Over the last week we have marked the end of our first month in Nicaragua in many exciting ways. A week packed with workshops and shows, coupled with the realization that one third of the project has already passed is a reminder of the elasticity of time. On one hand it seems to have flown by while on the other it is amazing to think how much we have done and how long ago our arrival feels. Here’s a run down of what we got up to last week .
This year (Bags, Emily, and I were here last year too) our focus on workshops is definitely spread more across separate groups in León but the most regular and consistent are still the daily sessions with our main partner organisation here, El Barrilete. Each day we teach around 50 children, aged between 3 and late teens, for 2 hours, playing games to warm up and then getting stuck in with our tailored timetable of the various skills offered from this wonderfully diverse team. Some of the children’s favourites have been hoop, diabolo, and dance.
So as I said, our workshop efforts have been a bit more spread out this year. As well as our main project with El Barrilete we have also been doing plenty of outreach work. The sessions with Las Chavaladas (mentioned in Emily’s blog last week) have been going great. Last week a couple of us were there almost every morning, teaching dance, juggling, acro., and diabolo. I am particularly excited to go back after the discovery that they have a slackline they don’t know how to set up but can already walk after having a volunteer teach them a while ago. We have also been out regularly with La Escuela Movil to do mini workshops and shows with children in the barrios of León. And on Friday we joined Las Chavaladas on a visit to Sonflora (where we did our first show at the end of boot camp) for a friendly football tournament where we made sure to leave the footballs alone to avoid embarrassment and instead entertained the children on the sidelines with circus toys aplenty.
Shows and other stuff:
Our first show last week was interesting to say the least. As we arrived at our ‘performance space’ in the waiting area of a bus terminal the logistical difficulties were immediately apparent. ‘Space’ is probably a slight exaggeration in regards to where we were going to do the show. It was a half-constructed concrete ‘box’ around 10x6m in size with pillars every couple of meters, trees hanging over it just above head height, sharp steelwork protruding from said concrete, and a ‘toilet’ in the corner. After preparing our kit in toilet-corner, bending some steel out of the way, and a quick discussion about how we would adapt the show, we got going with a warm-up to draw a crowd and a couple of the team went for a wonder to spread the word. All in all it was a great experience for us and as always an enjoyable show. And also, as we had already experienced in Granada, a reminder of some of the problems facing the younger generation here and the reasons behind some of the amazing work that some of our partner organisations do, as we found out afterwards that the young boy who seemed to be high on glue but enjoying the show had been a resident at Las Chavaladas before returning to the streets.
On Friday our friends from Estelí arrived, El Nido de Las Artes, to spend the weekend with us and the stilt crew. First stop was El Barrilete for the Nido guys to do one of their shows. Laughing ensued and it was inspiring for our students to see some young Nicaraguan guys clowning and doing rad traditional circus.
On Saturday we joined El Nido and the Zanqueros for a parade from the Zanqueros’ training space to the central park to combine segments of our shows into one mega-amazing-circus-salsa-theatre extravaganza for the people of León. Children lost themselves in excitement, tourists took photos, and the older generation expressed gratitude to us for livening up the city centre for what they said was the first time in many years. It was a pretty special evening.
On Sunday we ended our week with a trip to the river/beach with the show crew from Saturday. It was a well earned chill-out day of juggling and slacklining on the river. And was made extra special by the fact that, for the Nicaraguans it was funded by the hat money from Saturday’s show, AND from a few of the younger ones it was their first time EVER on a coast. Seeing an 11yr old’s face as he sees the sea for the first ever time was a fine way to end the week.
Thanks PWB, this is awesome.