PWB India 2015 final blog

April 19, 2015

Namaste from the India 2015 team! Namaste is also a farewell. The light in me sees the light in you, and as we complete this year’s tour we are all shedding light and gratitude for each other and reflecting on beautiful and successful projects. It’s truly amazing to think of all that has happened in the last 3 and a half months!8

Here’s a recap:

January 1st, we all made our way to Gokarna and Kudle beach to meet each other and dive in to boot camp. Our show, Yatra, came into form with some many wonderful threads of inspiration and magical syncronicities, with the message of everyone you meet on your journey is a teacher, and even yourself. The show features Tara, played by Emily, on a quest to find her magic hula hoop, and finishing with a spectacular doubles hoop routine that Mark and Emily have been perfecting. And of course a group dance routine and acro pose finalé…. And a fire show! At boot camp, we learned many theater and clown games as well as getting a taste of living with each other, not to mention all of us experienced illness in India… This would not be the last.

Then we travelled across the country by train for 35 hours to Kolkata, our new home, our first project. Working with the Hope Foundation, we taught and performed Yatra for hundreds of children’s from the slum areas of Kolkata. Notably, Lillian taught many young girls a theatrical self defense exercise, and we taught many games with props, including Mark’s ISO hoop clowning. There was so much laughter, inspiration, and joy spread through PWB. We were very grateful to experience this. At one workshop as we introduced Magnus, his name changed to Mango, and stayed thus for the remainder of the trip.

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By February we moved on to the holy city of Varanasi on the sacred Ganges River. PWB has the longest relationship to a project  here with the Asha Deep VidyaAshram.

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Our fearless leader, Chez, was very excited to reunite with some of the kids she remembered from a couple years ago, when she was a volunteer.

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We had 4 days a week after school with Asha Deep, developing more of their circus talents, in preparation for their big show on Ravidas Ghat. These kids are advanced to the point where a lot of them are performing with fire props! Poi, staff, clubs, fans, and palms. The PWB group, led by Avi with all of his fire knowledge, conducted many safety sessions in this area, and the kids eagerly focused knowing how powerful fire is.

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The PWB volunteers also taught many children at Duniya School, and they really enjoyed many of the workshops, including juggling, acro balance, clown (or joker as they say here) singing, and much more. Lillian even facilitated a community banner with the school, where almost everyone had a hand in it!

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We also shared Yatra and mini workshops with several area schools and foundations, including a space in a wonderful community garden project.

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After one month in the bustling Varanasi, the group parted ways for a one week break. Mika, Avi, and Lillian headed to Kathmandu, Nepal, where they connected to a school for orphans, and taught a one day workshop and did a mini show they created in 2 days, called Chickens Birthday. This is where the famous line, “kukra le kukra le kaane

Naa,” was born. (Chickens don’t eat chickens, in Nepali). In Darjeeling, the kids really found this hilarious!

So we all reunited in Darjeeling, India, by March 15, and with a new member of PWB, Manish, a long time circus student from Varanasi. He fit right in, and added so much to our very international group, with specialties in poi, and face balancing random objects. Darjeeling, The beautiful Himalayan tea town was colder, wetter, and a bit more shanti, peaceful, than previous locations.

We began playing and teaching with the Edith Wilkins Street Children Trust Foundation, EWSCTF. These kids come from difficult situations, as well, a lot from Nepal, or Tibet, trafficked for cheap labor. So until recent years, Child labor has been quite socially acceptable, and now there is a growing dialogue about why this is not ok. The annual child rights day in the central plaza, Chowrasta, explains statistics, and gives information using performances, by children and adults. After spending a few weeks with the EWSCTF kids, we supported them performing an incredible circus and dance show for child rights days. A few days later was foundation day, Celebrating 12 years of the EWSCTF! A home for many street children, and they provide healthful meals, and opportunities for the kids to attend school, and also learn creative arts such as music and circus!

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Our outreach in the area was also magic in the making, including a show at a convent school in Kalimpong, working a couple days at the Salvation Army school with deaf children, and a superb final Yatra for Little Paradise Academy, for the children of parents who work at a tea estate in Pashok.

In the final news of the India 2015 tour…

We adopted a street puppy for the last week! She found us on the full moon, eclipse, on April 4th so we named her Luna.

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Then, we all fell in love with her… And decided that, if they’d have her, we’ve love to donate her to the children at EWSCTF. We trotted to the foundation several times with Little Luna, and the children also fell in love with her. One boy kept saying, ” she’s my girlfriend”. They quickly renamed her Momo (this is a Nepali dumpling).

The last days have been a mixture of feeling full with joy and love for the children and the projects, and empty, as the group performed our last show together, and preparing to leave our circus family we’ve grown together. I must say, what an amazing experience to meet complete strangers and then live, travel, eat sleep, play, teach, and perform together in a vibrant and intense country such as India! This is truly a unique and life changing project, for the volunteers. For the children, it’s evident how this work/play gives them full permission to grow through play and art, and cooperation, and trust. We’ve witnessed many of these children develop skills very quickly, along with confidence. They are so hungry for this program. They love when PWB comes to town, and they express such gratitude for the teachers.

Let’s continue developing this model, of social circus that serves to empower children, adults and their communities. It is a reason to come together to play, create, and perform this then for all to be inspired. PWB is moving towards a sustainable program as the local circus students are stepping up to become teachers in their own communities. Manish has been in training with us, learning what it’s like to be a teacher, a performer, a team member, and so much more. He holds a lot of knowledge and motivation to get a year round project going in Varanasi.

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This is the model, that eventually PWB will not need to keep going back because the local circus youth will take the reigns. Giddy up! Performers without borders will live on in many ways!

I’d like to close with a quote. From Lilli, “When I think of India, I will think of little children holding hands in front of their hearts and saying namaste, cows sleeping outside of temples, mamas who beg for milk for their babies, sadhus wandering the streets, the business man taking his shoes off and touching his forehead against a street side altar to honor Durga, the smell of poop, incense, and samosas, all at once, a wedding followed by relatives carrying their dead loved one down the streets of Varanasi… I think that the spirit in everything is acknowledged here.”

From Mika, “When I think of India, I will think of the beautiful smiles and laughter of children and adults… as well as looks of bewilderment.”

And from Mark. “When I think of India, I will think of… The toilet.”

Much love from India to all of you around the world! Thanks for being a part of a very successful PWB tour India 2015!

Namaste.

Mika


PWB to Darjeeling.

April 15, 2015

Hi, I am Manish Ram from Varanasi.

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I first learnt circus when pwb came to my school Asha Deep Vidhyashram 8 years ago. I was really happy to learn the different skills they had and it was interesting for me……. I didn’t know that I could be a member of the project also and teach circus with them until I came to Darjeeling. This is my second trip with PWB as a teacher. I have a really good feeling living and playing with them and teaching together. I felt this is the best thing i ever had. I am here like a teacher but the childrens are like my teacher

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I have learnt many important things from the Edith Wilkins foundation children. They are really gentle and friendly here. They want to learn all the time. Darjeeling is the best place to learn circus, the nature is so beautiful and true. This makes me want to come again because the environment is so clear and feels really different.
With the team I get to perform in different schools and NGO’s. This is the best part of the Darjeeling trip. PWB group is like family for me. They acepted me like little brother. Men are like a sweet brother and women like pretty sister.We dance together and make food and eat together. I like being around them. I give thanks to Jonny, my old teacher who gave me the oportunity to join the PWB team. I hope I will meet him again. PWB is a great organisation, it has good ideas and is good for the world.

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Now, what I am learning here in Darjeeling with the team I will bring back to the Varanasi and change some lives. I have gained a lot of confidence coming up here and being in the nature makes me think positively. I have got the idea of what PWB is doing, why it is helping the children and what the goal is behind this ogranisation.
We finished the Darjeeling program with our Yatra show by doing it in the Chow Rasta pubic square – it was really interesting. This one month of Dajeeling program was really amazing and full of adventures. I learn alot during this trip. Now I will go back to Varanasi and see what is the best way to teach circus or learn circus. My little brother Sagar is the manager of the Happy Talent Group in Varanasi, a group that teaches circus to children that spends alot of time working in their homes, working for money and not attending school.
I came to Darjeeling to get more experience to share with the children. I am so happy that I came here to learn. Now I have more to do in Varanasi and can bring more circus. Once again thank you PWB for letting me teach in Darjeeling. I hope I will came back to Darjeeling next year.

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Thank you.
Manish Ram.


What a tour it’s been

April 11, 2015

During my time on this PWB tour I have: had my hair cut twice, moved location 5 times, left the house on time once, got frustrated about leaving the house late over 100 times and enjoyed every one of the 98 days I have spent in Nicaragua. As we round off the last week of this tour the team are all extremely sad to be saying goodbye to each other, the country and the people we have been working with in Granada.

True, there are some things I won’t miss about Nicaragua, it’ll be nice to have running water and electricity working consistently, I’m looking forward to being able to sleep in a bed rather than a hammock and I’m really excited about food that isn’t fried and salted to within an inch of it’s life. However, for every reason to want to be at home there are many more reasons to want to stay here.

DCIM104GOPROTo be fair hammock sleeping hasn’t been all bad….

We have now performed our show over 30 times, to crowds ranging from 20 – 800 people, and I have thoroughly enjoyed each and every one of them, even if the use of “Killer Queen” in our acro means I now instinctively start to do a cartwheel when I hear the intro! We’ve consistently added to and improved our show and looking at the video of our first show is a reminder of how far we’ve come. The club passing routine is probably the biggest improver, since we only had 10 days in January to go from meeting each other to having a stage-ready show there wasn’t much time to practice any of the routines as much as we would like. No matter, you can get away with a hoop routine where the performers aren’t perfectly in time but with club passing is much harder since you’re throwing the props at each other! Thankfully it didn’t take long before the tricks were solid, transitions slick and improvements were being made.

IMG_3866Club passing in practice.

Teaching the workshops has been an experience like no other. We have worked extremely well as a team to provide workshops on so many aspects of circus and performance, on everything from clowning to acro. Undeniably there have been hard days. Days when my Spanish has been simply not good enough to explain an intricate part of a back somersault. And days when we’ve arrived to find no kids to teach because water supplies at the orphanage have run out. But collectively we have engaged our admittedly limited brains and helped the kids produce a brilliant show at each of the locations we have been working.

DCIM125GOPROPaddy getting exited during our first ever workshop!

We have also taught each other loads, after a few painful hours I can now crack a whip thanks to Karen’s teaching, I have seen Emer and Graham develop a love for hat manipulation thanks to Paddy. And, Oihana and Bea have improved their passing heaps.

For me the single best thing about this country, and what has made this tour such an incredible experience, is the people. I have made 6 new friends for life going by the names Oihana, Paddy, Karen, Bea, Emer and Graham. As a team we have met circus performers not only from all around Nicaragua, or even Central America, but from around the world. Just one example of this is when one day we were sitting waiting for a bus and from across the street we saw a guy wearing a shirt from a juggling convention in Germany! We shouted him over and the conversation went something like this:

PWB: “Hey you’re circus! Us too, come see our show tomorrow?”

Him: “Thanks that would be great!”

Then our bus came and we left.

But we did see him again, armed with only the fact we were called Performers Without Borders he had researched where we were teaching and came along to see us teach a workshop and perform a show the next day!

We have met performers from all corners of the world, but our collective favourites have been the Nicaraguans. A key part of the PWB ethos is to make itself obsolete, that is PWB believes in setting up systems for locals to teach like we do when we’re not on tour. The aim is to “teach the teachers” and eventually PWB is no longer necessary in that place. Because of this we have got to know a groups of performers from Nicaragua very well since they will be continuing to teach after we leave.

DCIM133GOPROThe fantastic performers from El Nido de las Artes teaching a workshop.

Since it’s the end of the tour and we’ve all been getting sentimental I’ve asked each of the team about their favorite day / aspect of the tour. Here’s what we all said:

Oihana: Mmmm… having the team plotting very secretively to make me an amazing birthday day left me in tears of happiness and the horseback ride on the beach during the sunset made me feel free and wild and almost fly (literally). I have some special moments printed on my heart with the kids too, their smiles and cheekyness, being able to understand them made the experience even greater. Oh! And all the rides on packed buses dancing and discovering the popular music, the freedom, the wind and the beautiful scenery that we had while riding on open trucks, the massive fun inside the tiny rickshaws and taxis… All the dances, and more dance and did I mention dance! And my first day swimming (or fighting with the epic waves, I would say…) in the Pacific ocean was soooo nice! And my first time swimming on the lake in Ometepe island… and the other day that we went to the beach with the Nicaraguan performers and today after the show when we went to the lagoon.

Paddy: One of my favorite moments on tour was one Saturday morning in Leon when the house was being fumigated and we had to eat breakfast outside. The night before I may have been salsa-ing a little too hard and went to curl up in my chair to feel sorry for myself, forgetting it was a rocking chair. I hit the dirt (which there was a lot of) in quite a serious way and lots of laughter ensued.

Karen: The first big group show we did in Leon with the “zanquistas” stilt walkers, the guys from El Nido de las Artes and us. We did a big parade down to the cathedral and got to see the skills these other performers had, we also had a giant crowd! Other favorite moments were (almost) crowd surfing on a bunch of school kids, who then made us sign autographs for over 30 minutes after a show in Managua. I also really enjoyed the first big trek we went on with the kids from Barrilette to the Barrio 30 minutes away. There was about 25 kids including 10 or so under 5, and us hiking through a rubbish dump, up a hill and into a really poor barrio built on top of an old dump, the view from the hill was amazing and the kids chatted to us in Spanish the whole way there. The fact NONE of them even slightly complained about the walked really impressed me.

Bea: I must say that it’s hard to choose as there have been so many special moments during this time in Nicaragua. Definitely, the winner for me, is the laughter and happiness that we see from the kids when we do our show! It’s just so great and I hoop we inspired them and taught them real tricks for life. What makes it more special here, is that these kids don’t really get to see circus shows much as they come from difficult backgrounds and I would like to think that we have made a little space in their hearts. We have come across to some really talented kids and it has been really hard to say goodbye to all of them.

Graham: We’ve performed in some great and strange locations during this trip, including in the middle of dirt roads, but one of my favorite places was the school playground made entirely of dust. With every step or jump a dust cloud blew up, which stuck to our sweat, so by the end we were all totally filthy. In most of the shows at schools the audience gave fantastic reactions to us, normally roaring/squealing with laughter, often rushing onto the stage with us as soon as we finished, and once we even spent about half an hour afterwards signing autographs. Many of my favorite experiences of the tour weren’t to do with the teaching or performing though, such as sitting on the beach at night wearing shorts and a vest in January, while Paddy gave us a little concert on his ukulele.

Emer: Los Quinchos for me was the most touching project, but my favorite moment, that was their final show. It really made me so proud of them, especially the little boys juggling routine. Getting 8 – 10 year old boys to focus on choreography is difficult but they were amazingly enthusiastic and worked well together in practice and on stage, it was beautiful. The whole day was amazing though, the team worked so hard all week and we were exhausted, but after final practice sessions costumed up and painted faces. There are so many talented kids at Los Quinchos and they really love circus. It was the whole months work and effort in one spectacular presentation The goodbyes left us all tearful, I miss those kiddies but am pleased to have an influence on them. Mission accomplished.

Me (Josh): The first day in Leon was one I loved. We had just finished a productive week at bootcamp and were all a bit sad to be saying goodbye to the beach. Fortunately, we arrived to an amazing house, set in a quiet, shady courtyard with a really nice family feel. After a quick lunch at the house we were had our first experience of the camionetas, which was extremely exciting. We then performed our show and walked back home through the enter of Leon in full costume. Overall it was a day full of new things: it was one one the first times we performed our show, we got to discover the gorgeous city of Leon, see where we would be staying for the next month and ride the camionetas for the first time. Overall it set the tone for an exciting month in Leon, my favorite place in Nicaragua.

Thanks Nicaragua, it’s been great.

Josh,

Team Nica 2015


Round and round first week back in Granada

April 8, 2015

After a sad goodbye to the kids from Los Quinchos, the team headed to
Managua to extend their visas at the department of immigration.  As
with all things in Nicaragua, the system was a bit crazy. We got told
off for not being in the correct line, even though there was no line,
we could buy donuts, ice cream and pizza inside the building while
waiting and we got to experience Nicaraguan ingenuity when we had to
get our paperwork photocopied on the street- on a photocopier on
wheels.

Luckily we had Diego from the Escuela to help us with the confusing process!
Our tour has come full circle as many of the team started their time
in Nicaragua at the festival El Berrinche Ambiental at the “Casa de las
Botelitas”

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Our first big group meal at the casa was middle eastern themed, with
delicious hummus, home made falafel and pita bread!

We shared the week with visiting circus artists from el Collectivo el
Nido de las Artes, Los Quinchos, la Escuela de la Commedia y el Mimo
de Granada  and a silks artist called Sarah from the USA.

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This week was “Semana Santa” in Nicaragua (Easter week) so the local
kids from the barrio didn’t have school and came to circus workshops
every morning at the casa. We taught them diabolo, acrobatics, magic,
poi,hoops and juggling with the visiting artists.
We also made juggling balls with the local kids to take home.

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It was nice later in the week to walk down the street and have the
kids yell out our names and say hi to us.

Part of this week was to make combined shows to fundraise for the
school. We did 3 shows in Granada outside la Casa de los Tres Mundos
and 1 show at the casa where we are staying.

Trying to organize the 7 members of PWB is hard at the best of times,
so trying to coordinate 15 artists to make new acts was crazy but fun!
Our 2 largest group acts were club passing and acrobatics. Bea and
Oihana were stoked to be able to fly in giant pyramids.
Thanks to Rafa and Cesar for being the big bosses and organizing the
choreography for the acts.

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We improvised a few combined acts, including Paddy, Cesar, Levi and
Cesar doing hats and Enrique joining Karen, Poppy and Bea in the hula
routine.

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The youngest performer of the group was 13 and really focused. When
the guys from Los Quinchos (Axel, Miguel, Elliot y Lazaro) joined us
for 2 days they jumped into the ever expanding acro act.

On Friday the whole team crammed into the school bus (30 people!) And
went to the beach in Popoyo for the day before a show at ‘Rancho
Relaxo’ in the afternoon.
Seeing a giant group of jugglers in swimmers (bathers), a couple of
eskies (coolbox), and some beach soccer was pretty rad. And we all got
sunburnt.

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Saturday night we held a birthday party for Karen with pinatas, a
specially-made playlist (thanks Paddy!), swing dancing class and a
unique Nicaraguan celebration entitled ‘make Karen into a cake’ it
involved cracking eggs onto her head and then throwing flour and drink
at her. At least her hair is nicely conditioned now!

(Karen says) Thanks to all the team for making my birthday so special
and having extra new friends to celebrate with me!

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We are nearly at the end of tour and tears are starting to well up, we
are excited to have a few more shows and days together, but we’re
really going to miss everyone we’ve had the pleasure of meeting here.
We’ve only got one lot of donations left and then we can pack up the
empty bag to bring back for next years tour.

Dame los cinco perrita! Muchas gracias a todos!

Karen, Bea and Oihana

Nicaragua 2015


We are now in Darjeeling!!!

April 2, 2015

After taking a week break we came to Darjeeling fully recharged and excited to get back into our work. On our time off, some of us went into Nepal and put on a show for a school there, one went back to Kolkata to visit friends and the rest went straight to Darjeeling to climatise to the icy cold weather.

Our break was the first time we had split up as a group since meeting each other at Boot Camp, so we were happy to reunite once again. In addition we now have an 8th member, Manish, a graduate of Asha Deep in Varanasi. He has come to help us teach, perform, and learn teaching techniques to take back home to Varanasi._DSF4656

To get to Darjeeling, it was around a 15 hour train ride and then we had to spend 3 hours in a jeep to get up into the windy mountains. The last two months we have spent in polluted cities, so it is great to be breathing fresh air up here.

We went and met our main partner Edith Wilkens Street Children Trust Foundation, they gave us an in depth presentation about the work they are doing with the children and the problems of human trafficking, child labour and the alcoholism that happens here. Darjeeling is very close to the border of Nepal and is a main gateway for child trafficking that is still happening.workshops

We spent our first day of workshops at Edith Wilkens Street Children Foundation, playing games and getting to know the kids. Maybe its the mountain air, but the kids here are very shanti (shanti meaning calm and clear). They are all so polite and well mannered but still know how to have fun. There seems to be an exceptional amount of interest with the kids wanting to learn juggling, daiblo, hoops, clowning, contact staff and poi. Our Schedule is morning and afternoon sessions with Edith Wilkens 4 days a week, and 1 or 2 days a week for outreach work.

Mid week we found a nice park nearby to practice for our show coming up and the park had green grass!!!!! It had been a long time since we had seen lush green grass

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At the end of the week we had our first show in Darjeeling. The show had changed a lot since Varanasi. We had incorporated Manish into many of the scenes and had a new clown act introducing ‘Uncle Biscuit’.

The kids had a blast, cheering and clapping along with the show and it was great to be able to introduce the kids to some fresh inspiration.

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Now they are hungrier than ever to learn and explore more and we are just as excited.