India 2019 – Kudle Beach Bootcamp

January 31, 2019

On a fateful day in India, January the 12th of 2019, the sun blasted down upon the dry, dusty earth, heating the steel train tracks and the speeding compartments above to a boil – an appropriate temperature to get simmering the eager ingredients of the Indian PWB tour which had only just been thrown in the pot together. Those delectable ingredients are: Dan our fearless leader and double diabolo monkey, Erika the high-flying acrobatic chicken with a side of salad, Matt the dog-whispering devil stick shaman, Gina the indomitable clown and tooting trumpeter, Chaka the Chief and triple staff extraordinaire, Iain the dexterous juggling primate and our favorite Ma’ away from home, Ashlee the hero-princess of poi and bringer of infinite smiles, and myself, Logan, resident giant juggling bird of paradise and hoarder of all ice creams. So with all the zeal of a newly formed group of adventurers we hastened toward our first home in India, Kudle Beach in the village of Gokarna. What a fantastic home it was! Our passion for the discovery of the local culture and cuisine was noticeable immediately and equal only to the determination to develop friendships and share our myriad circus skills with one another.

We worked hard every day to become as mentally and physically fit as required in order to tackle the strenuous work ahead of us. The mornings brought yoga classes, group games, flexibility and strength training sessions. Afternoons floated by, filled with rehearsals under the tropical sun and a dutiful efficiency. Evenings rewarded our efforts with the exploration of tasty delicacies, westerly ocean sunsets, and the pursuit of our diverse whimsies. Adjusting quickly to the climate and setting, we found our individual routines, whether they be an early morning swim, well-timed juggle breaks, or an epic shower after a long day’s work! Focus fell naturally on the development of the group dynamic; intentions were set to develop workshop skills and the upcoming debut of our first show.

Amid the increasing strain of show development, two unsung heroes reared their faces to assist us on our tireless journey. The first is known as Dave Ford, present entertainer, improv player and past PWB veteran from years ago. With his appearance came a plethora of perfectly timed acting, improvisation, character, and show development workshops. His engaging presence and committed enthusiasm in assisting our cause was palpable, tipping the scales of success in our favour as we watched our skills and capacity for expression grow exponentially. The second hero that crossed our path is called Shubhra Gupta, also know as our wonderful new friend and ultimate guide to all things India. Her presence helped immensely with our easing into the foreign culture in innumerable ways. The universe around us then came together in one of those serendipitous and rare ways, bringing the revelation that she could gift the fruits of her career – costume design – to our cause, that we might further suspend the disbelief of the already infinitely imaginative children that awaited the spectacle of our upcoming circus.

And so with the injection of such wonderful help, our fiercely determined adventurers played, explored and worked until they found theirselves losing their humanity and becoming the wild creatures of their skillfully crafted jungle story. This fantastic parable would have our heroes adventure deep into the savage jungle with the help of its many strange inhabitants to seek a circusy treasure guarded by a terrible monster. With its unexpected defeat would come the jubilant celebration of all things good and playful! Finally the last day of bootcamp came and with it the busking and frantic flyering about town to advertise the beach-born opening of our terrific jungle tale. Despite the sand, wind, and a last minute injury leading to the subsequent, temporary loss of our infamous flying chicken, we boldly took the stage. With courage and a proclivity toward improvisation, we enraptured the imaginations of hundreds of lucky on-looking adventurers and brought them on our journey with us into the unknown jungle. We were destined inevitably to breach the veil of triumph in a cacophony of applause as the sun fell softly into the ocean like feather at the close of our final scene…and so the adventure had finally, truly begun.

Logan “Kaa!” Goethe

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Kenya 2019 – 1st week in Nairobi Improvisation is the way to go!

January 27, 2019

When you get to Kenya, you quickly realise that things work a bit differently here. You need to have an open mind and the ability to adapt to unexpected situations.
One of our Partner Organisations: GRT, has been amazing at helping us out for our first week in Nairobi when things didn’t go as planned.
GRT, Group for Transcultural Relations, works with street families and especially street children in Nairobi. Their aim is to empower them, give them a better future and an alternative to the struggles that they are facing living in slums and on the streets. GRT promotes the rehabilitation and inclusion of these people, that in the attempt of escaping their situation often are victim to drug addiction, including inhaling solvents such as glue and jet fuel.

Chapter 1: Change of plan

  • Original Plan:
    Start with our first project on tour.
  • Problem:
    Our first partner doesn’t have the capacity for us as planned and we can’t go.
  • Solution:
    Rent a super nice AirBNB in Nairobi, message all the other Partner Organisations asking if they have work for us.
  • Success:
    Get a response from GRT, Group for Transcultural Relations, that we can come that week already and do some workshops with street families.

Chapter 2: First Workshop – First Pancake

  • Original Plan:
    Go to Mlango Kubwa to teach Streetfamilies. Play some games with them to raise the energy. Split them up into 3 groups that are going to rotate through the 3 different stations: hula hoop, juggling and parkour. Each for 20 minutes. Everyone has a workshop plan, and people will learn new things.
  • Problem:
    Teaching a hula hoop and a juggling workshop in the same fairly small space for the number of people that are in it does not work. Kit and people become a big mish-mash.
    Teaching people, that have a limited body awareness due to their drug addiction, parkour is difficult.
  • Solution:
    Just go with the flow!
    Let people just try out an play around with the hoops and the juggling balls. Start with really basic acrobatics like forward rolls and slowly step up the game.
  • Success:
    Everyone is happy to just try and play. The smiles and the happiness that get spread is contagious and the pride in the eyes of someone who has just learned a trick is golden!

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    James in his element: teaching Acrobatics

Chapter 3: Second Workshop – It’s going to be much smoother then the first one!

  • Original Plan:
    We will work with a smaller group of people and we expect that they are less dependent on drugs. We will have a community centre to teach in and we will be able to stick to our system of workshops.
  • Problem:
    The room that we were meant to teach in got taken over by another group and we have to work in a tiny room that can just about fit the 30 people sitting on chairs along the walls of the room. Definitely no way we can properly teach a workshop! There’s still quite a lot of glue around that makes the air really heavy. The participants are teenagers and hard to engage and to impress.
  • Solution:
    Improvise!
    Do little showcases of the different skills and props we have: partner-acro, poi, hoop, juggling, clowning. You can’t teach, so try and entertain!
    Get some people to try some easy acrobatics and juggling with us or each other whilst the rest of the group is watching.
  • Success:
    At least a good amount of the people are entertained and some even try out and learn new things. Some of them are super interested and want to learn more. Everyone get’s a taste of what they can learn when we come back in two weeks.
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Success!

 

Chapter 4: This time our plan will definitely work!

  • Original Plan:
    There will be less people as lots of them will be playing football. We will share the football field with them. We will not have a rotating system but everyone is going to do hoop, juggling and acro for half an hour after a warm-up and games session.
  • Problem:
    Very tiny, very cute children from around the area that are supposed to be at school are getting drawn to us as Benjamin starts a little juggling show whilst we are waiting. More little children come and start mixing with the streetkids that we are actually here to be working with.
    There is no way we can share the football field as the players are really into their game. We move to the side street next to the football field. More tiny children from the area are coming and start to form a crowd around Benjamin. There is no way we feel we can separate the tiny children from the street families that we are actually meant to be working with.
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Big hoop with a tiny child

  • Solution:
    Just go with the flow and improvise! We start getting hula hoops and acro mats out. It’s a crazy hustle bustle, more and more people join, we are on a public street…  But everyone can play and have a go. The girls of the team, Abi, Fer and I leave Hecor, James and Benjamin with the crowd. We go to a community centre to teach a small group of women, usually these women stand at the back during these sessions so taking them away from the group allows them to join in. It is a really nice and calm workshop with only 9 women and girls in a nice shady yard. We teach hula hoop and poi and everyone has a nice time. After about an hour, we rejoin the boys again and find them still surrounded by the children and tired out, but alive.
  • Success:
    Working with the small group of women was really valuable. Being female in Kenya and especially in the streets is not easy as mysogyny and harassment is common. So giving the women a space where they are not suppressed by men, where they can be free, and be themselves is important and empowering for them.
    Also having a big play session in the street worked out in the end as there was space for everyone.
    Again: Lots of fun and play and happy and proud smiles!
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The Hoop around the arms together: Everybodys Favourite!

Conclusion:

It is great to have a plan but even more important to be able to adapt and to improvise.
Keep that in mind and you’ll be able to make the best out of any unexpected or tricky situation!

Working with the street families in Mlango Kubwa and at Pumani Social Hall was really special. Seeing the situation of the people there was not easy. Most of them are addicted to inhalants and the plastic bottle filled with glue or the piece of fabric dipped in jet fuel is a constant attribute of their appearance, even their personality. Often it doesn’t even leave their mouth and putting the bottle to the side is not easy for a lot of the people. What hit me the most was to see how young some of the children still are. You do see homeless people all across the world, in europe, in the so called ‘first world countries’. And you know that there are many, way too many children having to live on the streets and in slums in third world countries. But seeing it right in front of you makes it become harsh reality.
Nevertheless, once we started working with them, teaching, engaging and playing, I didn’t see people that have a hard life living on the street and being addicted to drugs. What I saw were people that were super happy to try out, play and learn. I saw people having fun, smiling and laughing. And I saw people that were incredibly welcoming, openhearted and happy to see us.

So even though nothing went as planned, we had a great and very rewarding experience and I am very much looking forward to go back to those places and the people we met there for another week of teaching, playing, learning and spreading smiles!

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Smiles!!!


Sawa Sawa Sita

January 12, 2019

On all sides of the planet there were six talented souls who were destined for greatness. Never did they know that some day their lives would collide in the distant land of Kenya to achieve greatness. All raised learning their unique skill that would soon help them conquer the fabulous art of teaching circus arts.

One day they all arrived in a small place named Mombasa to combine their talents in what would soon become the worlds most powerful circus show while at the same time changing the lives of children and people who may only see what they do as super human. They will too evolve them into superheroes of their own. After day one, the heroes could see that they all held their own unique flare but were open to the opportunity to learn one another’s powers. Awakened early in the day to prepare for the production of the epic story soon to be told.

Abi, the captain of the mothership, wielding her endless knowledge of the forsaken land bringing dance and circus into a swirling tornado of beauty. Hector, master of laughter and creator of smiles. Fer, wielding circles of joy and manipulation of colorful designs. Elena, goddess of intergalactic meteor travel. Hanging on to the tips of shooting stars and directing them along unpredictable pathways. James, leading the way with walking staffs of life, omitting electricity from the tips of his fingers to battle off any unwanted energy. Bringer of zen. And Benjamin, the antigravity technician. Using his abilities to levitate items from their resting place. Together they are The Kenya performers without Borders.

After a long week together they have endured much heat fighting against them, trying to break them down but only making them stronger. Forces combined to fight through the dangerous passage knowing that the beneficial end is in sight. Occasionally they enter the worlds sea to wash off the callus that tries to hold them back. Creatures of the land find them quite intriguing and seem to continue to sneak into their lives to grab a small bite of what makes them so strong. Sometimes they succeed but not anymore. Now the squad has completed preparing for their journey and await their departure into the land that they will benefit with their presence.

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The Salvo Clowns! The benefits of clowning with the hearing impaired.

March 29, 2018

During our stay in Darjeeling we have been working with The Salvation Army School for the Deaf. We began our work at Salvation Army (or as Kiera says in her Aussie way “Salvos”) in our first week here. We introduced them to circus through spending our first session free playing with them. From that moment the children’s love for clowning was clear.

They pointed at the red noses that were donated last year. We began to play, passing clubs and hiding them from one another. From this moment I knew that the clowning workshops I had been planning where perfect for Salvation Army.

This became even clearer when Kiera and I sat in one of their classes. During this class they were learning sign language. This was useful as I too came away with a wider vocabulary of sign language.

But what was even more important was the wider understanding   of the school this class gave me. Salvation Army School for the Deaf educates and  homes children from 5-18 who have not been taught sign language prior to attending the school. They have come to the School to learn sign language and nonverbal communication. During the class I sat in, the teacher emphasised the importance of expression as well as signing. Clowning is an exaggeration of expressions that uses mime to communicate an emotion. Thus,  through performance the students can continue to learn how to communicate through expression and mime. Circus also creates a safe space for this play. When clowning it is not the way in which a “nonverbal” person communicates but all people.  We all communicate through expression and we all love to play.

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I have facilitated two clowning workshops at Salvation Army. Using the concept of communication of expression I used the scenario of stealing a clown nose or prop off your partner. Through this enactment six expressions are portrayed. I made signs to communicate the enactment of these expressions.

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We facilitated these workshops  as clowns.  We enacted a short clowning scene where Sophie hid my red nose from me. Clown Kiera displayed the sign cards that depicted the expressions Sophie and I where enacting. I got them to copy the expressions of each scene before giving two students red noses , and a sign each. Communicating through clowning that they  could now enact the scene using the expression and prop I have given them. This gave them the opportunity to perform as a clown and learn how to use expression within performance.

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Through facilitating the workshops as clowns the boundary between the pupil and the facilitator is removed. We are all clowns miming together. Dressing as a clown got the children excited. One child tapped me and pointed at my glittery t-shirt and painted face as I was organising the group into a circle , ready to begin. I pointed at my nose, signed and pulled a sad face she laughed. My costume anticipated the opportunity for clowning and already communicated the concept of the workshop before it had began. It created an environment in which the way of communicating was through clowning.  Speaking through an expression, is an act they all use for everyday communication. Clowning is natural form of communication that we can embrace within our workshops.
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When watching their performances we were amazed at the students natural ability to clown. They were confidently interacting with the audience and creatively thinking of ways to use and hide props.  With under two weeks left of the project I will be sad to say bye to my clowning friends at Salvation Army. I am also excited to take what they have taught me back to England.

 

By Poppy Avison-Fell

 


Alive Alert Awake & Enthusiastic!

March 27, 2018

Hola a todos! Sara Noelle here with another blog update, and boy oh boy do I have exciting news! PWB team Nica has completed our second to last week on tour. Personally I am amazed at how hard we have worked on this last project. We had a bunch of shows scheduled, and it was also show week for the kids we’ve been working with. I’ll clue you all in on the juicy highlights in this blog. Here we go!

Sooo first off, we had our Despadita (show + last day celebrations) with Casa Alianza. We managed to pull together a stellar show with these teenagers after 7 days of prep. I am so impressed. Our first week with them was mainly work shops, and the second was a mix of classes and show prep. The kids were super keen on act creation, and one of the girls volunteered to MC the show! She did it in style, with her toothbrush as her mic! The show was called “Circo Alianza”, named after the facility where they live. The name translates to “Circus Alliance.” How cool is that? I feel strongly that “Circus Alliance” is one of the best show names in history, and I cannot emphasize enough just how impressive it was to witness young people that were new to flow and circus arts put together a show in such a short amount of time. The last act was an Acro piece, and that included a two high! Amazing. Dale Circo Alianza! 

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Sadly we weren’t allowed to take photos at Casa alianza, so here’s a silly post-show photo instead!

 

The next Despadita was with Sierra Maestra. For every two hour session, we had a range of 25-50 kids. I think we were all a bit nervous about wrangling all of these kids together for a handful of show prep workshops. Well, we did it and it was so much smoother than expected! Acts included hula hoop, diabolo, magic, and acro. We also had the kids volunteer to introduce each act and they did an amazing job! It can be very intimidating to put yourself on stage and perform, and these kids nailed it. I am super proud of all of them!

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Hula hula act creation!

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Super shy kiddo Angel announcing the next act!

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Pre-show group photo at Sierra Maestra!

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Sierra Maestra show set list! Check out those act names!

 

The other project we’ve been working with is Las Ampies. We only had 3 friday sessions with them which wasn’t enough time to make a show with the kids, but it was still a lot of fun gathering children from their homes and teaching them workshops. We spent our last day with them performing our show in the Barrio! The location was super dusty, and at the end of the show my feet were caked with dirt (even though I had socks and shoes on!). Often times on this tour I would look at my skin and say “Wow, i’m getting so tan!” only to shower and realise it was just a layer of dirt. This resulted in many chuckles amongst our team.

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Pre-show shenanigans to warm up our audience!

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Yours truly with a club balance!

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Just look at all these cute faces 🙂

 

Amidst all of the work we did this past week, we managed to squish in several shows! The exhaustion was real this week. I made a stupendous strong-woman dragon staff act with teammate Ivy, and we performed it for the last time this past week, because we donated the dragon staves. I am primarily a juggler and never touched a dragon staff until this tour, and I have to say it’s one of my new favourite props! Super suavecito and I love it.

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The ever-evolving “clown piece”!

 

Whew! It was a hectic week and although we faced many challenges, we also laughed a lot and made many more memories. Thanks for reading and cheers to the magic of social circus!

Hasta la proxima,

Sara Noelle


Podemos Hacerlo!

March 25, 2018

This week PWB Nicaragua continued working with kids at Sierra Maestra in the afternoons, and started work with a new organization called Casa Alianza in the mornings. Casa Alianza is a social service organization, provides residency and rehabilitation to kids ages 13-17. The kids usually come from backgrounds of addiction, exploitation, and trafficking, and go through a one year program that provides them with tools to be healthy, succeed in recovery, and thrive in a nurturing environment.

Casa Alianza has three levels to their program, separating kids into group according to the amount of time and work they have done so far in the program. We are working with about 25  kids in the first level, which means they are the newest kids to the program and have been there for about one to three months. Part of our agreement with Casa Alianza is that we will not take any pictures or video during our time here because of the fragile nature of their work and to protect the identities of the children… So you’ll just have to take my word for it, the property is absolutely beautiful. They provide separate housing for the boys and girls, and separate bedrooms depending on which level of the program they are in. There are lots of gardens and beautiful shaded spaces for the kids to have activities, and the whole property is kept well manicured and super clean.

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Acrobatics with kids at Sierra Maestra

We will meet with the kids every Monday – Thursday for two weeks, and then put on a show with them to celebrate at the end of our sessions. Thursday happens to be family day, so many of the kids get visits from their families on Thursday, and hopefully their families will be able to attend our show as well.

Working with the kids at Casa Alianza has been an absolute treat. The kids are a bit older then those we normally work with, and they are all super bright and eager to learn from us. Our team was surprised to see that daily, kids engage in a morning Tai Chi, Yoga, or Meditation session before we arrive. Casa Alianza runs lots of activities that contribute to the kids being super tuned in to their bodies and understanding the mindset of openly engaging with new activities.

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Performing our show at Barrio Mateare

We had four shows this week, and spent quite a bit of time in transit, traveling all over Managua in Kairos truck. Monday we did our show for Casa Alianza, and Tuesday we performed at Sierra Maestra (the school we teach at in the afternoons). Wednesday we did an evening street show in Barrio Mateare, and Friday we did another evening show in Barrio Dimitrov. This show was particularly crazy because there was no light to work with in the community center, so we positioned Kairos truck strategically and used the headlights as our main source of light for the show. It was a truly successful week of shows, and I’m left thinking of countless giggling and delighted children we encountered throughout the week, a reward well worth the efforts put into all the travel for the shows.

Friday we had our second trip to Los Ampies, a small community built along an old decommissioned railroad line. We meet kids on a dusty farm owned by a nice man who lets the kids of the community gather on his property every week. The area is shaded with mango trees and the kids start each session by hanging up signs they call “living agreements”, which they’ve created for when they come to the space. Reminders like ‘don’t pick fruit from the Don’s trees’, ‘No Fighting’, and ‘Listen to each other’, sprinkle the property before we begin our sessions.

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A “living agreements” sign the kids at Los Ampies created

On a personal note, Sara and I spent our weekend off in Granada, and found a local to take us out on a tour of the islets. We bought little cakes before we left, and when the boat stopped at a small island about 10 minutes offshore, we got to feed a spider monkey that hopped onto the boat! We also ran into a St. Patricks Day parade travelling through the Parque Central, and Sara got to jump into the parade and do some juggling!

We only have one week left here at Kairos, and as the tour is coming to an end, I’m happy to report the team is going strong and making the most of the time we have left. Podemos Hacerlo!!

Until Next Time… Ivy 🙂


Nicaragua: New project, same team!

March 20, 2018

The team have moved to Managua and are deep into their project already! Here are some snippets of info to fill you in

  • We are living in a really nice space full of greenery and amazing trees.
  • Our accommodation was full for a few days so we got moved to an amazing hotel nearby with a pool just outside our rooms!
  • Everyone’s Spanish is getting so much better
  • We’ve got 2 denim hammocks
  • We just did up our last calendar of the tour and saw the finishing date… dun dun duuuunnn

One of the projects we are working with is Casa Alianza. This is a place for teenagers from about 13 – 17 years old who come from vulnerable backgrounds. We are working with a group of “Phase 1” teens who are fresh to the programme. Despite being so fresh, they have positive attitudes towards each other, us, working as a team and learning in general. For me, this shows that the programme they are running is super good. They listen to each other when we ask what they learned in the session, they sit out and take time when they feel that’s what they need and in general, work as a big family despite having lots of things running around in their own minds, I’m sure. I have felt both nourished and challenged coming out of each of these sessions.

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Helen & Will with upcoming diabolo superstars

 

Project two is in a school six minutes away by car. We are working with about a million children with an average age of about 9. These kids are really well behaved and because of a mixture of their good behaviour and the team growing in confidence, we have had the chance and courage to try out some new workshops. This week’s specials included a rhythm workshop with lots of clappy numbers and a magic workshop with the infamous “paper bag trick”. The kids run around, so do we and we have a great time teaching them what we know.

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Darine teaching a macho routine with devil sticks

Project 3 is a village down a bumpy road that makes me feel car sick. We were told that this community is relatively new and they are having issues with togetherness along with drugs and violence. We go there once a week to do 2 sessions in the back garden of a lovely man called Done Jose who sits on a chair and smiles as everyone runs around and has a great time. These guys don’t have major experience with circus and are quite young so it’s a real treat to be able to introduce them to our little tricks.

This week especially, I’ve really been appreciating our team and all of the amazing things that they bring to the vibe. Here they are with 3 little facts about them (in alphabetical order)

  • Darine – (that’s me so as told by Jacob) gives lovely head massages, 
  • Helen – laughs a lot, never drinks her fresco and recently has become a badass base for acro.
  • Ivy – is a ninja in everything you can classify as a board game, always has very tidy facepaint for shows and we have discovered, loves throwing water around.
  • Jacob – is an expert at washing his clothes by hand, loves wearing leopard print and will usually finish food you don’t want
  • Kit – has an amazing collection of quirky facts, takes amazing photos at the right time and always comes back with a story after days off.
  • Sara – juggles anytime she has a spare breath, gets her hair cut most often and is great for little chit chats
  • Will – loves bopping his head to cheesy Nicaraguan pop tunes, says random funny words in his sleep and once had clean sweat bands.

During bootcamp, we were all fresh and hyper and eager to get to know the personalities of the team. In Leon, we were starting to figure out how a group of 7 people who previously only knew each other’s Facebook page, can manage to work together. San Marcos, things were starting to settle, and here in Managua, I feel like we are all fitting together like a little jigsaw.

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Back of the camioneta cheekiness

I’d be telling fibs if I said there were never frustrations but frustrations are (usually 😉 ), not at each other directly and just at the situations that happened. We’ve got a team that I feel is really emotionally intelligent and know what they need when they need it. We’re really open as a team and are free to express what we feel and always try to accommodate needs of whoever in the team is having difficulties.

I’m so glad I’m working with people that will jump in and run games for me if I’m feeling really tired after a show, that will check in a little bit extra if I mention I’m feeling a bit tender that morning, that will tell me they disagree but do it with love, that teach me, let me teach them AND have really funny cheeky banter in the back of the camioneta. It has only been when I stepped back and looked at our amazing team without a mind full of workshops and shows that I realised how much I appreciated this bunch of energisers.

So I’m taking this blog post to publicly tell this amazing team that you are amazing, we’re all doing a perfect job at being ourselves and we are all playing a really important part in this mind blowing project doing heart warming activities for groups of superstars full of potential. GO US!

Well done team Nica 2018. Looking forward to the next few weeks.

Darine xx

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Team Nica 2018 pre show being their amazing selves