In the past days I had the honor to participate as a speaker for the 32th convention of the Association France Cichlid in Vichy, France, that took place during the weekend Sep 29 – Oct 01. It had been 12 years since I last attended as a speaker to the French congress, then by invitation of Jean Claude Nourissat to participate in the event, in which the AFC was celebrating the 20th anniversary of its foundation. It was for me really exciting to return to take part in this great event and I greatly anticipated my participation.
For those people used to attend cichlid conventions, the format for the AFC congress may appear somewhat unconventional in some of its parts. Most of the occasions the AFC convention takes place in the Centre Omnisports of Vichy, a beautiful and very large complex devoted to high performance sport practice, with all the required installations; including a fantastic auditorium with a commercial movie sized screen, comfortable accommodations, restaurant and a very large multi-event building, where the banquet and fish sale takes place.
The congress starts with registration and an informal dinner on Friday afternoon. Saturday the lectures take place during the morning and early afternoon. A toast precedes the banquet, where very long tables are set so people can accommodate and get to talk to people in front to them, and a kind of entertainment is then performed for all. On this occasion I was presented with a special gift, a wood carved cichlid, very likely a tilapia (I should ask Anton Lamboj about the species) made by a young man specifically for this purpose. It is really beautiful and I will treasure it. The atmosphere at the convention is very lucid and friends all around, but, of course, wine is not in short supply, and some time after dinner I had to say goodnight to friends (or was I the last one there?) and crawl to my room.
Sunday morning after breakfast I attended a beautiful presentation by Benoit Jonás, Benoit Fighiera and Laurent Picot; Carnets de plongées 2010 "Bathyfolages au Tanganyika", narrating their Lake Tanganyikan Tanzanian coast expedition in 2010. Beautiful pictures and videos of each locality they visited were part of the talk. It brought me nice memories.
Then the most unique and anticipated moment of the congress arrived at 1:45 pm Sunday afternoon; at that moment the so-called bourse starts. The bourse is the equivalent of the auctions seen in United States cichlid conventions. Previously rented tanks hold cichlids offered for sale by AFC members. People have been able to examine and admire them for the length of the congress. There are tickets ready for all fish offered. Inpatient cichlid fanatics wait outside at the entrance of the hall for the bourse to open, eager to get in first to obtain their wanted species. I must say there were quite a few rare and beautiful fish there!
Precisely at 1:45pm the expected moment arrived with the door opening to let in a stampede of cichlid fanatics, eager to get there first. It is quite a sight to behold!! The tickets for the fish are then handed over to those coming first for them. With tickets in hand they proceed to the cashier to pay for their obtained fish and return to the table to find them bagged by the seller. I assume an extra amount should be charged for the replacement of the hall’s doors. A second wave of people is then expected an hour later, when non-members (usually retailers) are let in to participate in the bourse. In less than two hours, thousands of cichlids have changed hands! No long and tiresome auctions that can easily extend into the early hours.
With the congress coming to an end and everybody ready to return home, saying goodbye to friends, another year in Vichy has come to an end! It was great to meet with friends like Patrick Tawil, Philippe Burnel, Florent de Gasperis, Michael Negrini, Jacques Blanc, Philippe Hotton, Xavier Longy, Antoine Séva and many more. Others came from other countries like Richard Robinson, Patrick de Rham, Luca Amadesi and Marko Lenac. Of course, Jean Claude was missed.
I want to thank Patrick Tawil, Patrick de Rham, Philippe Hotton and all members of the Association France Cichlid for allowing me to participate in this wonderful event. If you plan to visit France in early October 2012, don’t miss this great event!
See you net month
The bourse at Vichy, Oct 2011