PWB Nicaragua – Final Blog

April 29, 2013

By Rob Thorburn

Many parts of Central America are like a paradise on earth and Nicaragua is certainly no exception. From lazy hammock sunsets over the Pacific ocean and jungle treks to gently smoking volcano craters or beautiful rivers punctuated by waterfalls and gorges all the way to sipping piña coladas on the boulevard while being serenaded by mariachis or tasting hand-made organic chocolate made by the person standing right in front of you. Between the members of PWB Nica we’ve managed all of the above and more on top of 9 days of boot camp, 60 days of teaching and 30 shows in less than three months. We’ve seen the country from the far north to the far south, and from the Pacific west coast to the Caribbean islands off the east. We didn’t quite make it into the rainforest, but we have spent time in the 3 biggest cities, many smaller towns and villages, with a few trips into the middle of nowhere for good measure. Of course it’s not all paradise, and we’ve seen some of the darker side of life too – it’s one of the things that is unmissable on a PWB tour as it brings you in close contact with those who are pushed to the edges of society, even in a land that is fertile, beautiful, friendly and open. There’s a incredibly high poverty rate and many children live on the streets, either earning money through begging, crime or prostitution or escaping the realities of life in a bottle of glue. Even for those with homes, a lot of them have very little to look forward to in life beyond menial jobs, crowded living quarters and poor sanitation. It’s heartbreakingly sad, and all we can hope is that we bring a little seed of joy into the lives of those we work with.

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From our perspective the tour has exceeded expectations across the board – in each place the children and young people astounded us with their appetite for learning new skills and with their friendly attitude and openness towards a group of somewhat eccentric performers who descended on them with a very British sense of punctuality and structure. Fortunately there were two quick realisations on our part which made everything run smoothly. Firstly, we adjusted our Britishness to a more Latino outlook – as flexible and open as possible, and letting the tour happen to us rather than pushing to make it work exactly the way we had planned. Secondly, as we spent more time in each place we came to realise that eccentricity is not just for circus performers; the organisations we were working with were headed by individuals who are incredibly passionate, fun, intelligent, driven, absolutely in love with music, theatre and circus, and just a little bit crazy to top it off – exactly what we were looking for!

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Our mission was slightly different in the three places we focused upon. In Granada at La Escuela de Comedia y el Mimo we were working with children and young people who already have a knowledge of circus, and we were looking to give them new skills, as well as helping the school with some new ideas for how they can work as an organisation. Although we wish we’d had more time with them, it was still a great success – the young people in the core and learning groups showed a progression that was astonishing in the short time we had with them, and the organising team were very open to ideas of how to develop their festival and their funding strategy. We wish them the very best of luck for both in the future, and can’t wait to come for another edition of El Berrinche Ambiental.

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El Barrilete in Léon was an entirely different prospect –  it’s a youth project working with around 120 children from 3-18, with one lonely unicyclist among their number. Although they have some cultural activities, their main focus is as a homework and vocational skills centre; taking kids off the streets and away from child-labour situations. They took to circus incredibly quickly, and by the time we left were already incorporating it into their regular performance group – they now have stiltwalkers, acrobats, hula-hoopers and jugglers to present alongside their beautiful traditional dances, comedy sketches and giant puppets!

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In San Marcos, it seemed as if all of the things that could go well for a PWB project turned up at the same time in the same place – including hugely enthusiastic partners from Asociacion Los Quinchos as well as focused and dedicated kids, eager to soak up as much as we could give them in the time we had. The climate there was a little friendlier too, and we all revelled in the semi-rural beauty of the Barrio we lived in – after a month of Léon’s hot and bustling streets, a 2km walk to a 14 acre finca where you can pluck ripe mangos from the trees certainly puts you in a good mood to teach! Once again, the speed at which the young people learned was incredible, and the skill on display during the final show was mind-blowing after just 3 short weeks. In the time since we left, we’ve been really happy to hear that they are regularly having circus practise, and have plans to put on several shows with their new-found talents.

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A PWB project isn’t just about the work we do with our main partners – on this tour we performed in many schools and projects in and around the areas we visited, and made hundreds of connections all over the country and across Central and South America. One of our big goals was to find out more about the national social circus scene, and to try to help it to develop and connect up in whatever way we could. This aim is more long-term than the instant fun we can offer through shows and workshops, but it’s also one of the best ways we can share the PWB vision and get as many kids from every walk of life involved in something we love. We’ve made some great steps both on- and off-project, connecting up various different organisations, donating and fixing equipment in project locations as well as to a few other groups, and generally making as much noise as we can about how great circus, theatre and music can be for kids. In total we taught around 200 children and performed for closer to 4,500 – a good target to aim to beat for future PWB tours!

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We’ve made a lot of friends in the last 3 months, and to tell the truth it’s proving very hard to leave this wonderful country. It’s just the beginning of what we hope to be a long and fruitful adventure for Performers Without Borders in Nicaragua, but it feels like the end of an era – already most of the team is back in the UK, and I have just one last visit to make to all of the projects before leaving the country. As Tour Co-ordinator, I’d like to say a final huge thank you to all our supporters far and near, to all the members of the team, to the PWB founders for beginning the whole thing, to all the organisations we’ve worked with over the past three months, and most of all to the children and young people we’ve met and shared with – you make it all worthwhile.

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Darjeeling week two

April 22, 2013

Now in our second week of the project, we are beginning to get a bit more settled, we are getting to know our way around the steep sloped roads and little step shortcuts that make up our journey, down to the  towns markets, cafes and restaurants and of course to the Edith Wilkins Street  Children Trust building.  I think this second week is one of the best times for the project, we have got to know the kids better and even mastered a few names, the kid who I could only remember as colander in week one, I now know by his real name, I think. Anke knows nearly everyone’s name now which I think is incredible. This week has been all about learning and playing, we have had time to introduce each prop and skill. The public show is not yet occupying our minds and everyone is just having a go and finding their place! As a team we have been working together now for 4 months and things are running smoother than ever, our meetings are precise and to the point, we know what each of us is capable of and can set up a curriculum in no time, we are getting sensitive to each other’s needs and we know when to give a little space, like we know when to take some. We have got to know each other quite well, we have become like a little family of circus folk.

After a crazy weekend doing workshops for EWSCT’s full house of 90 kids (weekends are busy, as many kids go to school in the week), we get a day off and the chance to be entertained by the kids, me and Andy head down the hill to the foundation day, a celebration of  10 years since the charity began. There are grey clouds in the sky, we had seen rain already, we pass students of the St Pauls School who are wearing shirts, ties and blazers carrying umbrellas, they remind me of England. Everyone was in the courtyard when we arrived. We sit at the back and before long we have tea in our hands, the PWB team ladies arrive and join us, the weather is ominous and low grumbles of thunder echoes in the hills. There is a couple of minutes silence, we hear that a girl from another home has recently committed suicide, the mood reflects the weather, and one of the girls is reciting a prayer as we process the information.  A violin recital from some of the boys follows and it bring us back, an all-girls hip-hop dance routine brings up the energy thurther! They all really love to do slow motion walks and body popping, it’s great because that’s something I’m well into, a workshop in dance is in order for later in the week! There is some more dances and comedy sketches while the thunder grows, a group of the boys of mixed ages sing songs… one of which sings;  

“Give me some sunshine, give me some rain, give me another chance to grow up once again.”  

They all sing along, so many smiles, I can see what tight bonds there are here. This lot really are like family to each other, it’s a beautiful moment. Lunch time comes and so does the rain, it comes hard and with lightning and hail – an epic storm.  It lasts all of the afternoon, the rest of the event is cancelled, and all the kids return to the rooms and we are stranded inside for the afternoon, thankfully we have all the toys to play with.

The sessions in the week are a much different story to the weekend, more than half the amount of kids and there is the music and games teacher around to help keep order and translate. We form circles and make fun for all, communicating using the universal language of movement, sound and expression. We lead funny warm-ups, act a bit silly and play games; we set an example that it’s ok to be yourself!  The kids start showing us who they really are, their characters are coming out! Paul leads to grove armada, Anke to gangman style, Andy is a child again, Chez has a way of facilitating us through a world of magic hidden just under the level of the ordinary and mundane. I play a game, it’s a test of skill and wit where the smallest may win over the tallest and the weakest over the strongest (it’s just knocking a flower stick off the opponents head, but it’s so much more). Paul leads a game of ‘Marco Polo’ while everyone has a turn there is lots of laughter.  Abi’s got all the hoops out but they are not just hoops, they are islands and we need to work together to stop an intruder talking one!  We have sessions in Poi, flower stick, contact juggling, hoop, diablo, staff, ribbon, dance, hip-hop dance, beatboxing/singing, theatre, yo-yo, acro, unycicle, slack line, rola-bola. So many sessions and so many conga lines of excited kids going between sessions. We are running a tight ship, mostly.

Highlights for me include teaching slack line (they are so determined to get it), passing a diablo with Susmita (she’s pretty good at it but I kept dropping it), making and teaching a PWB rap beatbox song with Chez and leading a hip-hop dance class with Paul, making some shapes and jamming!

A moment that stood out for us was seeing Sapna , who is one of the quiet and shy girls, Shine! She was showing some dance she learnt from Anke, for a moment she was transformed and appeared more confident after.  Brilliant! It’s about showing kids that they can do it, whatever it is, they just need to want to do it and then focus, practice and they will prove to themselves that they are capable and once they know that, they will know they are capable of more!!

We eat lunch with the kids, nice dal n rice, there is always a prayer before, and I can’t understand it except for one word “Danyebad” which means thank you. This trip has been such a journey I have seen some in India who don’t get enough food, don’t have cloths or a roof over their heads. So I appreciate what I have now, much more and give thanks, and give thanks to be free to choose what I’m doing in life and thanks to all the wonderful friends and family who support me to do it!

I’m noticing lots of duality, differences and contrast. Here the weather can change in an instant, it rains lots but we have to ration our water as there is a shortage.  The wealth gap is so blatant I often see people looking through rubbish, and men breaking their backs carrying goods, furniture and even fridges up and down the hills, while there is no shortage of luxury hotels and decadent outlets to spend big money on well dressed tat!  In our group we are such different people all with different ways of looking at things, doing things, it can be hard, but ultimately it helps us be diverse and capable of more, variety is the spice of life.

We get told on Friday, that the next day all the kids are going down the hill to another school to take part in a sports day. We are asked to do a show. The next day comes and there is a torrential downpour as we are contemplating going, text messages are sent back and forth, is it raining down there? Is it outdoors?  Is it still happening?  We are dubious after the foundation day washout. It’s indoors, they send a taxi, off we go! We are greeted be Naverata, Cath and the music teacher, the space is a big upstairs halls with a flooded sand yard outside, there are kids hanging over the balcony with looks of anticipation on their faces! We enter the hall, it’s massive with chandeliers hanging from the ceiling and sports tracking painted on the floor, SPACE! We get to warming up, hooping and joggling up and down. Faces watching, there is a stage at one end with a couple of rows of seats. They also have a fairly nice P.A system; I get excited about beatboxing through it! We need a little group talk to form a plan; we are one down because Livvy is ill.  Ok big space, let’s play it a bit different. We are ushered onto the stage and I’m invited to sit down next to a well-dressed man in a Napoli hat, he introduces himself to me as Chairman of the Darjeeling Municipality, there are other councillors and heads of NGOs sitting with us, all the kids are outside on the balcony , there are about 30 people sat around the edge of the hall and a man is giving a speech, I can’t understand, then another speaker and another, is this a sports day or political conference? A though dawns on me, what if they ask me to speak? Anything can and does happen in India. The thought turns to reality, I’m down in the middle of the hall holding the microphone giving a speech, talking about the weather, saying what a good job EWSTC does, introducing us and singing a big happy birthday to Paul!( ITS HIS BIRTHDAY, he is the only one of us to have a birthday on the tour) The show begins, I’m beatboxing the tetris song as the birthday boy is getting technical with his yo-yo. We do poi, hoops, juggling, diablo, dance we play we enjoy the space and we improvise, we have a whole umbrella act, twirling spinning and it’s so much fun we forget it’s a show we are just in our element.  After our show the sports day got into full swing lots of classic games, sack races, egg and spoon type jobs and football!! We cheer on our team COME ON EWSCT!! It’s a very surreal experience, even after so long out here I still find it odd being here!

One clear morning shows us the jagged cliffs off the HimalayanMountains, reminding us of the bigger picture of our surroundings. Talk is on plans and ideas for after the tour, reminding us of the bigger picture of our lives back home. It feels like the end of the project is looming, but it is not over yet! We agree we should be making the most of the time we have left here; we still have more performances and lots to teach the kids before their big performance at Chowrasta! 

Simon Abel, April 2013.


Its Absolutely Darjeeling

April 16, 2013

As we rise from the heat and chaos of the north Indian lowlands our three-hour jeep ride gives us 2300m increase in altitude. As the landscape around us is morphed and contorted by forces continental in size, likewise the faces of the locals widen into more oriental and Tibetan smiles.

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Darjeeling town, perched atop a ridge and clinging in a tumbling way down the steeper parts, has a very colonial feel. But compared to the grandiose imposing architecture of Kolkata here it is in a much quainter and polite way. You would be forgiven for mistaking many of the buildings for 1950s railway tea houses albeit crossed with a slightly rustic alpine chalet. This old fashioned England feel exists alongside the now familiar and unmistakably Indian staples such as open sewers (now turned into wretch-inducing mini waterfalls in places thanks to the Himalayan incline) wandering street dogs and various malformed beggars that nicely counterbalance the upper-class ageing English ladies enjoying their 200 rupee-a-cup Specialist 2013 1st flush Darjeeling tea. (Average price of a cup of chai on the street is 5 rupees for comparison)

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Our first visit to the Edith Wilkins Street Children Foundation centre was very inspiring, a very well organised affair And although the nature of this project is a little more serious than others (some of the children here are having problems at home while others may have been rescued from child trafficking operations) we have never had a more giggly audience for our debut show, and Indeed in our first workshops I was impressed at how much more attentive and excited these kids are to learn what we have to teach.

 Before we performed our show for them we were treated to one from the children themselves. This being the 3rd year PWB has come they are already showing some considerable skill in various toys as demonstrated in a well thought out and choreographed performance showcasing diabolo, hula-hoop, ribbons and spinning plates. And ever since our show I have had no shortage of children eager to know when we will be bringing out the Yo-Yos (our new toy for this year).

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Since arriving in Darjeeling we have all noticed a shift in the atmosphere and emotions of ourselves and our surroundings. Mountains Humble people; in the other cities we have visited the people are all you see, they become the focus of the population’s attention whereas here we are reminded of things much bigger than ourselves. This is the main reason I think for the peaceful and eclectic mix of faiths present here.  Although technically part of India this place is unmistakably Nepali; a blend of Hinduism and various forms of Buddhism coexisting alongside jeeps proclaiming that ‘Jesus saves’ as well as those extolling the owner’s following of clans such as ‘Chelsea’ and ‘Manchester United’.

The natural beauty of this place has had an impact on us all, with more team members showing interest in rising early and exploring meditation practice. This induced calm (aided by the slightly more English climate) manifests into a feeling of familiarity & homeliness among the group, we huddle around heaters for warmth with many of us influenced by the native textile trade and the sudden need for woolly warm clothing now thoroughly addicted to crochet and knitting as a more sedate creative outlet.

We are awed frequently by thunderstorms and rare glimpses of the Himalayan giants in the distance. Whether struggling up a 45 degree incline after just popping to the corner shop, or being awed by the scenery we are reminded of geologic forces of greater size and timescale than we can ever truly relate to. They remind us of our fleeting existence as a thin scattering of organic life on the surface of this ever changing ball of rock.

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– Paul Sargent 


PWB India 2013 Final moments in Varanasi

April 11, 2013

Dedicated to Carlos who cannot join us for last leg of the tour! x Image

Squidged inbetween the bottom step of Assi Ghat, the Holy river Mother Ganga, the huge bonfire pile for Holi Play the next day, the dogs, the Puja, the Sadhus, the tourists, the chai stalls, and the candle selling children, there was a full-on stage for the Asha Deep Vidyashram’s annual performance. Until about 10 years ago it was taboo for the community of Nagwa to come into the Ghat area because of their lower caste, so the school performing here every year is a huge progression and a big thing for everyone involved!

 

There was flashing lights and a huge sound system! Whirring with technology, the beauty of the billowing curtains anchors the space and reminds us we are doing an outdoor show open to the elements of the world.

 

Abi, Andy, Anke, Carlos, Chez (me), Livi, Paul and Simon; we scrape together our cleanest and smartest clothes, splash on the glitter and excitedly make our way down to Assi Ghat. The bamboo structured stage totally changes the space, it all suddenly feels very official, professional and proper.  Armed with our bags of props and costumes the children run and greet us.  There is a joyous and exciting atmosphere that whips us up ready for the show.  In true Indian style the show lasts FIVE HOURS!! Has two breaks for Puja, which is the daily prayer ritual for the Goddess Ganges and despite the booming music continues as normal. A surreal and dreamlike evening. Full on traditional Khatak dance, Bollywood inspired dance, singing, poetry, jokes, a theatre play about gender roles (there is a big emphasis on this issue all over India at the moment), and of course the PWB magic filled acts.

 

I genuinely couldn’t have felt prouder of all the hard work from the young people involved and the PWB team energy to create the variety of acts.  As PWB has worked with this school for four years before, the skill level is very high; we found this very stimulating as we discovered ways to respond to their  unique skills.  A vast mix of ideas culminated in some energy filled moments, some poetic movement, some crazy images and loads of smiles!

 

During the show there was definitely some tingly arm hair as we see the kids fully embracing what we have spent weeks developing and rehearsing.  They all go for it!  Anke’s Ribbon dancing girls smiled so wide as they moved around the stage and the big group dance was full power – they owned that space with their strong attitude!  Interspersed with the dance was Andy’s adorable Spinning Plate children and those children who Paul had worked with to develop ninja Yo-Yo moves.  Simon’s juggling boys were so sweet with their concentration faces, they had some slick tricks too.  Simon also worked with some boys to create a Hip-Hop-coolio dance to a live beatbox soundtrack.  They can seriously move!!  Andy’s Diablo act was amazing to watch! All over the stage, jumping on and off the front – everyone was having so much fun, the music was banging and the strobe light was vibrantly intense.  Livi’s hula hoop act was so well choreographed, it was so visual (especially after the late night sparkly hoop taping) and empowered the girls big time!  I worked with a group of boys using flower sticks, (a prop I know very little about), it was great to approach it differently.  They wanted to be horses, bikes, rowers and diggers, so together we choreographed a very sweet little number to Spike Milligan’s Ning Nang Nong.  Dressed up in sashes and wooly dicky bow ties they were very playful with the music and really came out of themselves in front of the audience.  I also worked with a group to make a clowning number so as to give them the opportunity to perform without hiding behind a prop.  Having spend hours making papier-mache red noses and pom-poms for neck ruffs they look great and have a really beautiful time with the music and following their instincts.  Once they are on the stage it reminds us as  facilitators we have done our job, and now they enjoy the moment with the watching eyes of the audience.

 

Then came the long awaited fire show that Abi, Carlos, Paul, Andy and Livi worked really hard with individuals to develop their technique and confidence.  Some performed for the first time with fire, bringing that elemental raw energy that spinning fire does.  Some more experienced fire spinners shone like fireflies as the hundreds of people watching from the ghat applauded and cheered as they were impressed and mesmerised by the patterns.  One young girl overcame a big issue of performing with fire staff, the boys didn’t want her to perform with them, the girls were jealous that she had practiced this prop.  Despite all this, she did an amazing show and we were all totally proud of her standing up for what she wanted! Girl power!  THIS SHOW WAS EPIC!

 

Coming in as a Theatre Practitioner has been very interesting for me.  There is burning question in me of how can you use the circus skill to say something or do something more than demonstrating skill?  In this context of Asha Deep the beginnings of this enquiry have begun to be explored.  Developing performing skills to complement the trick based skill supports the participants to grow in confidence and self esteem even more. With this project it would be great to continue to support them in developing this strand of performance work. 

 

It was a lovely round circle once again with this second project in Varanasi as we performed our PWB show for the last time, this time in the Nagwa district.  All the kids that we have built relationships with were around helping us set up and getting more of their friends from the area to come form our audience outside the local Mosque.  It felt very special performing to the smiling faces we have got to know, and to see the intrigue from passer bys who cycle over to watch the show – biketastic Nagwa!  As the sky darkens we enter the last phase of the show and prepare the fire props.  This was possibly the most spectacular moment in Varanasi for me.  The sky flicked with lightning in the distance as two of the older lads, Manish and Gopal, spin their duo poi in incredible timing with the music and each other.  Feeling the brewing of an ending, we finished the show and said goodbye to the children.  As we began cycling home laden down with all the show kit on, in and around the bikes, the biggest storm hit the area, the rain pummelled down, the lightning forked and sheeted, creating an intense and charged energy.  In between the buffalo, the cows, the motorbikes, the chai shops, the material stalls, the hiding dogs, the beeping scooters, the honking cycle rickshaws, the puddles, the ditch and the sky we exist with a mixture of nostalgia and the pure enigmatic joys of living!

 

Onwards up the mountains we rise, to continue our circus adventure to Darjeeling.

Up, up, up, up, up, up and away…..

Happy smile on my face,

Francesca ‘Chez’ Dunford.

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Jaya in the Fire show on Assi Ghat!!

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The crowd watching the show on Assi Ghat!!

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The lovely clown act, Directed by Chez DunfordImage

The talented Juggler Act, Directed by Simon Abel.

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Pre-show entertainment to warm up the crowd.

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The gorgeous smile of Veejay! He was in Yo-Yos, Flower sticks and Juggling – TALENT!!


PWB Nicaragua 2013 – Escuela De Commedia y Mimo, Granada

April 8, 2013

By Jess Herman

Finishing the project more-or-less where we started in Granada at the school of Comedy and Mime (La Escuela De Commedia y Mimo) has an appropriate full circle feel to it. Returning to the festival site of El Berrinche to enjoy once again the Palapa play space and the ecologically built ‘Casa De Botellitas’ is the perfect end to this project. We have been in Granada for a week and half, doing what we do best – workshops, shows and playing!

We arrived in Semana Santa – the week leading up to Easter. This is the big summer holiday week in Nicaragua before the rainy season begins. Granada was a hubbub of activities, christianity and tourists. We performed a show in the Cafe Theatre of the school on three consecutive nights to raise funds for the school. The first two shows were PWB Cabarets and the last was an amalgamation of routines from us and from the young performers of the school as well as performers from a new project ran through the school in a town called Esteli. The boys from Los Quinchos were a great help by advertising the show on stilts, and not only joined Bags and Tilly for a routine, but also took part in the massive acrobatic finale to the show!

During the days of Semana Santa we were based in the school and had time to teach and play with these very talented groups of kids. Just to put things into perspective, 13 year old Brian can do back flips, juggle 5 balls and can pass 7 clubs on singles (juggler geeks out there you know how hard that is!)! It was a treat to have little structure for three days and to teach what the kids wanted to learn as opposed to having a syllabus. Skills these young performers chose to learn included poi and partner poi, slackline, hoop, club passing, 3 to 5 ball juggling, double staff, contact ball and acrobalance!

"Escuela" - School

We had two days off during which some of us went to Laguna Apoyo – a volcanic lake not too far away. As seems to happen in my time off – we found a project called ‘The Peace Project’ where they work with local kids – the leader of the project just so happens to be an ex-student from the School of Comedy and Mime! So yes, Jake and I managed to fit in another show and workshop in our time off! Wouldn’t have it any other way. We did manage to kayak around the beautiful Lake with the wonderful Matt from PWB – his fresh white skin from the UK was totally over roasted, burnt red knees despite the factor 50! Ouch!

At the beginning of last week we started a new program with our days split into three. In the mornings and late afternoons we would teach the young professional performers from the school and boys from the new project in Esteli. These four boys came to Granada for the week to learn more circus to take back with them and pass on. They were introduced to circus only 7 months ago and already have an acro-clown routine and can pass seven clubs to name just 2 of their talents! It is amazing – I am learning to juggle clubs and I just cannot believe how quickly these guys progress! Or perhaps I am particularly slow – it did take me 7 years to conquer 3 ball juggling!

Making juggling balls

In the afternoons we would teach approximately 40 kids from the local neighbourhoods. These same kids come to the school of Comedy and Mime to eat lunch, do homework and play 5 days a week. This meant that they already had some circus skills for us to build on. At the end of the week the kids presented a skill that they had learnt with us and we had a small and very entertaining show by a group of hungry Spanish Clowns!

To finish our time in Granada and indeed on the project we had one last show at the Cafe Theatre of Comedy and Mime. It was a great show with contributions from PWB (acro-staff, The Hip Hop Hoop Off, contact ball, acro and slack rope) and the young performers from the Escuela (comedy, mime, poi, unicycling, magic, acro-clowning,) as well as a combined diabolo act – Jake from PWB and Francisco from the school. The act that totally and utterly stole the show was the finale by the young people! We are talking various three people high pyramids and other shapes – one person basing 5 people at once (a 6 person dragon – does that mean anything to you? Let your imagination run wild), jumps and backflips over and under other people doing rolls and tumbles and handstands! Remember these kids are aged from 8 to 16 – I have been having some small lessons in acrobatics from them!

This brings us to the present moment – it is the last day of the project – we are organizing the equipment to donate and packing up the PWB Nica Box. Tomorrow the strangest thing will happen to me – I will be a tourist. I am lucky as I will not be returning to the UK until June. My original idea was to go and see and travel and do and be in Columbia or other countries nearby(ish). Volunteering my last three months has been epic and profound on different levels. Obviously volunteering is a way to really connect with the society you visit and an opportunity to give and therefore receive. A chance to understand more deeply the culture and make human connections and friendships.

Song session

I have little desire to chill for the next two months (although those who know me know I am not very good at relaxing!). I have already organized a show and a workshop on my way south to Costa Rica on Tuesday! I have been looking into more volunteering but in reality I think practicing some circus on a beach will be good for me – for a short while at least! I will visit some of the other social circus activities in Central America and might look at working on farms too.
Volunteering abroad as opposed to traveling – that is a whole different blog!

PWB Nicaragua 2013 – it has been an epic experience. It is all too true that you get out what you put in. This trip has sparked a relationship between myself and Central America and it is powerful to know that I can gift circus wherever I go. I hope that PWB Nicaragua will long continue, as from where I sit and sweat, this has been a tremendously successful project that has completely encompassed what PWB is all about…Seeing children grow in confidence, develop not only circus skills but teamwork and creativity, watching them achieve things they didn’t think were possible and through this become empowered to try more new things. We have left them with the opportunity to further explore their potential through circus and have heard that children from both Leon and San Marcos have already performed or have performances coming up…I can’t wait to see what the next year brings, watch this space for Nicaragua 2014 news!

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PWB Nicaragua 2013 – San Marcos – Los Quinchos, The End!

April 8, 2013

By Emily Ball

After spending the last few weeks teaching all the Quinchos were more or less ready to perform the first ever ‘Circo Los Quinchos’. The previous 2 days we had been preparing and working with all the children on their various acts, everything from a well rehearsed and impressive acrobalance act and human pyramids right down to the youngest boys practicing their plate spinning and hand held stilts skills. The Italian colored circus tent at the back of the Los Quinchos pizzeria was busy with kids arriving, last minute rehearsals and getting glitter onto their faces.

Los Quinchos Show Running Order

Starting about half an hour late – right on Nicaraguan time – the children were ready to perform to each other, the staff of Los Quinchos and some visitors from the US. After warming up the crowd, we kicked off with a hoop act by some of the girls…followed by so many more talented and amazing acts, about an hour and a half show in the end! It was incredible to see the kids perform after so little time learning circus, and there was some great and professional behavior – one of the boys who was on pizza cooking duty managed to perform two acts and still cook pizza in between! We had one student who had learnt to unicycle in approx. 6 hours of constant practicing and performed a great act even though he had hurt his foot the day before, and one of the boys who had fractured his wrist playing football performed his staff number with one hand! We also were treated to a dance number from some of the older boys ,and finished in fine style with a tumbling and pyramid number from all the girls.

After some emotional thank you’s, goodbyes, and presenting the children with the circus kit we are leaving with them, it was time to pack up and get ready to leave. A few of us managed to squeeze in a last trip to the boys’ home to say a last goodbye and eat a last mango or 3…and then we were on our way!

Although we were all sad to be leaving such lovely children, we were equally excited to be able to give two of the older boys the chance to come with us to Granada to the school there. Lazaro and Miguel showed an awe-inspiring enthusiasm for learning circus as well as an astounding knack for learning very quickly! Being two of Los Quichos’ educators already (for bread and hammock making) they were an obvious choice to give this opportunity, and they leapt at the offer of 3 more days of learning circus. So when the bus from the Escuela turned up to collect us, they were ready to go and helped us pile in our (seemingly never ending) bags and kit…and off we trundled towards Granada and the Escuela De Comedia y Mimo.

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