A Day in Varanasi

March 5, 2018

Performers Without Borders has been an amazing way to spend my spring, and Varanasi has been a great place to spend my February. It’s beautiful, colorful, noisy, and alive.

Mornings often start on the ghats of Varanasi. Built along the Ganges river, Varanasi has dozens of different named ghats, or steps down to the river. All are unique: some have shops, some have laundry areas, while others are reserved for cremations.

Located on the western side of the Ganges, Varanasi is renowned for it’s sunrises when the buildings along the ghats are bathed in a golden glow.

No morning is complete without a stop by your favorite chai shop. Seriously, I’ve never met anyone who loves anything as much as Jules loves chai.

The team spends three mornings a week working with the kids at Duniya. We taught a variety of circus arts, and spent our last day there working on some face painting. We were impressed with both Xander’s and the kids’ artistic talents!

Group photos after face painting at Duniya. Look at those happy kids and colorful circus artists!

Our other mornings are spent at Jeevan school. This group of well-behaved kids had a particular love for diabolo and surpassed our skills within a couple sessions.

Every afternoon we head down to Asha Deep to work with the children there. As our primary project, we spend a lot of time with those children and have been working hard to prepare them for their annual show.

Children of all ages and talents get to participate in the annual Asha Deep show. These little clowns love circus and especially contact juggling!

We don’t have many days off here, but the ones that we do are amazing. Varanasi is one of the holiest cities in the world and full of temples and art. It’s a magical place that becomes even more magical when viewed from the PwB perspective!

-Daniel McGuire

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Loving life in Nakuru

March 4, 2018

28279801_10156842470767289_7943539382928481900_nFollowing a wonderful first week, Team Kenya has continued to bask in the good vibes that have come to define our time here in Nakuru. Classes are running regularly, the children remain enthusiastic and engaged, emotional bonds are forming and being strengthened (both with the children and amongst the team members), our beloved Lucy – who helps with our in-house cooking and cleaning – returned after a short absence due to illness, recent outreach shows have been ridiculously fun, and the team is operating better than it has all tour.

The “long rains” have come early to Kenya this year.  Beginning last week, each day by around 3 o’clock in the afternoon we listen, watch, and feel as the winds begin to blow with an increased fervour, swirling the dust in the yard and heralding the heavy downpour that soon follows.   But while the skies may be dark and the air damp, the feeling inside Gabriel’s Learning Centre remains bright as the children’s laughter and excited play echoes through the concrete corridors.

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Our comprehensive curriculum for the school wide Physical Education program includes instruction in creative movement, acrobatics, tumbling, spinning plates, staff, poi, hoop, fans, juggling balls, juggling scarves, and foot sports (aka hackey sack and soccer).  Additionally we have been sharing several songs with the kids — they absolutely love to sing!! No sooner has a song been introduced than it can be heard floating across the yard or in the hall.  Watching the kids take ownership of these songs and make them their own fills us all with an incredibly warm feeling and solidifies our belief that song is truly a powerful way to spread joy and build community.

Several members of the team joined Angela, the resident social worker at GLC, on her weekly round of home visits here in the Kaptembwa neighbourhood.  This experience was especially insightful and emotional as the PWB teachers were introduced to many mothers (all of them single, with no male/father figure involvement) of various GLC students.  The homes visited were typically somewhere in the realm of 10×10 feet, without electricity or running water, and with one pit toilet shared with multiple other households.  The dark, cramped spaces housed anywhere from 3-11 children alongside the mother.  Most of these children come from different fathers, and almost all of the mothers began having their children around the age of 13. We heard stories of women who will leave their young toddlers unattended for an entire day so they can find work washing clothes in town; others of those who will prostitute themselves for 20-50 cents USD.

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We encountered neighbors who stank of alcohol, found a toddler trapped in a trench running with raw sewage, and watched children bathing and playing in old wash water the color of mud.  Every mother welcomed us warmly into her home, and after visiting for 10-15 minutes, some would join us to a local duka (small shop) where Angela would purchase rice and flour for the family who, otherwise, had no food.  We learned that — in addition to providing day education for 270 neighbourhood children and residence for 50 orphans — GLC also sponsors the families (mothers and siblings) of their day students by purchasing food when necessary, contributing to school fees so that siblings can attend the public school, and paying medical bills.  Their work is extensive and commendable, and we are honoured to be participating in their efforts to serve the children and families of Kaptembwa.

Team Kenya enjoyed giving several performances this week.  Some of the GLC sponsored residents who are attending secondary school elsewhere returned this week.  Both they and Lucy requested that we do a fire show (as none had seen our previous one) and so we brought fire back to the GLC yard.  It was, once again, received with uproarious joy and the children chanting each of our names in turn.  Not only did they chant our names, but they also chanted the names of various superhero characters which they have assigned to each of us, such as “Master” and “Wonder Woman”.

We also performed two outreach shows this week; one for Pistis Home and Educational Center and another for the Alpa Stars Nursery School.  Our audience at the latter was doubled by several neighborhood families (both adults and children alike) hearing the music, wandering over, and joining in the fun.  Our show was followed by well over an hour of merry play, all to the repeat soundtrack of the “Odi Dance”, one of Kenya’s current pop favourites. The team had such a blast performing again after nearly a ten day hiatus that we have committed to doing two more shows in our third, and final, week which begins tomorrow.

It’s hard to believe that our tour is nearly over.  Mixed sentiments are starting to surface in the various team members; feelings of excitement to return home to missed loved ones or set out on new adventures, but also feelings of sadness and nostalgia for these children whom we have come to love and this land and culture which has, slowly over the course of the last 2 months, come to feel like home.

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Nicaragua: 6th Year Visiting San Marcos!

February 28, 2018

In the small town of San Marcos, 40 minute’s drive south of the capital, PWB works with Los Quinchos, an organisation that provides hospitality and support with schooling for abandoned and mistreated children.  This is the sixth year that PWB has worked with Los Quinchos and there is strong evidence that the continuity of our work here has become a significantly positive force in the children’s lives.

Apart from providing food, clothes, admission to local schools, and a beautiful home, the organisation puts on activities and workshops for the children including dance, hammock making, bread baking, sewing, maintaining a small farm, and lots more.  The children here have a rich and busy life.  The results of this are demonstrated to us by the good nature, maturity, and confidence of some of the young adults who have grown up in the organisation and now help to look after the younger children whose turn it is to learn these values for themselves.

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Older Quincho, Carlos, directing a game of ‘Get The Shoe’

This is clearly a wonderful place for the children.  However, it has caused PWB a bit of a problem in the past.  Oh dear.  How are WE supposed to have time to do circus and performing arts with these children when they are SO busy with everything else?!  The feedback from last year’s PWB team was that the children simply didn’t have time in their schedule to attend the team’s workshops.  So, the question we had to ask ourselves this year was, do we commit to spending a full month with Los Quinchos at the risk of not having time to spend with the children?

For me it was a tough question.  This is my fourth tour here and Los Quinchos has always been a highlight, for the nature and receptiveness of the children and the beautiful setting.  However, it is my job to make sure the PWB volunteers have plenty of work to do.  And we are also following up last year’s test run at a new project in Managua, which seems to be offering us the opportunity of daily workshops for a full month with a community that suffers from disconnection, drug abuse, and lack of opportunities for its young people; a possible canvas for some valuable work by PWB.  Due to the length of our tour, determined by visas, we would not have time to spend a full month at both locations.  In the end, we opted for a short, two week stint at Los Quinchos.

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Riding the camioneta back from our show with the girls from Los Quinchos

After the first few days, it became clear that the children were not only available for our sessions (due to the bosses putting off other activities to prioritise PWB’s work) but showed a keenness, attentiveness, and enthusiasm that was welcomed with open hearts and open prop bags by the PWB team.  We immediately began feeling slightly disappointed at my decision to spend such little time here.  The team were (and still are!) experiencing a huge sense of satisfaction at being able to share their skills with children who were not only keen to learn but had also already learnt so much from previous PWB teams.  Was it the right decision to spend half the time of previous tours in San Marcos, in exchange for the gamble of a full month with a new organisation in a new community, with no history of PWB work?

The two main questions that came to mind were: what is this PWB team’s objective?  And what does Los Quinchos need?

Apart from the enthusiasm for our sessions, another side of the ‘Circo Los Quinchos’ that we have been made aware of is the regular practice they keep up, in the form of weekly evening sessions (every Wednesday at 6pm) coordinated by Quincho veteran, Miguel.  Back in the early days of PWB’s work here, Miguel was a young teenager who showed the keenness that we now see in the next generation of Quinchos.  Now, when he’s not studying architecture at a local university, he works for the organisation supervising the children.  The result of these regular sessions is that, despite many of the older Quinchos moving on to adult life, the new children have picked up the skills and love for circus that PWB have shared with the organisation over the last five years.  So, do we really NEED to spend a full month here if so much of what PWB offers is continued by the organisation itself anyway when we are not around?  After all, for a charity to be truly successful, its work should become unnecessary …

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Miguel, Circo Los Quinchos coordinator

I have no doubt that PWB should continue to visit Los Quinchos during its annual tour, but maybe, when there could be so many young people in many parts of Nicaragua benefitting from PWB’s playful work, our time in San Marcos should be more like a shorter term ‘top up’ of what we have already created here.

So we are making the most of our time here, trying to focus on teaching performance skills to the children who already have so many skills with circus props, and enjoying the satisfaction of teaching more prop based skills to people who already have such an understanding of the learning process.  And we are preparing ourselves for the challenges of working in Managua with people who have no experience of our processes, theories, and serious silliness that have proven to be such a success in San Marcos, but will hopefully gain so much from it.

There you have a relatively little summary of something that’s been on our minds over the last week.  It hasn’t really left me with much space in the word-count of this blog to give you a rundown of what we have actually done during our time here so far, but rest assured it has included the usual antics of animated group games, performance foolery, and workshop mayhem, just the way we love it.

Hasta pronto.  Buena onda.

Jakey xx

Slackline Los Quinchos

The Slackline Garden


New School in Nakuru – Working With Gabriel’s Learning Center

February 26, 2018

Greetings from Nakuru, Kenya!  We finished up our work in Nairobi and have moved to the countryside of Nakuru! Check out my personal video blog for a recap of all the amazing work we did in Nairobi

The Kenya Team enjoyed a week off February 11th – 18th.  Rachel and Juli had to leave the tour early and travel home, Enrico and Ariana stayed in Nairobi for their time off and trained with the acrobats at the Sarakasi Dome, and Jamie and I ventured to the Masai Mara for an unforgettable and beautiful safari adventure.  We saw all the legendary African animals such as elephants, zebras, hippos, giraffes, lions, and even a cheetah!


The four of us continuing the tour met back up in Nairobi at the end of our break and then traveled to Nakuru together on the 19th to start a new project with Gabriel’s Learning Center (GLC). We have worked with GLC and lived in their volunteer housing for one week now and are thoroughly enjoying it! This project is very different from all of our Nairobi projects because we are spending three full weeks training the same children instead of doing one-off workshops with many different schools. The children at GLC are absolutely adorable ranging in ages from 3 to 15. There are almost 300 children who attend school here Monday – Friday, and 50 of those children live in the dorms here because they have been abandoned or orphaned.

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We teach several circus workshops to the various classes every morning, which count as their physical education for the day, but can only reach 2 or 3 classes per day (around 70 students). Every evening we have an hour to teach the children living at GLC (who we call the “homies”) so we have become particularly connected with them. We have even made a ritual of reading or telling them various bedtime stories every evening from 7:30-8:30pm.

All the students at GLC are very respectful and attentive which makes it a dream to work with. Most of the children don’t have access to toys, games, or sports equipment besides what they make out of sticks and trash, so it is a real treat for them to play with our gear. We have been teaching them ball juggling, spinning plates, acrobatics, juggling scarves, fan spinning, and staff spinning. Enrico has even purchased several soccer balls for the children after we saw them kicking around balls of trash bound together with string during their break.

One of our favorite classes to teach the children has been staff spinning. Through Enrico’s project Sponsor A Staff we were able to bring dozens of quality contact staffs with us in several snowboard bags and it has been a pleasure watching the kids progress so quickly with them. Since Ariana, Enrico, and myself all teach staff spinning, we have been able to work with the children daily to increase their skills.

When we performed our fire show for the homies they were so ecstatic! The children all began chanting our names as we took turns demonstrating, staff, poi, fans, contact swords and a staff-juggling finale. I’m looking forward to working with the older children over the next few weeks to show them how to safely spin fire!

There are several major differences between working in Nakuru vs Nairobi. Firstly, Nakuru’s population is around 259,300 people as compared to Nairobi at 5,545,000 citizens, so you can imagine the drastic difference in the “feel” of the city. Nakuru is easy to navigate, more comfortable to wonder around by foot, and has easier access to beautiful parks, local restaurants, and colorful markets all in one small city center. The traffic drives (slightly) slower and with less urgency than in the big city, and it is refreshing to pass by fields and countryside while getting rides into town.

We explored the National Park of “Hells Gate” yesterday as a team and it was one of the most astounding things I’ve ever done! We rented bicycles and were able to casually stroll through the park passing zebras, antelopes, buffalo, and even giraffes! After around 2 hours of riding we reached a canyon created by floodwaters that we hiked down into. It was absolutely stunning to see the twists and turns of the rock walls carved out over years of rushing water. I definitely plan to go back and visit that canyon again before leaving Kenya!

We only have two more weeks on tour here with PWB and are making the most of it by playing with the kids every chance we get! In fact, I hear them outside yelling and playing right now so I think I will go join them!
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Be sure to follow our PWB Instagram account:

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And check out our team hashtag: #pwbkenya2018 for daily updates!

Written by Spades


Adventure time (off) !

February 22, 2018

Hello again from the PWB Nicaragua team! We are officially past the half way mark of our tour, can you believe it? Time is a funny thing. It has a tendency to zoom right by when days are filled to the brim, and we certainly have had full days. The halfway mark also happened to be our week off on tour! So, may I present to you a bonus blog of our break excursions! Enjoy!

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If you want to go to a place where your mind will be blown by the sheer beauty of it, definitely go to Ometepe. The entire team ended up on this hour glass shaped island at one point or another, and everyone except for one visited Finca La Magia, a quaint little guest house at the foot of the Maderas volcano. I stayed there the full week. Our former PWB member Bea (aka Hoop O’Clock) has been living and working there as of recently, and she happens to be a great friend of mind. Sooo naturally I ended up there! I had the pleasure of sleeping in a bedroom in the upstairs of her bamboo house, with a view of the lake and Costa Rica behind it. So amazing.

 

On my trip I hiked up a nearby waterfall, saw tons of wildlife (including a scorpion the size of a large ant, wow!), and spent so much time admiring the surrounding beauty. I have to say the highlight of the trip was taking a bike ride around the circumfrence of the Maderas section of the Ometepe island. I left at 6:30am and made it back to the finca at 2. I stopped for breakfast, later a coffee break at a really neat cafe with some gorgeous murals, and spent a good chunk of time walking up and down steep rocky roads. Walking allowed me to really take in my surroundings. Many times I was alone on the road, and it was so peaceful.

All in all, I had a super refreshing and fulfilling time off. I am super happy to be back to work in San Marcos with the team, and I’ll be visiting Ometepe again after the tour is over! Yay.  – Sara

28061147_2232724726741438_3685160248309654459_oMural at Cafe De Los Artistas

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Saturday night I partied on the beach

Sunday I payed for it

Monday I cleaned and tidied the León house and traveled to Managua

Tuesday I met my partner at the airport and hustled to omotepe, by land, sea, and foot

Wednesday we toured the island by scooter and bathed in bliss

Thursday we took bus after boat after bus after hitched rides to get across the country to remote beach heaven in Salinas Grandes

Friday we made no plans

Saturday – breakfast, stretch, swim, kayak, birdwatch, sunset swim, bioluminescence, massages, good plan!

Sunday we met Jackey and traveled in the crew minibus to San Marcos

Overall week impression – MARVELLOUS!

W.B.

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What could be accomplished in the span of one week? Well, it all depends upon the adventure we choose to undertake for ourselves. Do take a leisurely stroll and melt our worries in the tropical breeze, or do we opt to raise the tempo with the hopes of keeping up with our anticipation. I personally chose the latter and dove in for a keen experience. I had the fantastic experience of summiting multiple volcanoes, met wonderful artists, crashed a motorcycle on the Pan-Am highway, and rode another around the most breath- taking volcanic island cluster. I am left wondering if I elected the right cadence for a week-off in such a beautiful country, and in a completely ineffable appreciation of all the personal connections I have encountered. The people of Nicaragua are such a warm, generous lot. Their big hearts and kind words have left a mark upon my mind that I hope will stay with me long into the future. P.S- Choco-banano 4 lyf  – Leo

(Bonus Haiku from Leo)

Craters reaching out                                                                                                                    Ablaze they caress the sky                                                                                                     Prompts embrace of life28342353_10156152291047612_1777593822_o

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A beautiful eco jungle hostel, a motorbike and a few litres of petrol, and a set of juggling clubs is a winning combo for a week off in Nicaragua. Omotepe (tropical island on Lake Nicaragua) is full of nice attractions that you can go to as an excuse to ride a 200cc motocross bike over rough terrain. It’s not often that I’m a tourist but I think I did it pretty well last week. – Jacob

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I headed to the beautiful island of Ometepe, to spend time in the jungle on a more remote farm called Finca La Magia. Along with a couple of my team mates, we perused the island, hiked to a waterfall, and chilled out while looking out over the lake. I saw monkeys, tropical birds, and heaps of crazy weird insects. Also the water of the lake was often so still and calm. One day we went to the ‘beach’ with Bea (the tour coordinator from last year) and the family who run the hostel with her. It was so cute! After that time I split and spent a few days in Granada, where I took respite in a great hostel, went to yoga classes, and took care of my body and mind in preparation for more work in San Marcos. I ate cheesecake and on my last day went to a freeform dance class. Granada is beautiful and in the evening there was a big free street concert with brass bands playing in the square. It was wonderful to see another city in Nicaragua and how they all differ a little. It really had a Spanish vibe to it, and was the perfect thing for me to do before heading back to work with the team. 🙂  -Helen

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Note- must be read in a fairytale voice with an Irish accent

Once upon a time, a little girl called Darine decided to climb a very big volcano called Maderas. She got up very early, even before the sun did and packed a lovely lunch of sandwiches, refried beans, 8 boiled eggs, a beetroot and chocolate spread. After a nice big strong coffee, Darine and her crew set off on their adventure.

The first part was cute and giggly and full of nice relaxed breaths. She was birds, horses, women carrying things on their heads and bulls she thought were going to kill her.

Then, it started to get a little steep. Darine looked up every 15 steps to see when the steepness was going to stop and then realised… she was climbing a volcano. She trudged on and on and then suddenly, something very unusual happened. Her legs turned to jelly! They still looked the same, they still smelt the same, they even still wore the same clothes but they felt just like the jelly she used to eat after she ate all of her dinner at her grandmothers.

She just sat down to have a good ole cry for herself when she saw something glimmer from behind a big pile of mud. She peeped behind the big pile and saw a pair of sparkly boots with a note. Darine looked around to see if she could see who left this magical gift but nobody was to be seen. She went ahead and read the slightly soppy note
“Dear Darine,

 

Stop being such a little wimp. Also, your runners are going to fall apart. Here are some boots of determination” Darine slipped on the boots and immediately marched on with confidence, energy and of course, determination. She marched over roots, under boulders, climbed up ropes and finally, made it to the summit! With a massive breath of accomplishment, she stood at the top with her hands on her hops and looked around to the amazing view of… cloud. All she could see was cloud. So she poured chocolate spread into her mouth and slipping every 10 steps with her little jelly legs, went down the volcano again. The end.

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Vacation was a whirlwind packed with adventures, travel, and somehow also an abundance of rest. My partner Mike came down from the States, and we spent the week bouncing around from Leon to Poneloya, Granada, and Ometepe. We started off going to a turtle reserve in Poneloya called the Surfing Turtle, which required a bus ride, walk, boat ride, and horse drawn cart through a jungle to reach the beach resort. We relaxed there for a night and enjoyed good food, swimming, a group volleyball game, and a night of learning card games from other travelers from Australia. The next day we travelled a few hours south to Granada, where we stayed near the town center at a chill little place called the Backyard Hostal. The amenities included cornhole, darts, a pool table, foosball, a pool, amazing food, and lots of really cool art being painted on the walls while we were there. The same people who own the hostal run a place called the Treehouse, which is about a 20 minute ride outside Granada, and we headed there the next day. After a short but steep hike up the side of mountain we found ourselves staying in a legitimate treehouse for our room, with a view overlooking the mountainside. This hostal was apparently quite a party spot at night, which we didn’t know when going, but got into the spirit with their 90s themed dance party in the evening. In the early hours of the evening I heard howler monkeys for the first time, and throughout the morning although I didn’t actually see any monkeys until Ometepe. After out night at Treehouse we headed to the island of Ometepe, probably the most magical and beautiful spot of our vacation. It’s an island with two huge volcanoes, one of which is still active. We rented a moped on our first full day on the island, as it is a popular way to get around and see more of the sites. Unfortunately, the company we rented it from didn’t give us much instruction, or warn us about staying clear of the gravel roads. About 20 minutes into our ride, we crashed the moped…. twice. Mike had a few rough scrapes, and the moped was a bit damaged, but we managed to get it back in one piece and decide it was not worth the risk for unexperienced drivers. Future travellers, beware! The rest of our time at Ometepe was beautiful. We saw monkeys, lagoons, waterfalls, exotic birds, butterfly gardens, beautiful flowers and plants, farms, and an abundance of local life. I would absolutely recommend this gem of a place to anyone looking for a beautiful and affordable vacation spot. It was a bit hard to get back into work mode, but I found myself missing the team quite a bit and on our last day of vacation I made my way to San Marcos where we began our next project.

– Ivy

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Our Final Week – León Project

February 21, 2018

Our final week in the Leon project has been wild.

Several weeks ago our tour coordinator let us know about an upcoming epic week of work: Show Week. Amalia Cuadra, the incredible woman who works tirelessly running the organisations we work with (Niños Del Fortin and Las Chavaladas) created a bunch of outreach work for us in local government schools.

You might have read about our 45 minute show in earlier blogs. Sometimes it spans to an hour including setup, clowning around with the crowd to warm up the show, and moments inbetween. It’s a charged and hilarious smorgasboard of our skillsets: clown, juggling, diabolo, acro, dragonstaff, hoop, contact ball, hat juggling, and slackline where we can.

For this week, the Challenge was: 11 shows in 4 days.

The team discussed at length what it would look like to do this many shows in just a few days. It concluded that we might be tired, need to take more time to stretch, and the possible mental effort needed to create the comedy and some of the more physically intense parts of the show. Our team are superstars when it comes to performance and everyone gives it their all, every show. So after considered discussion, it was with great excitement and the quick working-out of a new sequence that we entered into this week, with washed costumes (well, most people) and a kit bag ready to go.

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The other challenge was: be ready to go at 8am.

On those days we were up at 6.30, warming up and eating breakfast, and in the Hilux van by 8am. Team mum (go Ivy) was super helpful in hustling our little bleary-eyed heads into costume, out the door and into the truck by 7.50. Sometimes we were a bit crazy, a bit loopy and singing loudly in the morning. I think one morning we pumped rave music on the little speaker to wake ourselves up.

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The energy of performing in the government schools was quite different to where we’d been in the local barrios, and in the mud. There was a level of chaos we’d not yet seen, including stage rushes of 50 kids (ermm, pause the show, re-establish the stage, and, um, on with the show!), kids running to find shade mid-show (which meant changing the orientation of the show in a heartbeat) and generally super-excited children who were so happy to see us. We noticed a lot of the tuck shops were loaded with sugary candy lollies, which sometimes explained the level of chaos. At certain moments it was definitely challenging: for instance, inbetween Day 2, Show 2 and Show 3 energy levels were flat. Luckily our driver found us a glorious Comedor (local cheap delicious eatery) that had a garden out back, and we found an hour of refuge inbetween shows.

The great thing about the PWB tours is the deep understanding and discussion of what we’re doing and why, which Jake has been really thorough with. The question was raised: why do so many shows when we could be spending that time working with kids for this week? The context is this: the children who are in the organisations, whose background comes from working on the rubbish dumps and surrounds and on the streets, often have a harder time being allowed to enter local government schools. In the past there have been things in place that have made it hard for these children to be accepted into government schools, some of which still remain. It’s a testament to Amalia’s work and the work of the organisations that at almost every school we visited over this week, several children ran up to us who we’d been working with at Ninos Del Fortin and Las Chavaladas! They were stoked! It was both incredibly heartwarming and cool to see, and I got the immense sense of contributing to an organisation that is doing great work in the world, here in Nicaragua. So the greater context of Show Week was to highlight the organisations, their work, and hopefully break down some of those restrictions for children who have come from these backgrounds from entering government schools.

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It was a truly whirlwind end to the project in Leon. On Friday, we had our final day working with the kids at both Niños Del Fortin and Las Chavaladas. Some final run-throughs of pieces, acts and routines that we’d worked on with them, a mini-show at the organisations, and then after face paint and some costume decorations, straight out to the main square next to the cathedral. Lots of the kids who were visibly nervous went ahead and performed in the public show anyway. Needless to say, we were SO impressed and happy with their efforts, and so was the audience! And then it was over.

It all moves so quickly here, and it reminds me to really pay attention, give my whole focus and be the best person I can be while working with these kids, because the time is precious and we are contributing to something over time that is allowing these kids to form skills and practice them when we’re gone.

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Particularly, three of the Las Chavaladas boys had created a clown routine entirely by themselves: it was so funny we nearly cried with laughter. We added a few slapstick bits here and there, had some notes to add on playing out the the audience, using sound and the centre of the stage, but the routine was more or less entirely self-created and run. It was amazing to see that these kids have taken what they learnt last year and the year before with PWB and created something solid that was funny on so many levels.

Well, that’s it for now. Our next blog will cover our week off, and what we all got up to!

xo Helen


Week two in Varanasi, Settled in the city with show choreography on the way!

February 19, 2018

“So while you are young you must begin to find out, what is this strange thing called happiness. That is an essential part to education.”  Jiddo Krishnamurti

Jiddo Krishnamurti is an Indian philosopher whose teachings were spread globally while he set up schools in Varanasi based on his vision of  empower communities through education.  We are following Jiddo Kirishnamurti’s footsteps to empower the communities we are working with through education.

Settled in Varanasi

With a house to live in and a weekly timetable of lessons, Varanasi is beginning to feel like home. We spend our days cycling our rickety hired bikes to Duniya, Jeevan and Asha Deep. After a day of workshops we  share the duty of cooking dinner before our daily meeting.  As we cycle down the street, even on our days off, children yell our names or “PWB after us”.  Their excited waves and glowing smiles warm our hearts as we wave back. This feeling brings me such joy as we begin to feel a part of the local neighbourhood. The students in all the schools are eager to learn and grateful for their new performance talents. The smiles on their faces when we pass them on the street shows the happiness that education brings.

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Dunyia and Jeevan- Human Pryamids! Supporting one another in Sickness and in Health

This week at Duniya and Jeevan we were excited to teach workshops in new skills that we had not yet taught on the tour! Acro, Juggling and Drama.  Some of the children got three balls in juggling after a half hour session! Others even learnt some contact balls tricks! The children loved creating shapes and pyramids in the acro workshops. It was great to facilitate workshops without props, a change for both us and the students!

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Through learning acro you learn how to trust and support one another. The flyer needs to trust their base and the base needs to support their flyer.  Everybody involved in the position needs to trust and support one another.  This week two of the team members were sick, a difficulty India and Varanasi brings us. As a team we had to support one another, teaching each others lessons and organising each others acts at Asha Deep. Those who were sick had to trust that they were going to get better and that we were able to continue their work without them.

Show Choreography and Fire at Asha Deep

At Asha Deep the show was beginning to take shape as we started to choreograph our assigned acts:

Poppy on Fabric Fans.

Sophie on Fire Fans and Fire Hoop.

Kiera on Day and Fire Hoop.

Livi on Clubs.

Xander on Poi.

Jules on Staff.

And Daniel on Contact Ball.

The beginning of the week got off to a slow start. On Monday, I arrived to Asha Deep to a group of girls running towards me shouting happy kiss day. They all hugged and kissed me. I hugged them back and replied that I liked this day.  Although many of the children were missing the love and happiness they gave us made up for the sudden change of plans we had to make to our workshop. It was a joy to celebrate Shivaratri with the students and experience the festival in Varanasi.

Despite the illness and festival celebrations, Kiera and Poppy directed choreography for the fabric fans and day hoop act.   A dance in front of a group of students singing Mein Kaun Hoon, an indian song about the identity struggle of a teenage girl in India with a passion for singing.

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The fire acts were also well on the way! The fire hoop and fire fan choreography was ready for the moves to be practiced on fire by Friday.  For many of them this was their first time spinning. With a few screeches and a lot of smiles the group where excited to show off their new tricks on fire.  The staff and poi groups also got to spin despite Xander and Jules been ill, demonstrating the students drive and passion for their performance.

We returned to the school on Saturday for a full show run through. We were blown away by the students other performances. The programme was full of beautiful indian dancing and impressive modern dance from both the older and early years. I love the passion these students have for performance and the happiness that this brings to the school. We are blessed to be such a vital a part of the schools programme.

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Happy Kiss Day to all of you! Keep spreading the love and happiness.

Poppy Avison-Fell