On my way to Nicaragua, I loved the chance to eat Cuban guava and cheese pastries in the Miami airport. I was met successfully by the PWB tribe in the Managua airport: Emily, Jake, Justin, Valentina, Aileen and Bags on a balmy evening, good start!! We had big fun loading into a jeep with the roof piled high (as high as the jeep!) with circus equipment, including a huge bag of hula hoops and even huger bag of proper acro mats, hurrah!
A two hour drive to Leon with our host Rigo, blasting Led Zepplin and Rolling Stones all the way. I thought, this is going to be fun, so I sang all the way to Leon, whoop whoop! We spent our first night in Rigo’s fabulous colonial hacienda with an enormous iguana prowling the palm-filled courtyard. I found myself loving Leon already, loving Nicaragua already, so civilized, hospitable and funky. La gente estan muy muy simpatico!
Emily did a great job of organizing supplies and we were sent off in groups on different errands – to the market, the supermarket and the hardware store for supplies to make circus equipment. We did shopping for 5 days because we were headed to the coast for CIRCUS BOOT CAMP! I kid you not. We had a house on the coast for 10 days to practice, get more skilled, share skills, find out how to share those skills in Spanish and, importantly, put a show together. The house was 20 minutes to the nearest outpost of civilization…could this be Circus Big Brother house?
Ok so, shelve the Big Brother analogy, it turns out 20 mins to the nearest outpost of civilization means 20 mins to the nearest bar! Boot camp is in Rigo’s rambling hacienda on the beach amongst many more rambling haciendas. The sea is wild, the sunsets postcard perfect, pelicans fly in V formation low over the water, lumbering like B52 bombers and strangely elegant at the same time as they bank and turn. Each day is a full-on circus day. Sunrise yoga on the lawn, we discover 4 of us can do the splits and plan a possible dramatic end to our show. Breakfast is followed by a full morning of games and skill sharing, rhythm work, dancing, clowning and improvising, being foolish and dreaming. A strange new theatrical order starts to emerge from the chaos. There are some other back packers staying at the house and I feel mildly sorry for them as our equipment, piles of costume and noisy theatricality invades their tranquility. But, as they sit and watch our antics and laugh their heads off, I gather they are actually enjoying the free floor show!
It’s a tough life being a volunteer. I am sitting in a hammock in a cabana at the end of our garden of palms, papaya and soft grass underfoot. I am looking out over the Pacific ocean with the laptop on my knees, something ancient and something modern. But seriously, everyday is intense – training and creating. This morning, I have been in a 3 high pyramid tower and been doing assisted flips and walk overs – and I am stoked!!!
We are on a tight schedule, we have 10 days to get our group show performance ready and learn enough Spanish to teach circus skills before the festival in Granada begins on the 13th. Days start early, first light is 5.30. We start doing our own thing, stretching, yoga and training skills between 6 and 7 in the garden when it’s still cool. Its breakfast at 8am and I love the simple pleasure of eating around the big table with the PWB gang. Group training runs from 9am to 12 noon. Taking turns to lead the group, we share skills, teaching methods and enthusiasm. Emily and Bags, the team leaders, and Jake were on the project here last year so they have local knowledge and are familiar with the kids we will be working with. To make sure we know what we are getting into, the job of teaching in a foreign language is complicated further by them playing the role of over excited children in our trial classes. This ain’t gonna be no cakewalk.
A two hour lunch break gives us time to eat, swim and siesta. We share cooking and have been having the best lunches, tortillas, tostadas, queso fresco, BIG salads, fried plantains, mmm hmm. Lovin’ the humor too, the guys’ banter crack me up! When Bags pushes the puppy away that is licking his feet, Jake wants to know how Bags can do that to a cute little puppy, is he carrying a childhood trauma and does his family constellation matrix need re-imprinting? ‘Repeat after me Bags’ he says ‘I am loved and I am special’ bwah ha ha!
The pace accelerates towards the end of boot camp, we are all pleased with the way the show is coming together, we have 10 acts in it including a magical transformation scene and towards the end of boot camp, Emily pulls a metaphorical rabbit out of the hat – we have a show the day before we leave at a children’s project 10 minutes up the road. Sonflora is an after school project run by a Swiss NGO, the children there have a homework club, play games, make and eat wholesome food in a healthy environment. We see hand painted posters on lampposts advertising ‘Artistas Sin Fronteras’ The big day arrives and we are feeling good, happy with the show we have created and looking forward to seeing what the children make of it. We set off in costume, Bags has created a super hero costume and is now Super Bolsas!! The young boy of the family who live at and care for Rigo’s guesthouse laughs at him and says “He thinks he’s a superhero but he can’t even fly!!”
The Sonflora show is due to start at 3pm so we set off at 2.15 to give ourselves plenty of time to arrive and set up, but when we arrive there is a full house of 50 or 60 children between the ages of 5 and 15 years, so its straight on with the show!! 40 minutes of silly dancing, top juggling, poi jousting magic, roustabout and the grand finale of our 3 – well actually technically 2 and ½ high pyramid…the kids love it!! Cheers, claps, whoops and shouts all the way through. The seal of approval. After the show, there is lots of hugs from all the children, that makes it all so worthwhile. Sonflora staff ask if we can do a show for their other project near Leon, that’s a positive!
Then it’s back to the house to talk the show through and to enjoy drinks at sunset on the hammock platform on the last evening of PWB boot camp. Tomorrow we are packing, packing, packing and off to Granada for our first stop, the Escuela de La Comedia y El Mimo and El Berrinche Ambiental Festival. Boot camp has been great and now we are ready for the change of pace that is to come.