Team Nica 2017: En un círculo (in a circle).

March 11, 2017

Mid Leon

Our first project out here in Nicaragua was in the beautiful colonial city of León. Our time there was a huge learning opportunity for all of the team. Mid way through the project we went on a field trip to help us understand the context of the projects we’re working with and presented our students and ourselves to the city of León.

Learning is often a challenge and this experience was more challenging than most, but the team walked away with renewed vigor and some insight into where the kids we’re working with come from and why our works is so important. With this fresh perspective we returned to work, preparing these eager performers for their big presentation in the main city square.

El Fortín

In 2009 Leon’s municipal garbage dump was moved away from the historic fort of León, a site of major significance to the Nicaraguan revolution. The local government has allowed the construction of large township on the site of the former dump which currently survives on contaminated water pumped directly from the site.

The new garbage dump supports a large number of families who collect recyclable materials in exchange for a small cash redemption. Children as young as 6 work amongst burning refuse, toxic fumes and medical waste where a family might be able to collect 50 kilos of plastic and metal to earn around 30 córdobas each day ($1).

Some of our students still work with their families at the garbage dump and many have been relocated to new neighbourhoods away from the site. One of our partner organisations works with families to get these children into school, providing them with lunch, dinner and after school support easing the economic cost to their families and ensuring children get the most out of primary and secondary education.

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Leon´s municipal garbage dump.

Niños Y Niñas del Fortín

We regularly work with many of the children who have been affected by living or working at the garbage dump and we run an after school club with these Niños Y Niñas Del Fortín (Boys and Girls of the Fort). Whenever we arrive at the community centre we’re greeted by smiles, excitement and more often than not, a ton of kids eagerly playing with hula hoops. After a warm up and a few games for focus we open up a number of teaching stations and we teach a huge range of skills to sometimes over 40+ chavallos (kids). Their favorites are hula hoops (of course), acrobatics, juggling and diabolo.

Chavaladas

In contrast to the large group of kids at Niños Y Niñas del Fortín, the kids from Chavaladas are a smaller close knit community of boys. Our time with them is often more focused but equally as energetic. We spent several weeks preparing this group of boys from the ages of 8 to 17 to present their talents as a pre show to our own presentation in Leon´s main square.

These guys work great together, often supporting and encouraging one another, sharing skills and tricks between themselves. One of the most uplifting moments with these guys was a spontaneous, undirected clowning parade based on an exercise we´d taught them the week before. When those 3 guys started flocking together, we know, that had to be in the show!

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Bea teaches diabolo to the Chavaladas boys.

The Main Show

By far our biggest show in Leon was collaboration of performing groups in Leon´s Parque Central. We were joined by Los Artistas del Nido, Los Zankistas and the boys of Chavaladas in front of an audience of several hundred Leonese, tourists, volunteers and the families of the Chavaladas boys.

The boys presented their skills on stilts, with hula hoops, club juggling, clowning, levitation wand and acrobatics to a rapturous, encouraging crowd. We combined our own performance with an Nicuraguan and international group of performers as our troupe of confused and clowning tourists journeyed our way through club juggling, contact ball, hat manipulation, hoop and some hilarious acrobatics. We wrapped up the evening with a spectacula fire performance, blending danger, magic and world class talent which raised several thousand córdoba for our partner projects here in Leon. The boys left exhausted, proud and smiling and we were delighted to see all their hard work come together.

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The hoop troupe perform in Leon´s main square.

Closing the Loop

Working with an awesome group of motivated and excited kids, watching them go through a journey of trying out new and untried disciplines, discovering a new favorite or continuing with an existing passion was an enthralling experience. One that reminded me and my team mates of our own journey of discovery with circus and performing arts. From discovery, to development, performing to teaching, the love of our arts goes round and round, as we say so often in our workshops, en un círculo (in a circle)!

Until the next edition, adiós from me, the team and from Nicaragua.

Ali Wilson – Team Nicaragua – 2017


Acronym-o-blog

March 5, 2017

Play. Passion. Presence. Peanut Power. Poverty. Performers. Physical Exercise classes we teach daily at the school – Gabriel’s Learning Centre here in Nakuru, Kenya. Polé (sorry). Polé Polé (slowly). Pamoja (together).

Enthusiasm, excitement, energy, early nights and early mornings. Exercise. Daily exercise before dinner. Energy. Exhaustion.

Religion is here, prayer is a part of daily life for these Christian children giving them focus and hope.

Fire show especially for the homies at Gabriel’s Learning Centre. What an engaged and ecstatic audience, singing with us in the rain. Respect to the fire. F also for funding and lack thereof. F for Fab500 – fabulous people giving £2 a month to help keep PWB sustainable. (Go on!!)

O – My favourite shape. Yes to the hoop lessons hoop dance hoop play and my hoop progress this week (6 hoop split!!!!)!!!

Rest, relaxation, recuperation – maybe after the tour! Take every opportunity!!

Music, Meditation and Yoga. Chez and I lead a powerful yoga session for the homies at GLC on Tuesday night. We improvised a story of rain and sun acted out through various gentle yoga postures. During the ending mediation (Savasna) some of the kids fell asleep. A sure sign that they felt safe and relaxed and were able to surrender to this.

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Ending. This has been our penultimate week. Preparing ourselves for what is next to come.

Respectful Relationships. That is my bread and butter as a sexual health educator and we have been able to deliver this message through acrobalance workshops. Whether working or playing with an Acro partner, a sibling, a friend or a partner – to achieve harmony, balance & safety these things are key; Respect. Communication. Trust. Honesty. Listening. Consent. Appreciation.

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Sexual Health – my other career and passion. Where appropriate I am delivering sexual health sessions with the older young people on these projects. Empowering them with education and knowledge to make informed decisions.

Workshops of a week – 2 shows, 24 workshops, reaching 258 children! Weeding at the farm where GLC grow their vegetables to feed the children.

Impulsive improvisation. Imagination stations! Creative storytelling & theatre through improvised movement & play. This is Chez’ background and some of her skills. She has been taking the smaller classes (aged 2-6) on journeys to the moon, through the elements using movements, fabric, song but mostly using her imagination to spark theirs.

Thirst for knowledge, skills & play.

Hunger for learning and a total willingness from the PWB volunteers to share and teach and pass on the food of performing arts.

Outreach. On Saturday we went to Springs of Hope – an organisation which runs 2 orphanages, one for rescued girls and one for boys who are mostly ex street kids. We performed our lovely and extra silly show for them all in their garden followed by an acrobalance workshop and a theatre workshop. They were keen to learn and play as is their right as a child.

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Ugali!! I hope you have watched the video about Nairobi I spent many hours editing (https://vimeo.com/206390921). Ugali is like polenta but better – a staple of the Kenyan diet. Ugali dance! Yum.

Teamwork. Togetherness. As a group we have formed, stormed, normed and we have been performing for quite some time and it is harmonious and productive. A great example to set for the children we work with.

Breathe in. Breathe out. Be here now.

Orphan. Orphanage. All together a concept I am struggling with coming from a country where we have abandoned the idea of orphanages and moved to smaller children’s homes. Being here my eyes are opened to the massive number of vulnerable children who would be far worse off without these orphanages. Certainly at GLC these 38 children have formed their own family and care for each other as such. There is so much love here. This is what they need if they cannot have a traditional family unit.

Resilience. An artform we must build in the face of adversity to survive. These kids have had to become resilient sadly.

Dust. Lots of dust. Swirling whirling dust storms.

Explorers! On our one day off we went on a cycle safari to Hell’s gate national park! Zebras! A gorgeous gorge.

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Rain to settle the dust.

Singing, smiling and story time! So much beautiful singing with and for these beautiful smiling children. Smiles – I feel honoured that we spread smiles in abundance and we get to be witness to and share in the smiles of so many vulnerable children.

Written by Jess Mess


Variety in Varansi

March 2, 2017

It is hard to believe that nearly four weeks have passed since our arrival in Varanasi.  The sights, sounds, and smells that at first overwhelmed the senses have become strangely normalized and now dodging swerving motorbikes or enduring over amplified bollywood tunes as celebrating families dance through the streets seem like routine elements of a life I have always lived.  Walking to Asha Deep (one of the schools we have been working with here) each afternoon, I am greeted by familiar faces all along the way and it hits me: I have come to feel at home here.

Likewise, in our work and home life, the group has settled into a fun rhythmn.  We enjoy nightly dinners together cooked in our own kitchen, a pleasant change to the constant eating out that defined our time in Gokarna and Ahmadebad.  Juggling and other prop practice happens daily in the living room and on our apartment building’s rooftop, and the joy of working with the same students over the course of several weeks has allowed for meaningful and loving relationships to develop between members of the PWB team and the children entrusted into our care.

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The entire team works daily with the students at Asha Deep, PWB’s longest running partner organization.  Because of the history that PWB has here many of the students have advanced cirucs skills and it is a lot of fun to play alongside them and challenge them to further their learning.  It is also exciting to help mentor those who are ready in taking on greater responsibility and independence in their lives as young performers. After facilitating a school wide meeting for those interested in fire performance and conducting a specially designed fire safety workshop, 2017 has seen a great increase in the number of students (and particularly young women) who are spinning fire.  Twice this month members of PWB have joined students from Asha Deep in fire busking on the ghats.

The last two weeks have been especially busy as PWB instructors have been helping students at Asha Deep prepare circus acts for their annual Spring Extravaganza.  Staff, hoop, club juggling, fans, poi, unicycle, diablo – these kids can do it all! And on fire!! The show is just 4 days away and it is shaping up to be a guaranteed dose of fabulousness!

In addition to Asha Deep, Team India has invested considerable time in developing PWB’s relationships with two other schools in the area during this period.  Several of our instructors spend three mornings a week at Duniya school while another group offers instruction Monday through Friday at Jeevan School.  We also continue to perform; last week we performed our show twice, first for students of Ashray School and a second time on the banks of the Ganges for those living in the slum community near Jeevan.

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Yesterday, while at Jeevan, it came up that this would be our final week there.  A girl who had come to class grudgingly (at best) the first few days, but who has in the weeks since seemed to discover a real joy for PWB “class” time, suddenly spoke up.  Her bright smile turned into a temporary frown as she leaned in to hug me and say, “I will miss you.  Circus coming to my school has made me so happy.” It took all I had to hold back the tears in that moment.  Knowing that we have made a difference in even one child’s life, that somehow our presence and efforts have made her day a more joyous one in any capacity – this is why we do what we do and her acknowledgement of impact is our greatest reward.  


Team Kenya 2017 The Gabriel Learning Center: A story unfolds

March 1, 2017

Nakuru – the land of swirling dust.

As we dance and play games in the courtyard

with the kids of the Gabriel Learning Center

I take a moment to stop… look around…

and cover my smile with my bandana.

When the play gets exciting

the dust joins in as well.

Dancing covers your teeth

with a thin and gritty film.

Hula hoops and cartwheels send it flying

putting your eyelashes and tears to work.

Tag will leave you wearing

an extra layer over your clothes,

and I must often take a moment

as I am seized by dusty coughs.

It is ever present, even after a night of rain,

but something else never changes,

always staying…

We dance, we skip, we sing, cartwheel, laugh and play all the same.

The circus fun has returned and the kids are eager for all of the games.

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We have been in Kenya for 2 months and now we are living at The Gabriel Learning Center; our partner for our final project. There are about 200 kids, just under 30 of them “homies” who live here. The school is a beautiful little oasis in a slum called Kaptembwa; one of the biggest slums in Nakuru. The children who live and go to school here are happy and overjoyed with the fact that we are here working with them.

Our roles as volunteers in this project are unique because we are here teaching the PE courses during the school day with a total of about 5 classes that are 30-35 minutes long. For the other projects we had to work around the school day as education is taken very seriously for those who are capable of attending school in Kenya, and clowning around… comes in just behind. Since we are able to live at the school and teach classes throughout the day, we are able to provide much more in depth workshops to these kiddos than any of our projects before. We are also blessed with the assistance of each of the class teachers who join in on the fun, help translate and work with the rowdier ones. All of this adds up to an experience that is unparalleled allowing us to teach a lot more.

This project covers the final 3 weeks of our tour, 2 of which are left, and to end the tour we give this one a little extra. During the last 2 weeks we will be working with each of the classes to put together a performance that they will be presenting on our final Friday . This is the only project we have had in which the children will perform so it feels really special and the kids are very excited.

The children themselves are very talented, they listen well, work together, and love to perform. We had the pleasure of being here during a drama competition they had with other schools in the area so we joined in to cheer them on! It was their first year competing and they placed 3rd; a beautiful glimpse at the talent they have. The play was heavy being performed by such a young cast as it dealt with a father who loses his job, his wife and his children, and has to struggle to forgive himself and bring the family back together. Unfortunately it is a story that many can relate to here in Kenya but the children use it as fuel for their performance and it really shows the drive that these kids have.

Altogether the project here is one that is full of blessings and as a team we feel very fortunate to be partnered with such a strong and beautiful school. As we begin to step into the last few weeks of our journey, we smile and dance even harder as the dust flies all around. We thank you Gabriel Learning Center and we thank you readers back home. Stay tuned as we will reach out again soon. Smiles and laughter from Kenya! Amani Lazima (Peace is a Must)17016321_10210004397201358_148638207_o.jpg


Team Kenya 2017, Great and Grateful

February 15, 2017
16442707_10154107839357665_1535564497_oThe children are really helpful in setting up the acro-mats.

We are born wise, we are born complete.

Said the yogi tea bag.

We are born.

Says Chez.

It is random and often incomprehensible for so many people all over the world.

Life and death coincide.

Side by side.

We learn how to protect,

be protected,

and to offer protection to others.

A lot of our work this week has been focused on young people who have run away or been forced out of any stability from a family, home safety and trust in humanity.  Yet they have been some of the most welcoming and excitable audiences for our shows and engaged during our workshops.

This week we have been offering some serious amount of playtime to all our outreach sessions and sharing all the energy we have to bring smiles.

  • Boys Rehabilitation Centre 3 session and a special fire show.
  • Boys next step centres after rehab and into learning step 1 and step 2.
  • Rural Orphans and Vulnerable Children centre, 2 day residency
  • Heshima Disability Centre http://www.heshima.org/heshima-children.html
  • Refugee young women with their babies and children.

As we leave the centres I ask myself is this work simply a distraction? And is that ok? Can we ever do enough? Always wanting to offer more and return to build a relationship.  Speaking to the range of adults who run these various NGO’s it is clear from their feedback that our work here is a crucial part of supporting the young people to communicate with each other and safe adults (and that safe adults do exist), that being physically challenged keeps the mind clear and our simple message that everything is possible with practice.

This continues our understanding of circus as a metaphor for life.

I am reminded that enough is exactly that, enough.

We bring colour, silliness, comedy, storytelling, swirling objects and lightness.

The children and young people we work with this week come from drug addiction, street life, trafficking, rape, abuse and seeking refuge.

These traumas cannot and should not be labels.  They all have the rights to play, childhood, fun, and a safe place.  Our work can be offered as these young people are now in safe places with somewhere to sleep and food provided; so we are directly supporting their journey of recovery in offering play therapy, laughter, attention, guidance and peaceful role-modeling.

Some moments to share;

-We have an absolute hoot eating dinner with the boys as it’s turning dark, trying our utmost to be quiet, but finding it all so lovely to have new people eating with them the boys just silently giggle with us, who find their giggles infectious and in turn we laugh, the best therapy of all.  We have promised them a surprise after dinner and under the full moon we offer a prayer of respect for ‘Moto’ (Swahili for fire) and dance with fire, spinning and swinging, swaying and swirling.  This turns into a very exciting dance party with all the boys sharing their brilliant moves and being utterly present together.  It is humbling to hold such spaces to experience and witness.

-We arrive at the Heshima disability centre with very little information of what to expect, and this is the best way, we allowed ourselves to flow int the work and respond to each child’s needs.  Jess, Abi and myself spend the afternoon offering sometimes very gentle sensory play with scarves, sound, ribbons and fabric, and sometimes outright slapstick falling over in their outdoor space.  We end the session with a big dance involving the children and their mums who have taken a break from their creative project, this family interaction work feel suitably important here.  We climb in a verrrrrrry full matatu (bus) with the mums and children to get a lift home, the energy is alive, the smiles are wide and again I am left with a humbled feeling that we can interact with such delightful young people.

-Slightly apprehensive arriving to over 100 young girls who all have cool hair, hats and teenage attitude, we instantly got them on side with our ridiculous arrival sequence of trying to get changed, go to the loo and drink some water, place them in the shade and play discreet in a wide open grassy space.  Offering our story in Swahili of the sun disappearing and trying to get it back we have ultimate fun playing limbo, dancing around the tree and finding out about each others lives.  Despite the stories of these young women there is a wonderful sense of sisterhood and community from them.  We are welcomed into this and share a wonderful afternoon of fun and laughter.

Being grateful is key to this life.  We have a 6 days break now and instead of being guilty for having biscuits and access to a computer, I am grateful that I have the space to re-energise and get ready to go forward to our lovely next project in Nakuru.

The wind blows through the open window.

The big suitcase is still full of circus equipment to take on the road to next project.

The peanut butter is almost finished.

We are now a fully well team of 5, having been 3 all week, it is great to have more power to go forward .

Pamoje, (together)

Yote Yawazeikaka. (Everything is possible)

Amani. (Peace)

Chez*cxx

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In between workshop and show we dress up, make up and prepare on the street side for arrival to the performance.  What a laff!

Team India Blog post No.4 : Varanasi — Arrival, Asha Deep School and Duniya School.

February 14, 2017

Get ready! Team India has landed in Varanasi! Unrelentingly noisy, deliciously high energy, and ruthlessly chaotic, Varanasi is a whirlwind of colorful fabrics, aggressive tuk tuk drivers, and spiritual waters— namely the river ganges, or “Mother Ganga” as our students call it.  Varanasi is fascinating for a plethora of reasons; it is one of the oldest continually inhabited cities in the world and it is regarded as one of the seven holy cities as according to hinduism. Here in Varanasi, ritual is present in each moment, with a stroll down the riverside quickly becoming an intimate glimpse into the ceremonial honors of life and death. Devotees come from all over the world to cleanse their souls in the River Ganges, or to cremate a loved one nearby, specifically in the “ghats” or sections of city directly bordering the river. Varanasi is also a music hub in india, and one might hear the tinkling melodies of a flute, tabla, or sitar coming from just about any corner of this city.  Rowan’s (a cherished team member from Leeds, England) mother Susan advised her that a cities worth can be judged by the amount of musical instruments that can be seen inside them, and if this is true, than Varanasi is a very worthy destination indeed.

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(PHOTO 1 : MISTY SUNRISE ON THE GANGES RIVER)

Arriving in Varanasi, the team was pleased at large to finally have a larger-ish accommodation with a KITCHEN!!! After a full month of eating out, being able to prepare food at home according to each of our individual culinary whims was a fresh breath of air.  We also have a lovely roof to spin on night and day, which helps with general quality of life since all of us silly clowns regard flowing, spinning and movement as crucial and necessary sustenance for our everyday lives.

(PHOTO 2 : ROWAN WITH VARANASI IN HE

Upon arrival, we performed our show for the school children we would be working with in the coming month. We hope to inspire the children with our show, displaying what is possible with each prop in a themed performance setting.  This will hopefully directly motivate the evolution of their own show, which debuts on March 4th.  This show will mark the end of our work here in Varanasi, and it is a wonderful showcase of how advanced the children here are in their practice.  They are ready to take the next steps in honing their circus skills and develop their own show with full artistic control.  It is beyond inspiring to be around fellow performers, even if most of them are a bit smaller than us!

We were all very excited to begin our month long teaching stint in Varanasi, as this is where the original site of the beginnings of PWB are: at a school called Asha Deep.  Here the students have been training for the longest (the program has been running at Asha Deep for 9 years now! :o) and have a great set of skills already established.  And those expectations were not disappointed.  Many of the children here can juggle/pass three clubs, spin intermediate level poi, and can hoop better than me.  Some of them were even doing fan tricks (!!!) and unicycling all over the ground level of the school.  We were excited to introduce some new toys to them like slack line and rope dart, and help them hone their already strong skills in other disciplines. In the following weeks we will be focussing more on the show with Asha Deep and getting into rehearsals, costuming, music and the like.  Much Excite!!!

The second school we are working with is an adorable little place just down the street from Asha Deep called Duniya School.  But the similarities between the schools are few and far between.  At Duniya School most of the children are still beginners at circus, so this first week was all about discovery.  Introductory free play with the props is the best way to get minds engaged and to allow the brain the freedom to choose with props call to which person.  It is a joy to facilitate this process as im sure all of us experienced prop initiation at some point.  To watch children play is to watch a flower blossom in the sun.  When allowed to play, the children are ridiculously inventive with the props and hilarious to be with.  Some children were making beautiful prop mandalas with the practice fans, and playing hopscotch over the patterns.  Others were doing cartwheels next to rolling hoops and picking the hoop up as their bodies come upwards again.  Some children began to play cricket (super popular here) with the clubs as a bat and a juggling ball as a ball.  We had to stop that due to concern for the props but the idea stands—- kids are so imaginative and smart.  It is an honor to work with them all. 

Cant wait to see what the rest of this month holds for team India 2017 — catch us sipping on Lassi’s and juggling along the Ganges!

Namaste,

Ling


Team Nica 2017 ¡así si! En Español

February 10, 2017

Terminó nuestra primera semana en Leon y las cosas se ponen cada día más emocionantes con talleres y presentaciones a diario.

Al terminar el Berrinche Ambiental, nos trasladamos a Leon a iniciar nuestro trabajo con los niños y niñas de el proyecto ” Chavaladas” , un orfanato temporal para niños con familias en crisis económica o emocional; y  “Los Niños del Fortín”, una escuela creada para los hijos de personas que trabajan en el basurero municipal.
 
Cada día nos sorprendemos más de lo rápido que estos chicos aprenden y del hambre que tienen por aprender distintas habilidades circenses. Como en todas las cosas, hay altos y bajos, creo que nuestro principal obstáculo ha sido la barrera de lenguaje. En el grupo, sólo Bea y yo hablamos español,  Eli y Ali tienen conocimientos básicos y Esther y Sam, recién han iniciado su aprendizaje del idioma. Pero eso no ha impedido que les podamos enseñar y/o reforzar distintas habilidades.
 
Cada día estos niños y niñas nos reciben con abrazos y sonrisas, y aunque en ocasiones es difícil hacer que se concentren en el trabajo, es palpable que han aprendido muchas cosas  lo que nos da energías para poder continuar.
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Taller con los niños de Chavaladas

 

Uno de nuestros proyectos, Chavaladas, están trabajando en el montaje de su show, que presentarán en la plaza central de la ciudad de Leon, ¡serán nuestros teloneros! 
Entre juegos y risas, se trabaja un montaje que incluye zancos, cariocas, diabolo, hula hoops y clown, entre otras. Ahí es donde nosotros nos sentimos felices, pues ese es nuestro principal objetivo: que los niños y niñas aprendan y sobre todo, que sean felices.
En nuestras presentaciones, cada espectáculo ha sido diferente, desde los escenarios, hasta los espectadores. Pero estamos dando lo mejor de nosotros y eso se transmite a la audiencia y se transforma en sonrisas, silbidos, abrazos y aplausos. Definitivamente hemos mejorado nuestro espectáculo y la gente disfruta cada minuto: Bea con su globo, el fabuloso Lindy Hoop de Esther, Ali y Bea, Sam con su monociclo, Eli y su bola de cristal y yo con mi varita.
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Número de levi stick en la presentación a los niños y niñas de Barrilete

Hemos tenido algunos inconvenientes, como los constantes cambios en nuestro calendario, la impuntualidad de quíen nos transporta a nuestros lugares de presentación o el viajar en transporte pùblico con nuestro vestuario y materiales. Pero eso no impide que disfrutemos cada segundo de nuestra aventura ¡y vaya que es una gran aventura con Aristas Sin Fronteras!
 
En nuestra casa las cosas han evolucionado. Ya no somos un grupo de desconocidos que comparten hogar, ahora somos una familia. entrenamos, tenemos nuestros chistes internos, conversamos, aprendemos y aunque hay momentos en que nos sentimos nostálgicos o necesitamos estar sólos, siempre sabemos que podemos contar los unos con los otros.
 
Personalmente, me siento orgulloso de compartir escenario y casa con tanto artista talentoso, de representar a centroamerica en este tour y de lo mucho que estoy aprendiendo de cada uno de mis compañeros y compañeras.
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Taller con los niños y niñas de Barrilete

Y es que es hermoso trabajar de esta forma ¡Así si!
Rodrigo