India – Varanasi week 2

February 27, 2015

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Namaste Ji!

This is already the 23th day in Varanasi, India, on the PWB project, and it feels like we’re finally settling in. The routine is becoming clearer as we navigate class time, travel time, personal time, team communication time, and PLAY time.

Navigating Varanasi is like this:

On foot there are constantly rickshaw and auto drivers asking if you want a ride, there are fabric shop owners calling you in to come look, hearing echoes of “hello” all around from children and adults, curious to know where you are from, and if they can take a photo with you. Chai stands everywhere, egg roll stands, fruit and veg vendors rolling around their wood carts, motor bikes zipping by, buffalo and cows crossing left and right, dogs scavenging, or fighting with each other, goats, sheep, the occasional pig, and piglets, and poop everywhere! Watch where you step! I’ve noticed that the best way to move is to not make any sudden movements. Be predictable in your walking so faster traffic moves around you. I think the animals know this as well. I haven’t noticed aggressive buffalo yet, they seem very shanti and predictable. On that note of poop… Buffalo dung is the most useful resource for people here. They gather it by the cart full, and then (usually women) spend their days making dung patties, and sticking them pretty much anywhere to dry in the sun. They use these dung cakes, for building fires and cooking with it, also for house construction. Essentially it is like cob building.

Indians are not afraid of poo, this is my conclusion.

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Moving on…

The children at both Asha Deep School and Duniya School are very wonderful, and are very different groups. PWB has been teaching at Asha Deep for 7 years now, and they have acquired many circus skills over the years. Its amazing to see their passion for poi, juggling clubs, hula hoop and fire performing particularly. There are some of the older boys who have even taken the initiative to start their own performing troupe, called Happy Talent Group, or HTG for short. They practice many nights down at the ghats on the Ganges river banks. Their skills are rapidly progressing and Avi has even been spending time after class teaching more contact staff skills to these hungry circus performers.

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We spend every afternoon with this group of about 60 regular children, Monday through Friday, and the aim for this project is to perform five circus acts as a part of their annual holi festival school program. Yesterday we had a 3 hour run through blocking out the performance with the whole school and all the teachers. These kids sure have talent! They will perform traditional and modern dance pieces, as well as singing in Hindi and English, a drama about the dangers of community gossip, and their circus acts to include group poi, hula hoop, clowning and juggling, with a club passing finale, group staff, and a group song, sung in three parts! Oh yeah….. And the whole program will conclude with a FIRE show!

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Duniya school is a bit newer to circus education than Asha Deep, and they are loving it, and really getting the hang of clowning, juggling, diabolos, and acrobatics! We spend Monday, Wednesdays, and Friday mornings, with them, including a big day at the park on Fridays. This group is full of laughter, and it’s contagious often leading into all of us, and the teachers laughing like crazy! So fun!

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Some highlights from the Asha deep group involve a “making day” last Saturday, where we brought materials to make juggling balls, from rice, plastic bags, and fabric, sock poi from fabric, and you can put the juggling balls inside. Lili, Chez, Emily, and Mark spearheaded this sewing project among the 50 or so kids who showed up on the Saturday. The kids all mostly knew how to sew already, even the 5 and 6 year olds, and the main challenge for the PWB team, was keeping control of the few scissors!

Avi lead a staff making group and about 15 kids were able to construct their very own practice staffs. Mika and Magnus facilitated making juggling clubs from soda bottles, wooden sticks, and PVC pipe. There is an amazing creative common instructions called “The Green Club Project”, that very clearly explains how to make these nicely weighted inexpensive juggling clubs, by recycling. It seemed to be very empowering to see them understanding how to make their own props. This feels like the old saying of ” if you give a child a fish they eat for a day, if you teach a child how to fish, they eat for generations.” Let’s see juggling for generations!

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The life in Varanasi is very full. This city has a rich culture of Puja or ceremony/celebration, particularly weddings and funerals, and last week was the annual Mahashivratri Puja. This marks the anniversary of when the Hindu deities Lord Shiva and Parvati (also known as Shakti) were wed. Notably, there is a myth about when the Gods and Demons were churning the ocean of milk to obtain immortal life, they came across a poison that exploded and threatened to destroy the universe. Lord Shiva then touched the poison with his trident and swallowed it. Only Shakti the female balance to Shiva, could then remove the poison.

So the whole city was roaring with celebration last week, including many high talent musical events, and even a marriage procession for Shiva, of barefoot men, from Mahamrityunjaya Temple, Daranagar to Kashi Vishwanath Temple. Chez and Magnus and Mika witnessed a river of men traversing the ghats alongside the Ganges river. Hours later, they were still coming, 2 million men in all, it was estimated! What a site! What a tradition! A couple of the older boys from Asha Deep were a part of this procession.

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PWB team is getting along very well, and we are amazed how we all have really grown to be such a close family. I mean we do Everything together! Integral in our family bonding are our team meetings and sharing circles. While it’s hard to schedule them in our busy days, they are so imperative to the emotional health of the group. We can share any of our feelings or issues we are having, in a safe and confident space, and this seems to be developing strong trust with each other.

Mantra for the day from each member of the team:

Mika: “be who you’re not”

Avi: “Suno, Dekko.”

Emily: “Happy Dance! ”

Mark: “FULL POWER!”

Magnus: “see things from their perspective”

Lilli: ” I am the certainty”

Chez: “sub kuch milega.” (anything is possible)

Teek Hay! On with the Show!

Mika (Singh) ( He’s an Indian Pop singer if you’ve never heard of him) The kids call me Mika Singh, and giggle… or Milka… like the chocolate.

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Some stuff that happened in what we have named ‘Week 3 in León’.

February 19, 2015

We finished last weekend with a big show in the central park, with the largest cathedral in Central America as our backdrop. Two other groups joined us, a local stilt dancing group called ‘Fuego y Son’, and some really funny jugglers/clowns from Estelí called ‘El Nido de las Artes’. With just one afternoon to collaborate, we put together an enormous and fantastic two hour long show. It went really well, was enjoyed by the large crowd and by us too, being the most fun we’ve had performing so far.

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The jugglers from Estelí stayed the next day and performed for the children at El Barrilete and helped with teaching the workshops.

We also had two early morning shows at schools this week (Asarias Apalache and Ruben Dario), with most of their 600 and 700 children excitedly watching us. At both the encroaching audiences throughout the show left us with a shrinking stage area, tested our crowd control skills and then they mobbed us when we finished!4

As usual the afternoons were spent teaching at Barrilete. This week the kids have decided on their two favourite circus props and are now focusing on these, honing their skills ready to perform at the end of the project.

We also did some extra skill swap sessions with the local stilt walkers, we taught them acro, juggling, hoop and clowning, and they taught us to salsa dance – so on Friday night we got to impress the locals in the nightclub with our fancy new moves, and our even more impressive old moves.

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With our free time at the weekend some of us took the last opportunity to relax and enjoy the beach at Las Peñitas, while others found out what a Nicaraguan punk gig is like.

Just one more week to go now before we leave León, in which we’ll be getting the kids to make their own show to demonstrate what they’ve learned – check back soon to find out how that goes…..

PWB Nicaragua

Graham


India tour – Varanasi week 1

February 18, 2015

Clowning Workshop

Older than history, older than tradition, older even than legend.

And here we are. In Banares.
The great Hindu city that stretches along the Mother Ganges.

It is Sunday evening and the team is a mixture of taking in the local music and Shivaratri preparations, sick in bed, practicing workshop choreography and singing Kirtan.

We have had such a wonderfully full first week here in Varanasi! So great to be in full swing of delivering workshops and performing outreach shows.

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With a mix of after school workshops at Asha Deep, (our longest standing PWB partner!), two shows, (one at Asha Deep and another at a tiny school with lots of pupils on the other side of town), getting to know our ways around this maze of a city and arrive into the unique rhythm of its waves, we are wide eyed and energised for a new week to come.

Chicken!

A standard day in the life of PWB India;
Pre-breakfast activity (a mixture of yoga, dreaming and walking)
Hop on bikes to Duniya Education and work with 66 young people on the ghats. I have genuinely never seen such a big circle of smiling faces.
Share lunch at Duniya.
River walk.
After-school session at Asha Deep, til sunset.
Pootle home via chai.
Lovely home cooked food.

Fire spinning workshops

So much happens each day, making time stretch and morph.

There is chai.
There is singing.
There is laughing.
There is stillness.
There is practice.
There is play.
There are bikes.

This week, my favourite moments include:
Looking over the playground to an entirely engaged team of volunteers, Emily with all the hoops in action, each being wiggled, twirled and spun by a whole range of ages, Magnus’ contact ball circles, Mark’s total commitment to making silly faces through the Iso-hoop, Lillians experimental soundscapes, Avi’s eternal energy to share skills inside, outside, right side, left side, park side and Mika’s new juggling show about time.

WHAT A CREW! It is such a joy to be sharing our practice with each other, the children and now young adults from the Nagwa community in Varanasi.

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Well – that’s about time for me.

Big up the work – teaching skills and creating space to play.

Tour-bob-co.
Chez*xx
Tour Co-ordinator


Pun-demonium in our second week in León (Now with pictures!)

February 17, 2015

Well what a rice week this has bean! Actually to be honest it’s been pretty damn hectic. We’re tortillaly knackered!

We’ve still been working our metaphorical goolies off with the kids at El Barilette but this week has consisted of a butt load of shows as well (including two at the obscene time of 8:30am!). We have been performing all over the hood from schools to dusty barrio streets and last night had our biggest show to date with a proper soundsystem! Complete with spontaneous narration for the visually impaired audience members..

So after a little recuperation on the weekend (consisting of Oihanna riding a horse we think is named Bruce, Paddy falling victim to a pick pocket on the bus and Josh using his masterful charades skills coupled with his less than masterful Spanish skills to book a room in a hostel) we were up bright and early to do our first show in a local school called SOS. We arrived to discover that the space we were performing in had.. (suspense building drum roll) shade AND a flat floor! We very quickly came to the decision not to get too used to the luxury and lo and behold a few days after that we were back on the barrio streets with dust in our mouths and all over our costumes. What can I say these are just the things we fill-thee days with here.

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The crowds we have been performing for are absolutely great, they’re supportive and really appreciate the chance to see something very out of the ordinary for them. Though personally I would have thought they were used to seeing tourists falling over and acting silly on their street.

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In Barrilette the kids are really improving especially as we’ve now worked out a rota for looking after the younger ones (munchkins) who have barrels of enthusiasm but don’t quite have the motor skills to back it up yet.

We are looking over the next week to start whittling down what skills the individual children will be performing in the show which isn’t an easy task as there tend to be skills favoured by a lot of them such as hoop and diabolo. While we’re on the subject of diabolo something I’ve personally found quite challenging is teaching diabolo with the very limited spanish I have in my arsenal. Turns out it’s a much more complex process than I’ve ever given it credit for. But what the hey, I knew it wouldn’t be easy work, and it’s worth it to be plantain the seeds of knowledge..

We have also started to touch the surface of acrobatics/acrobalance with them. Their high levels of energy and enthusiasm coupled with a massive lack of regard for personal safety make for some interesting sessions. Because of this we have been trying to stress the importance of safety and spotting which I’m sure they’ll all appreciate when they get older and lose the unparalleled elasticity children’s bones seem to have.

One of my highlights of this week has been a new game I have decided at this moment to call Punionetta. The rules are simple and are as follows:
1. Take the word camionetta
2. Make a pun out of the word camionetta
3. Justify your pun
4. Tell the closest team member and explode in fits of raucous laughter
5. Get looked at strangely by the locals

These are some of our favourites so far:
One that sells sea food – Clamionetta
One full of old people – Granionetta
Pretty much just a normal one – Cramionetta
Spiderbaits tour bus – Wham-Bam-Alamionetta
One that’s full of cheese – Camionfeta
One that stars in action movies – Jean-Claude Van Dammioneta
The one that conquered fear – Batmanionetta
No food or drink allowed on board – Ramadanioetta
Dr Zeuses personal lift – Sam-I-Amionetta

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So as you can see we’ve been using our journeys too and from the school very productively as well..

This weekend off began with breakfast outside due to the house being fumigated. It also included a SPECTACULAR fall by me off the back of a chair into the dirt. Guess you could say I rock a bit too hard.. Most of the team took a visit to the museum of legends and folklore to find out a bit more about the culture and history of Nicaragua. Including the story of an ugly woman with giant breasts who’s father tried to bribe men into marrying her..

All in all an eventful week, big up ya bad British selves, catch you on the flip flop and all others sorts of good wishy type sayings.

PWB Nica 2015

Paddy


PWB India Team – Calcutta week 2

February 10, 2015

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As we headed into our second week in Calcutta we had a packed timetable. Over the course of the week we had to teach at 6 different schools and perform 3 street shows. Each morning we convened over breakfast and discussed our workshop ideas, and then with the help of Emily in her role as curriculum officer we organised who would teach what at each session, who would assist, who would be in charge of warmups and games, and who would be time keeper.

That done, we then had to learn to navigate Calcutta’s interesting and varied public transport systems in order to at least try to get to our destinations on time. One option is the Metro, a Russian-built underground rail line that runs in a straight line, up and down the western side of the city. However, due to space restrictions, passengers on the metro are not allowed to carry anything larger than a small handbag, which for a group of people teaching hula hoops and staff (to name just two) caused a few challenges. A couple of times we managed to sweet talk the soldier/policeman dude at the gate by demonstrating all the ways in which we could save space (two people standing inside the hoops, for example) but on other occasions it seemed more sensible to not push our luck.

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Local buses would have been straightforward if we’d understood the routes that they travelled on, and they have interesting rules all of their own. Auto-rickshaws are another option, however the autos in Calcutta only move on set routes, like little buses, so you can’t just get one to where you want to go. A couple of times we managed to get 9 people (including the driver) into one very small auto. All those acro-balance skill shares really paid off when it came to keeping people from falling out into the road.

One way or another, we managed to get to work mostly on time, and then the fun began! Over the course of our only full week in Calcutta we taught workshops in self-defence, singing, hula hooping, iso-hoops, contact staff, contact juggling and ball rolling, acro-balance, tumbling, clowning, ball and scarf juggling and poi spinning. Our time was divided between working with the Hope Foundation at their various boys and girls schools, the police-run nabadisha schools and an NGO called The Children of Topsia. The kids were incredibly enthusiastic to see us, and one of the most immediate challenges was in getting them to calm down enough to have a go at what we were teaching. From the very first our teaching and attention-holding abilities were really put to the test, but once it came time for the show and tell sessions at the end of each class it was hugely gratifying to see how much the kids had taken on board.

On Sunday, after a couple of days working in Topsia, a predominantly Muslim slum area, we performed our show in the local park. People were hanging off the railings around the outside to see what we were doing! First we played some games with the kids, and some of us painted faces, then the kids performed some dramas and dances that they had worked on. Once that was done it was time for us to perform. It went extremely well, our energy and enthusiasm was really high, and we closed to tumultuous applause.

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The next day, our last day of work in Calcutta, we performed our show again, this time in the street outside the Life Skills Cafe, one of Hope Foundation’s vocational training projects. In the cafe kids who have progressed from the Hope schools can work both in the kitchen and as waitresses to give them transferable skills that will make them more employable and help them to change their situations. There was a carnival atmosphere in the street, the kids put up bunting and before long we were hemmed in by a marvellous crowd. Both the show and the following fire show went beautifully, and we finished our time in Calcutta on a really high note, surrounded by smiling faces, kids and adults alike.

Calcutta is an amazing city, and we were a little sad to be leaving it so soon, but we are all really excited about heading to Varanasi and meeting the challenges that are yet to come.

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Our Super Dooper first week in León

February 3, 2015

Our first week in León was super dooper fantastic! It’s hard to explain how exciting it has been right from day 1. The day before we left for León, we rocked our first ever show and got the opportunity of doing a taster workshop with the kids at SonFlora, a local school in Las Peñitas. On an early Friday morning we left Las Peñitas, ready to settle down in our new home for the next month which is located near the centre of the colonial city of León. The house is lovely and has a beautiful vibe, Nicaraguan style, where we have hammocks looking out over the garden and space to train and admire the incredible wildlife right on our door step. We are not impressed about the massive amount of mosquitos here….but we certainly love the singing birds, lizards, geckos and even a MASSIVE spider!! I must say, the spider was my least favourite…I’m pretty sure it was related to Spiderman…?

We are settling into the house nicely. Getting our kit ready in time to perform our first show at El Barrilete was the first of many missions to come in the week. Our warm welcome at El Barrilete was very special and full of smiles and hugs from the kids and of course they wanted to hug all of us at once! I felt a little emotional and so happy to hear the kids asking about the PWB team from last year…yes all of you guys, they haven’t forgotten about any of you. So I would like to dedicate a moment to say: “HOLA HOLA HOLA HOLA HOLA Justin, Emily, Bolsas, Aileen, Valentina and Jacob” from the kids from Barrilete, you certainly touched their hearts! After a little parade around the area to attract attention and build a crowd we started the show which the kids and locals loved!

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The weekend was a good chance to do a little more training and talk about our first couple of shows. Our first week started on Monday packed with teaching at different schools and more shows.

During Monday and Tuesday the team had to split into two groups. One group went to Las Chavaladas: a school that supports boys in difficult situations/helps them back on track. This school is a great project as it’s also part of a Mobile School (Escuela Movil) that travels to poor barrios and gives the kids the chance to learn and play. The other group worked at El Fortin: another school where we gave all the kids a chance to play and do some circus skills, needless to say it was a very special experience.

Even when the team splits between the schools there are still plenty of other missions for us to complete. The ones not teaching will be: doing weekly food shops, cooking, planning, sorting out equipment, etc….there is always something to do, that’s for sure!

Every afternoon, the whole team travel in a “camioneta” which is a small truck full of locals and are often super busy, to el Barrilete to teach. We tend to attract a little attraction walking around….imagine 7 foreigners all with matching t-shirts (of different colours) and massive props bags, I sometimes get the feeling we look like an extremely mis-matched hen/stag party. If we are lucky, we get the camioneta with really loud speakers blasting out salsa, it’s just great!! Definitely the best way to get to El Barrilete to teach the kids. This week they have been able to play and tried all the skills we have to offer including poi, juggling (balls, hats, rings), skipping rope, hula hoops, diabolo, acro balance, beat boxing and body percussion. We also did a lot of games and A LOT of dancing! They really had a great time! We also performed a show each day: one at el Barrio called Tomas Borge and Barrio Ocatunio.

Wednesday was super special too as it was our tour coordinator Oihana’s birthday, so we had some nice cakes and a few surprises ready for her. The kids from El Barrilete didn’t just sing happy birthday to her but organised an entire show! It was really quite amazing! More surprises were coming on our way home as the team had organised a piñata, which is very popular here, for her to open…she really was quite hilarious trying to hit it blindfolded.

Thursday went quickly, working in the different schools and bonding with the kids in the morning and in the afternoon.

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Friday morning was epic as the team visited León’s Cathedral and we got to do some awesome circus on the top! It was hot but very beautiful, you could see a lovely view of the city and the volcano’s around the city. A morning off goes a long way here in León as we wake up nice and early every day. So we came back in time for lunch and headed off to teach at El Barrilete.

The weekend arrived and we had some time to chill so some went back to the beach to ride horses which was very beautiful….but a little painful the next day. Other members went to visit an incredible volcano called Momotombo.

We are really enjoying the work here and despite the hot and sticky weather and plagues of mosquitos it’s an incredible experience. The week has gone so quickly and we are super happy to be part of this important work and are amazed at what we have achieved already. Thank you so much for everyone who supported me and helped me to get here!! I would say some of my favourite experiences so far are watching the kids’ faces when we do the shows (it makes me feel so happy!) making Oihana happy for her birthday and the camioneta rides!

Bring on week 2!! Let’s do it team!!

Lots of love, happiness and circus to you all,

Bea (PWB Nicaragua Team 2015)

xxxxxxx