20 August - WYD Vigil Sleepout
By Rachel Mui
It was early in the afternoon when we left the comforts of our university accomodation. This meant that the heat of the day was only just starting to pick up. Our group leader thought it would be smarter and faster to head towards the closest station and journey from there. We were told that this shortcut would mean that the walk would take about an hour...boy, was that wrong.
The walk to our sleep-out with our backpacks and suitcases was an experience that none of us can ever forget. Pilgrims from all over the world filled the streets chanting, singing and waving their colorful flags. The locals got involved too! They livened up the spirits of all the heat exhausted pilgrims by generously throwing water out of their balconies and onto the cheering crowd. As we neared the entrance the numbers swelled and so did the heat. Firemen armed with hoses came, spraying the crowd from the top of their trucks. It was so cool (literally)!!!
Around 5:30pm, we finally settled down in a marked space. The only problem was that we were in the wrong area. Somehow, amongst the mayhem, we managed to enter the wrong gate and then was refused access into our designated section. Exhausted from the heat and the trek, we marked our territory (with sleeping bags and mats) and refilled our water supplies from nearby taps. To our disappointment, we discovered that the food stations were all located on the other side of the fence, so we had to make do with five baguettes between 20 hungry pilgrims.
On the up side, clouds had covered the sun and provided much-needed shade. Just as we thought that the day's problems were over it got even worse - a severe flash storm struck half way through the Pope's Vigil celebration with the youth. The Mass was paused as everyone huddled under umbrellas and tarps to avoid the pelting rain. When Mass continued, Pope Benedict XVI noted that God had answered our plea for water!
As the skies darkened, frustrated pilgrims who couldn't reach their designated areas were getting rowdy. This posed a threat to safety and around half of our group retreated back to the university accommodation. However, the rest of us were determined to sit tight and be fully immersed in the WYD experience. Lisa and I were even more persistent. We were willing to spend the whole night, if need be, to reach our assigned area and be reunited with the PAR03 pilgrims who made it inside. It took us three attempts that lasted three hours before we found a loophole (as the police had blocked every other entrance) and slipped inside.
Finding our group was the next challenge. Not only were there two million people to sift through, it was also dark. St Anthony answered our prayers as we neared our section. He led us to two familiar faces who guided us to our group. The relief that flooded through when we had finally made it was overwhelming.
Our night had only just begun! After a quick dinner (at 2am) we headed off again. This time carrying food packs back to our original group and planning to return with our luggage in tow. Leaving was considerably easier and faster.On our way back inside, we tried to use the same loophole, but the police had reached the area and blocked it before we arrived. Volunteers explained to us that access was denied because clean-up was happening inside. We didn't believe them as we saw so-called 'social workers' sneak in. We then took the chance and approached the policeman who was guarding the gates and asked to use the toilet located just within the vicinity. It was just our luck to be allowed inside for the second time. We eventually fell asleep at 4am, both of us snuggled up under one air mattress and sleeping bag.
Posted by web at 11:31 AM