Huevos Nuevos

January 31, 2018

This week we continued our work with the kids at Ninos Del Fortin & Las Chavaladas. These are the two organisations we work with regularly here in Leon. This week we started introducing performance workshops in addition to our regular games and props lessons. We are preparing the kids for a show they will put on for the public in two weeks at the end of our project in Leon. Some of the kids have done a show before with previous PWB tours. In fact, about seven boys from the Chavaladas already had a hula hoop routine they had been working on since the last tour had visited. On Wednesday after a group warm up and some games, we encouraged the boys to show us what they had made.

“Sin musica?”, Mariano responded.

We had asked them to perform without music, as we hadn’t brought our speakers to the session. Apparently the idea of performing without music was not the ideal conditions they would have preferred. The most exuberant member of their team, Mariano, was aghast we expected them to perform without music, but quickly rallied his troops to respond to him as he called out the counts in lieu of music.

What followed was a genuinely impressive five minute hula hoop routine that displayed commitment, passion, collaboration, and pride in their work. It was clear they had learned a lot from volunteers who had been here before, and had built upon that knowledge to find their own unique voice and creativity with the props that have been left for them.

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The Chavaladas boys showing PWB their hoop routine

In both groups, it can be hard to rally attention. Some kids here view recreational activities as a waste of time because their families might expect them to be working or spending their time picking through trash to find and sell recyclables. The age and gender gap between some of the kids can be challenging as well. It’s a super macho culture here, or has been for a long time. There are signs of that changing everywhere, but for some girls being around boys ( who are considered men at age 10 here) can be overwhelming and they shy away from participating. For older kids, joining in activities with younger kids isn’t always a vibe that excites them and they might end up sitting out. Our team has regular meetings on how to address these variables, and has been doing a pretty good job of figuring out how to engage as many kids as possible and keep activities interesting and approachable for the kids.

After our session with the Chavs, the team went out with the Escuela Movil, a mobile school cart that travels to various places in Leon offering impromptu educational experiences for kids. The Escuela Movil (which always sounds like Cruella Deville in my head and inevitably triggers a humming of the catchy jingle) is an awesome resource here in Leon. Volunteers roll out the cart to parks and barrios around the city. It has boards that roll out of the central unit, each with lessons in math, science, grammar, and other subjects. Each board has large sections of chalkboard with a supply of chalk for the kids to participate in the lessons.

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Escuela Movil session @ Parque Central

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Escuela Movil session @ Parque Central

On Thursday we split the team after our morning workshops at Ninos Del Fortin. Sara and I went out with the Escuela Movil to a quiet neighbourhood where a few kids regularly show up to participate in the mobil cart activities. We brought some hoops and dragnstaffs, and spent a relaxed afternoon sharing some skills with the neighbourhood kids. The rest of the team did a show and play session at another location in Leon. Divide and conquer, as they say. The team changed up the show to make it work without us, and totally rocked it out.

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Image from show at Rpto. Hamburgo

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Image from show at Rpto. Hamburgo

Later that night, the whole team was treated to dinner by Chris and Maggie Thorburn, parents of Rob Thorburn. Rob was the pioneer who led the first PWB Nicaragua tour in 2013, and his parents just happened to be in town and wanted to take us out. They were so sweet, and shared stories with us about how they began doing outreach work here in Leon and which organisations they work with. It was a much appreciated night of new friends for the team, and our tummies rejoiced in a night that wasn’t comprised of our standard rice and beans dinner.

Friday we did more work with the Chavs in the morning, and at night had an amazing skill share with a local group of salsa dancing stilt walkers, Los Zanquistas. They led our group in a salsa dancing warm which had us all sweating and smiling profusely within minutes. We then got into pairs and were taught some standard salsa dancing moves.

“Adelante. Atras. Lado a lado. Enchufay”

The instructor walked us through a series of moves that had us feeling like the coolest kids on the block. We switched partners every time we learned a new step to keep things fresh, and ended up dancing with everyone by the end of the lesson. After about an hour of dance, we switched roles and the students became the teachers. Their group was excited for us to share theater games, as well as teach them new tricks with juggling and hula hoops. We went well over the allotted hour we had scheduled, and only stopped when our team realised we had drunk all of our water and needed desperately to rehydrate. Reluctantly we wrapped up our lessons and headed home.

The next morning we got up early to discuss our coming weekend of madness. Our team was heading to Salines Grandes to put on a show with some local kiddos. We had a total of four hours to work with a group ofkids we found hanging out in the streets, and put on a show with a theme about saving turtles and protecting turtle eggs. There is a big problem here with people eating turtle eggs, and our team was charged with the mission of putting on a show with these kids promoting appreciation of turtles and ocean life. We decided to call the show “Huevos Nuevos”, or “New Eggs”. It was chaos. It was beautiful. It was a huge success.

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Bus stop at Salines Grandes

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Turtle Show @ Salines Grandes. Mama turtle proudly standing over her eggs

Holy cow. What a week. Stay tuned for more excitement… For now, that’s all folks! -Ivy

** All photos in this blog were taken by Leo Astorga.

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Sarakasi, Hospital and Prison in Nairobi

January 30, 2018

January  22  – 28, 2018

P erformance and teaching skills in workshops at Sarakasi.

W hat a vibe in the morning with the Amani Lazima dance group in the township Pumwani!

B oom! The fire workshop with safety instructions, dipping station and fire spinning was the bomb for  the young adults. All of them participated and had lots of fun!

K imati maximum security prison was a tough experience this week! Some of these guys are already in there for 20 years. Some of them are innocent or in for petty crime, but due to lack of funds to pay for a lawyer they are stuck serving long sentences. The workshop we did with them was a very emotional but also enriching experience.

E nthusiasm and energy is what drives us to give our all to every project and it is given back to us at the same time!

N o smile and laughter will last more in our memories than the ones from the children in Kenyatta hospital. We performed, danced, hugged and played again with these vulnerable young souls and drew some nice pictures with them. Thanks to the team of Smiles for Change!

Y MCA primary school kids (150) loved our show. Great to inspire kids at that young age!

A gain a Saturday with the kids program at Sarakasi. We played a lot of games, learned songs and games of their culture and made them perform little snippets of their new learned skills!

written by Julia Schmitz, Germany


Welcome to Nairobi!

January 25, 2018

Bootcamp is over and we have to leave the wonderful Diani Beach. However, our next adventure is waiting for us in Nairobi!

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Bootcamp: Preparation for the show

The first week was packed with three outreach projects: The Sarakasi Circus Trust, Smiles 4 Change and Amani Lazima.

On Monday we took the train from Mombasa to Nairobi. It is a new train (just opened in June 2017) that takes you to Nairobi in just 5 hours instead of the previous 12. The train crosses through the Tsavo National Park and from our widows we could see elephants, giraffes, and zebras! The whole team was very excited about this!

We arrived quite exhausted from carrying all the gear around Nairobi, but we were so happy when we saw our great Airbnb apartment which will be our home for the next 4 weeks. It is equipped with a big living room, fresh water showers and a washing machine!

After having a day to sort out all the communications for the upcoming projects, figuring out how to get around and where to get food, we started on Wednesday working with Sarakasi. Sarakasi means ‘circus’ in Swahili. Sarakasi works with young adults (18 – 28 years old) from low income backgrounds and neighborhoods, by expanding their capacities through circus performance, music and dance. Their aim is a high level of professionalism, life skills and a sustainable income.

We were amazed by their high level of acrobatic skills, the speed in which they jump into their three person high pyramids, and how most of the time they train without mats. We were completely soaked in their energy and found ourselves jumping right into a two high and coming down with a flip!

They were all so kind and eager to learn what we offered in our workshops: Staff spinning, juggling with tennis balls and the can, poi and aerials.

 

The next day we were invited to a performance of the ‘Amani Lazima’ group (Peace is a must) which is a 4 month program that empowers adults who come from a poor or criminal background to change their lives through acrobatics and dance.

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We integrated pieces of our show at the end of this motivational day (including keynote speakers who talked about personal growth, health and insurance). Later on the group showed us around the biggest matumba (second hand market) in Nairobi.

Friday was the most impactful outreach project of our tour so far and also the most touching experience. We accompanied the the comedians of Smiles for Change to the children’s ward at Kenyatta Hospital. In the morning we danced, juggled, paraded and played with the young kids who’s ages ranged from 3-9 years old. It was heartwarming to see all of their smiles even though they are suffering from tumors or cancer. The clowns of Smiles for Change made us and the kids laugh with a wonderful puppet show.

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In the afternoon we went to the burn unit. The children’s stories about the accidents that got them there and also the sight of their little bodies wrapped in bandages was tough. However, we were overjoyed to be able to spend time with them and give them our love, which was always rewarded with a smile. Sometimes our feelings were not easy to handle, though it made us think of our manifesto: We are here for the children.

 

On Saturday we played games and gave workshops to a group of children at the Sarakasi dome and performed our show for them. The kids and the team all had a great time!

 

Sunday: First day off! We headed of to the Giraffe center and the elephant orphanage.

Have you ever kissed a giraffe???

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Julia Schmitz, Germany


Beans. Beans. Beans.

January 22, 2018

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WOWOWOWOW!

 

We’re in León!

Workshops and shows are goinnngg downnn!

…Along with many fried bananas, kilos of beans, funny tasting frescos and gallons of water.

Here are some things that have come up in my manic little head over the last week of mania.

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Plantain. Plantain. Plantain. I’ve got to know plantain better than I thought I would ever get to know anything. They are basically first cousins of bananas and could maybe pass as an identical twin. These guys are fried, grilled, boiled, bbqed and cooked in every other way possible. Sooo, there are two super common types of plantain – platanos and maduros. Platanos are a little green and a little hard and usually end up crispy and fried. You can use them to scoop out your beans or buy them flavoured with chilli and lime. Maduros are a little softer and can sometimes be a little black. These little guys are my fave. When they are fried, they end up a little bit soggy and sloppy and are what you want on the side of every plate of gallo pinto (rice and beans).

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QUE ONDA!? To be completely honest, I’m not really sure what this means in English but I basically feel like the coolest person in the world every time I attempt to say it in my funny little mix of an Irish and attempted Spanish accent. There is a kind of literal translation which I’ve been told means “what’s the vibe?” but I’m guessing it’s like our “what’s up”, but maybe a bit cooler. Sometimes I tip my head up a little bit when I say it and act like I’m so totally used to saying it and maybe sometimes I get away with it. Usually, I get either a confused face, a blank look or if I’m really lucky, a few little giggles. Either way, it’s fun and I feel like a badass Spanish speaker who is down with the kids and knows all the Spanish lingo. The reality of it is irrelevant.

On the way back from the Barrio the other day, I began thinking about a word or a phrase to describe the children that we are working with on this project. During my fundraising, I had used the phrase “disadvantaged” for most of my little writeups, but without thinking about the definition of this word or what this word means to me. We had just finished an amazing show and parade in the dustiest place on earth (may or may not be exaggerated) with an amazing group of kids with an unbelievable amount of energy. I suddenly didn’t feel comfortable calling these children disadvantaged any more. They were hardcore and didn’t spend their time whining about the dust getting in their eyes. They were up for the banter, full of mischief and were all so ready to rumble. This perspective sparked a question: what about some kids in the UK that spend all of their time in front of an iPad and don’t get to spend good quality time with friends and family? Are they disadvantaged? The word disadvantaged depends completely on what you see as disadvantages, which sounds kind of simple now that I’ve written it.

The next day we went to the dump. We saw lots of people working and sorting there. We were told that a lot of children work there for quite a lot of hours for very few cordobas. They were born into this trade and probably didn’t wish on their seventh birthday as they blew out their candles to work at the dump. Maybe they aren’t waking up in the morning thinking about how27049017_10210925923690956_381434677_o.jpg much they are dreading going to the dump and breathing in filthy air while sorting through bags and bags of things you no longer want near your house. But also the thought of doing something else may not even cross their mind, never mind being presented with this opportunity.

A lot of the kids from Niños del Fortín have spent a lot of time working at these dumps. We’re doing sessions with this group twice a week. This organisation encourages them and their parents to choose a different option and focus for the kids by heading out to the dumps to have a chat with some kids and through this, get in contact with their parents. After learning more about the dump and the kids that we work with, I realised that my definition of disadvantaged comes from opportunities. Not only opportunities that the person has within their grasp with a little bit of hard work, but also the opportunities that they are aware of in their life. Maybe a kid that works at the dump every day isn’t super sad but also doesn’t have an amazing amount of stoke on life. Then, when they get presented with amazing opportunities like getting to hang out in Niños del Fortín, they realise how much stoke they have in life and maybeeee even start thinking of possibilities of awesome things they want and can achieve in the future!

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I’m insanely happy to be involved in a possible chain of possibilities.

 

Right. It’s late and I’ve rambled for long enough.

Did I mention beans?

Besos, Darine xx

 

 

Pictures

  1. The team after a show at with our amazing driver, Edwing
  2. Kit with a plantain smile
  3. Darine “Que onda!”-ing
  4. Circle games in Barrio Tomas Jorge
  5. Helen, Sara and Alexandro smashing out a thigh stand in Las Chavaladas

Jambo! Kenya Team 2018!

January 22, 2018

Hakuna Matata!
Greetings from Kenya! And yes… they ACTUALLY say “hakuna matata” here and it does mean “No Worries”!!

Our team of 6 volunteer circus performers from around the world has assembled and completed bootcamp! We all met together for the first time in Diani Beach, Kenya on January 5th.

bootcamp teamAnother common saying (especially on the beaches) is polepole which means “slowly”… but we were more “haraka haraka” (fast) and got straight to work bonding, sharing teaching strategies, and creating a our MAGICAL CIRCUS SHOWCASE!

We will be touring through Kenya volunteering to bring circus arts to children until March 11th and we couldn’t be more excited! This enthusiasm carried with us throughout PWB “bootcamp” for the first ten days.

 
The team consists of:
Rachel Butler – Australia – Tour Coordinator (Kenya Expert and Partner Organization Organizer)
Jamie Mulligan-Smith – USA – Tour Coordinator (PWB Tour Expert, Financial Organizer, and Record Keeper)
Enrico “SolRiso” – USA – Volunteer and Stick Expert
Ariana Madappa – USA – Volunteer and Poi, Juggle, Acro, Stick Multi-Talent
Julia Schmitz – Germany – Volunteer and Juggle Pro / Children Facilitator
Tyler “Spades” – USA – Tour Coordinator (PWB Tour Expert, Media Guru and Partner Organization Organizer)

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We each bring unique and valuable skills to this tour that we shared and discovered on the beautiful beaches of Southern Kenya. We worked long hours every day for over a week in the tropical heat to play games, share ideas, eat amazing local seafood, create new and amazing circus acts, and explore how we could be most successful as a team. Many of us are very experienced with fire performance and enthusiastically shared our passion for fire arts in the evenings with each other and anyone happening by on the beach.

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ninja reflection

Diani Beach provided a stunning backdrop for our laughter, innovative thoughts, and sweaty work. The area is full of lively monkeys during the day that constantly try to take your food (and they DID by sneaking into our kitchen whenever anyone left the door open for a moment on many occasions!) and adventurous crabs covering the beach at night. Many of us started and ended our days with a refreshing dip in the Indian Ocean, which kept us vitalized. The white sand of the beach seemed to stretch onward forever and reflected the sunlight blindingly during the day, so we often took cover in the shade of tropical trees.  This stretch of beach is also globally known for its prime kiteboarding conditions and it was a treat to watch participants sale over the waves every windy afternoon.

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After several group discussions we decided to theme our show around ADVENTURE and going on a magical quest. Each team member embodied a different character that aided in the journey of our protagonist (Jamie) finding true happiness with the help of many new friends.

Julie plays a market vendor with a magical map

Ariana plays a seafaring captain with a spirit for adventure

Rachel plays a beach oracle (as well as a transitional acrobatic thunder storm!)

Enrico plays a jungle catalyst (as well as the base for the thunder transition)

And Spades (me) got to play the role of the magician that initiates our protagonist’s quest and checks in on her periodically throughout the journey while also controlling most of the sound for the show!

All together we create a whirlwind of magic, adventure, talent, and surprises leading to a very happy ending.

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Our hard work was validated when we brought the show to over 200 children at Mekaela School and performed our saga followed by a thrilling fire show to thunderous applause! Check out the VIDEO to see for yourself!

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Since bootcamp we have traveled to the BIG CITY of Nairobi and have been doing outreach work here, but that story is for our NEXT blog!! Stay tuned!

Written by Tyler “Spades”


India Boot Camp 2018 ~ be aware of your own abilities.

January 21, 2018

The start of our journey in India and the journey from within ~ Be aware of your own abilities.

I can’t believe the first chapter of our India tour is over.
I am currently sitting and writing this on the train to Ahmedabad, reflecting on time in Gokarna and our introduction to the PWB India tour.
In some respects it has gone so quickly, in others it has felt like a lifetime. I have already learnt so much and made lifelong friends. It is crazy to think we have only known each other for ten days.
I feel so close to each and every member of the team.

On the fourth of January I was sat eagerly waiting for my flight to Goa. I was unbelievably excited my dreams of facilitating workshops in India had come true. I was about to meet a group of talented and beautiful people. But an ongoing fear that I was not as talented as them was eating away at my excitement. I started my scrap book with a drawing of the team’s journey to meet each other. Each member playing with their specialist prop along their journey.
Xander, swinging his rope dart on the plane from the USA.
Daniel, a juggling clown with hula hooping Sophie on the train from Mumbai.
Jules flying with her staffs from London.
Livi and Kiera waiting for us to arrive in Goa with their hula hoops.

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I drew myself last, what was my speciality?
Eventually, I drew myself with my theatrical clock I use for interactive performances. I drew my poi second. My clock wasn’t with me nor was it a circus prop. This drawing helped me to value the skills that I am arriving with that aren’t explicitly related to circus. I have since realised that valuing our skills and being confident in our abilities was a shared learning curve among the team in Gokarna.

Boot Camp was a time for us all to get to know each other. We spent the evenings sat in beach restaurants eating curry and drinking fresh juice. During this time we started to talk about how surprised we were to be accepted on to the team and how we weren’t expecting to get on. It was nice to share this experience of excitement with the team. We talked about how we were trying to guess what each other would be like through their social media presence.
We had all read about the wonderful projects and performances each and every member of the team have been involved with in the past. This left us with a personal fear that we were going to be the “weakest link”.
Once we shared this feeling with each other it was evident that each and everyone of us had strengths and abilities that cannot be compared to anybody else. We all have our own performance styles and personalities that are a valued asset to the team.

I asked each member of the team to speak about the others abilities:

Kiera- “You are an incredible teacher and carer. A mother of the group with a positive strength that I look up to”. Said by Poppy).
Xander- “Always has something to offer and share. There are so many different parts to your personality that is blooming with positive energy”. (Said by Kiera).
Sophie- “I have met many hooper’s in my life but no one with the stage charisma that you have”. (Said by Xander).
Livi- “I feel really honoured to be here next to you doing this beautiful thing that we are all doing. Thank you for pulling us all together and making this happen”. (Said by Sophie).
Daniel- “I am really impressed with the way you handle stuff that’s completely new to you. That’s really blown me away”. (Said by Livi).
Jules- “You got me excited about everything all over again. The stuff that your bringing and you can teach is awesome and unique.” (Said by Daniel).
Poppy- “You radiate sunshine every second even when your vomiting out of a car window you still come back with a smile on your face”. (Said by Jules).

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It was clear from this exercise that each and every one of us have unique abilities that are valued by others. We are here because we believe that through performance children can grow in confidence.
Through play they can discover their own abilities.

You too have abilities that are valued by others.
It is this strength that brings happiness and joy to those around you.

Be aware of this strength and its ability to change the world.


Team Nicaragua Boot Camp!

January 18, 2018

Hello everyone, and welcome to the 2018 PWB Nicaragua Team Blog!

We’ve been in Nicaragua almost two weeks now and the project is off to a flying start. Let me introduce you to the team:

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Pictured above from top left to bottom: Will B (Master of dance parties and lover of acro juggles), Jacob (Team Nica coordinator and acro juggler extraordinare), Kit (AKA Leo off stage and a primo clown contact juggler), Helly Hoops (AKA Helen off stage and a lover of circular objects and silly walks), Darine (Magnificent maestro of games and movement), Ivy (Strong woman and spins dragon staff like a clown BOSS), and Sara (Non stop club juggler and other strong woman)!

As the group arrived in Managua at the start of January, we were graciously hosted by a friend and supporter of the PWB Nica Project for a couple of nights as everyone arrived at different times over a couple of days. On the evening of the 3rd we loaded up a minibus with all our kit and travelled 30km to Leon for an overnight pit stop to do some grocery shopping and pick up last minute essentials before heading out to a more remote location for boot camp.  We travelled in the same minibus on the following afternoon to ‘Rigo’s Guesthouse’ on the Pacific coast in Las Penitas to be welcomed by a glorious sunset and a relaxing swim in the somewhat turbulent and powerful waters of the open ocean!

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Pictured above: Darine and Jake post epic sunset swim!

Over the couple of nights before arriving at boot camp, the group seemed to be bonding well and forging strong relationships despite only having met once or twice over Skype dates before arrival. Upon arriving it was clear that everyone seemed quite comfortable sharing dorms and communicating openly and honestly about everything in our day to day lives, as well as our own lives back home on different corners of the planet!

After dinner on the first night we drew up a schedule for the following week that blocked out our time in order to address our primary objectives, which were; practice and learn about each others teaching styles; develop and workshop show ideas and create the show; learn and practice Spanish; and cooking rotations. Here is what our typical day looked like:

9:00 – 10:00 Morning warm-up and games with a different leader each day

10:00 – 11:00 Classroom style teaching session with same leader from warm up (in Spanish with the rest of the group acting as kids in the workshop environment)

11:00 – 11:15 Break

11:15 – 13:00 SHOW DEVELOPMENT

13:00 – 14:30 Lunch

14:30 – 15:30 Spanish Lesson

15:30 – 17:00 SHOW DEVELOPMENT

Over the course of the week, everyone had the opportunity to suggest ideas for the show, as well as run games and exercises to help us develop our clowns, performance styles, and interpersonal relationships with the focus of developing strong connections on stage. Some extra activities we added into our evenings included sunset swimming, creative jam sessions, acrobatics, juggling, hooping, and board games. We quickly discovered that we have a feisty and competitive group with a wide range of skill sets. Another personal highlight of the week was our costume exploration session where we all revealed the elaborate and whacky costumes we’d all brought and got an idea of what we might want to wear for the show!

By Thursday the 11th we’d finished the first draft of the show, and all of the group members had lead a session with the rest of the group on a topic of their choice. So, in the afternoon we did a dress rehearsal of the show with music, and filmed it in order to make some final improvements before our first show the following day.

On Friday we were invited to a local youth organisation just up the road from our bootcamp called ‘Son Flora’ to perform the show. We had an early lunch, and presented our work in progress to around 70 kids and a handful of volunteers, all during the hottest part of the day! It was a big success, despite a few hiccups (some of the props were forgotten), but all in all everyone was happy with the result. After the show we were given a ride home on the kids’ school bus which was a ‘HOOT’ with all the kids jubilant and intrigued with our crazy circus antics! We enjoyed a well deserved ice cream and swim in the sea to cool off followed by a beautiful show debrief on the beach watching the sunset before heading out to the town for a celebratory meal out with the group.  That night the stars were incredible and we could even see the Milky Way!

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Pictured above: Post show group photo with our lovely audience at Son Flora! The team had a load of fun premiering our show there and are looking forward to returning and teaching some workshops!

Saturday was a slightly later start, with a more informal and relaxed warm-up session and a series of performance games which allowed us to deepen our understanding of each others performance styles.  We worked on a few aspects of the show that we wanted to improve, continued with our Spanish classes and took the afternoon off. In the evening we found out that there was a local Nicaraguan circus performing in a nearby Barrio so we went out for some street food and watched a wild show which put us all in a fantastic mood. The locals were super friendly and the show was an eclectic mix of dance, aerial, and clowning (in a language we could barely understand?!).

The waves on Sunday morning were humongous and I personally took a massive thrashing whilst trying to have a little surf, to little avail. Omalia, the project organiser in Leon, sent her son Edwin to pick up the team in his pick-up truck and bring us to Leon where we moved into our new home for the next month. The next day we had our first day off and everyone took some free time to explore the city and relax before starting the teaching part of the project.

Until next time,

Will B