Week One in Leon by Emily Ball

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Amado & Jake

The PWB team arrived in Leon early sunday evening, after the fun filled week at El Berrinche. We stumbled gladly into our new home for the next month and settled into our rooms. Straight into the action on Monday, I set off for a meeting with Amalia, director of Las Chavaladas, to organize some outreach work alongside our project with El Barrilete. Amalia is super organized, helpful and has set us up with a whole bunch of outreach shows and workshops across the city in various barrios, and with 2 of her projects – Escuela Movil, a mobile mini-school which travels out to different barrios every day, and Las Chavaladas, which supports boys in difficult situations and helps them get back on track. Getting back just in time to get changed, we set off for a show at a village called Tamarindo, the sister project of Son Flora, a swiss-run NGO. Lester, a local clown who also works with Son Flora, met us and accompanied us to the right bus terminal; there are several in Leon. Whilst waiting for the bus to fill/leave (buses seem to mainly leave when full, timetables being more of a guideline than anything else), Jake spotted a familiar looking young face…who finally plucked up the courage to say to him… “Circo? Los Quinchos?” It was Amado, one of the boys we had taught in San Marcos last year, who has now left Los Quinchos to be back with his family and was working at his uncle’s shoe-shine stall at the bus terminal. He jumped on the bus to say hi to the rest of us and we entertained each other until the bus was ready to leave – his smiles and laughs as he juggled with Jake were something very special, and a perfect reminder of why I am involved in these projects. Arriving at Tamarindo, we carted our hoops, staffs and selves along dusty tracks before arriving at the village basketball court where a crowd of excitable children, and less excitable but nevertheless interested, youth and adults were waiting for us. We were told the children were going to do a show for us with Lester, who has been teaching them clowning (clowns seem to be pretty big here). After helping them to get ready with their face paint, we were treated to a 12 strong clown show, which included a skit called ‘the Death of Pepe.’ It was enjoyed by all, even those who have less understanding of the language!

Our show was well received and we returned to the city tired, dusty, and very happy – this was just the start!

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El Barrilete kids doing a pyramid!

Tuesday saw some of us heading to El Barrilete, despite it being a day of rest, as we had been invited to join their float in a carnival procession celebrating the national poet Ruben Dario. And what an event! They had dressed a tractor as a steam train, which towed three trailers (in varying states of disrepair): one full of kids and parents, one with a Dona and some chickens, a pig, and a massive sound system mainly playing train noises, and the last with baskets of vegetables, with some adults and children in (debatable) traditional dress. This set up was followed by 2 oxen pulling a cart full of kids dressed up as ghosts! The whole parade was fantastic – our stilt walking friends whom we met at El Berrinche were there dressed in various folklore inspired costumes (headless men, ghost horses, masked women), as well as various dancers, Giganticas (huge puppet women) and so much more! In true nicaraguan style, the parade was very delayed at several points, and we ended up leaving before the end, as we wanted to have our energy for performing our show at El Barrilete the next day…It went down very well and I was happy to recognize several faces from last year. When we turned up to teach our first session on Thursday, we were greeted by 20-30 super excited children all wanting to hug and say hello to us at once, and some less visibly excited older children who wanted to know when they could start learning the things we did in the show with fire (poi, staff, hula hoop). Our first session was exciting and energetic as expected, and with improvements we taught our second session on friday, which went even better – I look forward to seeing what the next month holds for these children. There is a good mix of students from last year who remember some skills, and new students eager to learn. Thursday morning 3 of us squeezed in a visit to a barrio with the Escuela Movil, and said hi to Las Chavaladas, some of whom remember us from last year. Friday morning we performed our show again, for the children of an SOS children’s village on the outskirts of Leon, and Friday evening saw us heading out for our first bit of skill exchange – a salsa class with the stilt walkers! We’ll be teaching them various circus skills next week in exchange for the salsa lessons! All in all, an exciting, full and fun first week of our Leon project…bring on week 2!

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