In 2017, CWB – USA toured to El Salvador. Two of our volunteer clowns, Coi Coi and Ana, wrote about their experiences and Ana also included the following reflection on what it felt like to leave, after the intense work of the tour.
Today was a never-ending day. How many goodbyes are there in a farewell? I’ve looked into hundreds of eyes, given hundreds of hugs, experienced hundreds of feelings. One of the boys, Luiz, shyly wipes his tears on the sleeves of his shirt, and then uses my clothes instead. We receive lots of gifts: messages, stories, letters. I realize just now that behind all the shyness from the first few days of the workshop, their eyes and ears were wide open. Some of the gifts aren’t material. Fátima, the young mother, has shown me how it’s necessary to be willing to help others with your arms wide open. Doña Emília tells me, “we have to find our way through.”
Today, our performance is long. Lots of things happen outside of the “original” show. We’re very present. At the end, it rains, and it feels like a cleansing. The pandilleros (gang members) also watch our show, and they laugh. They’re human, just like us. Even though they lost their childhood, they recover it very quickly during our show. One of them jokes with me, showing me just how bad he can be at eating an ice cream cone. I’m not afraid of him, then, because we’re having fun together. I remember what Doña Emília said: “We have to find our way through.”
One of the women, who is in a wheelchair, hits a piñata with surprising force. She asks me to grab some of the candy for her child. I wish there were millions of piñatas in the world, that could be smashed by all the people who are excluded, who have been oppressed by violence and poverty. We feel welcome here, and I wish I could stop time.
Sometimes, life offers you something so special that it’s impossible to be grateful enough. Oswald, the artist coordinator of the mental health team we partnered with, cries, because heroes cry too. It’s very hard for him to swim against the flow of hardship in San Salvador, and yet I feel hopeful because we found someone so far away, across the world, who dreams the same dreams that we do.