and everywhere there was a band, the crowds of people were so thick that you could hardly get through them. Around the cathedral I ran into two Canadian friends, Dwight and Janet St. Louis. They had just seen and taken their new house in the downtown area. I think they are crazy to move within an assignment but what do I know. We tried to get into the Legasse Hotel, Bar Alba and the Mask for dinner but all were full so we walked home, had a drink there and went to Ala Scala Hotel for pizza. Afterwards I drove them home and went home myself, parked the car and went in and rested till 10pm. I went back into the city and it was a zoo. You couldn’t move. There was a solid block of people on a four lane street with 20 ft wide sidewalks and you could barely get through them. I fought my way as far as the cathedral again and finally gave up. You have ever seen a crowd having such a good time and so well behaved. It is amazing that I could walk through them and not feel a bit out of place. There wasn't too many white faces in sight.

The music was loud and monotonous as usual and the singers were droning about something I couldn’t understand, sort of like on MTV. Little kids were dressed to the nines and I wish you could have seen the little girls about my granddaughter Mandy’s age with hair braided in colored beads and beautiful embroidered dresses. I bought about 20 Eritrean flags and gave them out as I was walking. Boy did I get the smiles and I managed to avoid the wolf packs of 10-12 year old boys that were roaming around. They can be a bit much if you have something to give them.

I went back to the house at quarter to midnight and made myself a drink and went up on the roof to watch the fireworks. At midnight they started and went a full 20 minutes which for Eritrea was a big celebration. They were from two sides of the city and I seemed to be right in the middle which was nice. I was sitting right by the edge of the roof in the front and I must have been fairly quiet and still as a pigeon came in and landed a foot away from me. He startled me and I jumped at which point he almost had a heart attack getting away from there. Same thing happened ten minutes later with another one. You wouldn’t have believed the din for the first half hour after midnight! All the car horns were honking. All the church bells were ringing and all the bands were playing the national anthem with everyone singing. Really a spectacle for the eyes and the ears.

After the fireworks I went back into town against the surge of people leaving with small kids, ready for bed or totally passed out. In town there was still a crush from where Martyr’s Avenue turns into Liberty Avenue but a manageable one with everyone dancing in the street. I watched for awhile and when I got as far as the Cathedral, I turned and headed for home again. The spirit was willing but the bone spurs on my heels ruled and I had to get off my feet. Somehow this whole thing loses something when there is no one to share it with.

I slept in till ten o'clock Thursday when I was rudely awakened by three MIG's screaming over my house at very low altitude. I live on a direct line between the airport and the stadium so I was treated to helicopter and MIG flyovers all day long. Gets a bit old after awhile. I watched some TV and then went back to bed and slept another four hours. I was really tired.

Getting old is hell---Best Mike