…some mornings I wake up and think….okay, here goes….
But then I make some kids smile and laugh and it’s like “yup, this is where I’m supposed to be right now”. I love performing for the kids out here. Jamie has been enouraging me to walk funny and trip as we set up for the show. Often he’ll walk past a group of kids and drop his hat off on one of them and they’ll burst out laughing. Then Jamie turns to Liz and I and says, “that gets ‘em everytime!”. The kids here love to laugh and play. I get such a warm feeling performing out here. You know you’ve brought them joy and happiness. As we drive past the kids in our truck (with giant “clowns without border” logos), the kids shout out songs from the show and ” Awoogah! Awoogah” (from the horn routine in the show). They will run after the truck with smiles on their faces. I keep hoping the goats will join the fan club and start running after the truck….no such luck yet….
Beautiful Moment number 1: hearing the cries of Awoogah Awoogah from the village.
The past week we had the OVC (orphans and vulnerable children) create and perform short plays about their life dreams. They used the various acting tools we taught them and even incorporated some traditional gospel songs. The songs are what really touched me. These kids sang with such heart and passion…. it was like nothing I have ever heard. Some kids who covered their face two weeks ago when asked to say their name in front of the group, now stood up stong and announced their dreams. It was rewarding for all. Sometimes I forget that I’m in the midsts of children who have suffered great loss are orphaned. I just see them smiling and growing stronger.
Yesterday was our last day with the Gogos and the OVC (orphans and vulnerable children). We met at Sinevuso, a school close to Woza Moya, and we had our last class together. We all did warm up together and then reflected on their weeks with us. Overall, it seems the children gained confidence and happiness from our time with them. We presented them with www.thoughtonathread.co.uk, which is a black string bracelet with a red bead. A way for good vibes to be sent to each other and especially to the children here. Trish, an amazing woman we met, who was working with Woza Moya, developed this beautiful concept. We then presented all the children with clown noses! Man, they looked good! The best was when they all started singing their songs and the noses kept falling off and bouncing around…That’s Comedy!!!
Beautiful Moment number 2: Thembi, our amazing translator and a caregiver of the children at Woza Moya, wearing the shawl we gave her. She looked stunning standing in front of the valley with the purple, blue and pink wrapped around her.
So this morning I woke up in The Patch. We are staying in this cottage in Boston, owned by Helen Smetherham. She is the widow of Rob Smetherhan. And this next week we will be working at the Rob Smetherhan Bereavement Service for Children. We will be teaching the children there and performing shows around the area. The cottage is super cosy and I woke up this moring to the sound of cows mooing. This place is crawling with cows! It’s like I”m home in Alberta, only everyone speaks Zulu. I miss the monkeys…. the cows aren’t quite as interesting to watch.
Beautiful Moment number 3: Liz and Jamie singing a traditional gospel song at breakfast this morning. Liz was determined to learn it and she does it beautifully. My granola tasted better because of them.
So here I am at a cafe in South Africa….in Umzumbe. It’s our first weekend off. We are staying at a backpacker’s lodge. We are right beside the ocean, which we will be visiting later today. Jamie and I are gonna crash into waves and build the world’s largest sandcastle!
Where to begin….
The plane ride was long and the jet lag was thick. Johannesburg was like a new planet to me. Everyone has gates or really high walls around their houses. Lots of scared rich people. It’s spring here…but it feels like a Canadian summer to me. We, Liz, Jamie and I, created a show at Jamie’s Grandfather’s place.
Screw up 1: Showering before Grandpa and he couldn’t get in the bathroom
We hit the road to start out work in Kwazulu Natal (might I remind you I speak NO Zulu, language barrier here I come!). We checked into the Buddhist Retreat Center and settled into our own rooms. Jamie and Liz went to meditate, I watched the monkeys in the trees (they’re all over the place).
Screw up 2: Stepping in monkey poo.
This past week we did performances in the mornings (total of 5 for high schools, junior highs and elementary schools). They loved us and in turn, we loved them! It was so wild to watch my fellow clowns bring huge amounts of laughter and joy to children in the townships.
Our clowns show is very a la European clowning (in other words, very Charlie Chaplin, with lots of routines, falls, magic tricks and stuff coming out of Jamie’s mouth… clown noses, hankies etc…and out of his pants…rubber chickens, horns etc….) Liz plays a Zubuphonewhich we have gotten lots of joke millage out of), Jamie plays banjo and I play accordion. Liz and I also play doctors in the show. As we are performing the show to lots of children who are affected by HIV/AIDS, or have someone close to them dealing the virus, we make light of the scariness of a visit to the hospital. Also, we focus on women’s empowerment by having female doctors. At the end of the show we create a Gogo (caregiver or grandmother) puppet out of a balloon and have it play with a volunteer. In the end the puppet bursts and the clowns deal with death through grieving, compassion and laughter. I’m so happy and blessed to be a part of this show. My favorite part is rehearsing. I laugh so hard I cry. Jamie and Liz are so hilarious, patient and inspiring.
Screw up 3: When doing a magic trick, don’t accidentally reveal the secrets to the audience….um…oups.
Afternoons were spent with the OVC (orphans and vulnerable children) at the Woza Moya Center. Everyday there was between 30-36 children, who have lost either one or both parents, that come to the center and play with us. We also make the children sandwiches and juice. Through games and theater we are working with them on their life dreams. All the children told us what they hope to be when they grow up, from president, to doctor, police officer and my favorite ‘drive a ship in the ocean’. Everyday we take turns leading the group in different exercises and improvs. We have a translator, Thembe, to help with the instruction. By the end of the week, the children had grown more fearless and their laughter fuller. Two mornings were spent with the Gogos. Liz took them through a visualization exercise and we had them recount their favorite memories from childhood. At then end of our sessions with the OVCs and the Gogos, they sing and pray together. And the valleys of the townships are more beautiful because of them.
Screw up 4: Not coming here sooner.
On Monday we return for another week with the Gogos, the OVCs and performing in the townships. I’m so grateful to be with these amazing clowns, giving laughter to beautiful people…