We may not have homecoming, football games, or proms in France, but we’ve got Carnival.
Carnaval (in French) is a day where everyone dresses up in costume, sort of like Halloween at North Penn, however everyone actually takes part in it. Different schools have their carnival on different days, but Toulouse as a whole had their carnival on the 31st. (I decided not to go, but apparently there were 20,000 people at capital; it was at night and there was music, partying and such).
At school, carnival was last week and it wasn’t so numbered, but definitely fun. From typical superheroes like Superman to popular television characters like Spongebob to random pieces of food like a pineapple – my school was crowded with wigs, capes, makeup, and props.
There was one boy who dressed as a joint and another girl was “in the shower” (she was surrounded by a shower curtain and had fake boobs sticking out). Only in France can you can get away with costumes like that; they would never fly at North Penn.
I took part in the celebration by dressing up as a French man along with the other two Americans in my classes. How did we distinguish ourselves as French you might ask? Simple. The transformation was complete with thin mustaches, berets, striped t-shirts, black pants, and of course, a trip to the boulangerie (bakery). With a bottle of wine and baguettes at hand, it was evident we were French.
A successful costume always has its flaws though as our props were quickly devoured (the bread, not the wine), and my mustache refused to come off at the end of the day. (We had a lot of laughs at dinner).
My favorite costumes at Carnaval were the group projects. A group of girls decided to be a life-sized foosball table. Connected by poles, and surrounded by a giant wooden crate, they had trouble maneuvering through the streets, but in my opinion had the best costume.
Another group of kids was a carton of eggs (they weren’t able to move about so easily either).
And lastly, there was a group of boys, I’m not exactly sure what they were, but they get points for the fact that they incorporated a real pig into their costume (I believe they were 18th century butchers). Either way, you can tell that all the costumes for Carnaval were given some serious thought and consideration.
At noon everyone at school gathered in the street and marched our way to a neighboring school who was also celebrating carnival that day. This happens every year, so they were anticipating our arrival with buckets of water, eggs, and flour. Our chanting and singing quickly turned to running and screaming as we dispersed.
That didn’t stop us though as we also rallied another school, and all three schools marched their way to the capital. There we had a sing off, and the throwing of eggs, flour, and water balloons continued. (I feel for the poor people who had to clean up the streets afterwards.)
At one point we were all together in the center of the capital square and started singing only to be ambushed as more eggs came raining down. Everyone quickly dispersed leaving the girl’s foosball table alone in the very center of the square. Not having enough time to move the clumsy, life-size table and take shelter, they huddled within the boundaries of their foosball field, covered their heads, and endured the eggs.
I ended the day with a two hour French class, which very effectively stampeded all hyper energy from the activities of carnival. But the memories live on and I still laugh thinking about the girls in the human foosball table.