Standing out on the balcony on the third floor, I looked out over the piles of brick, tin sheds, and mounds of drying rice. Our host looked over at me and smiled.
“Were these all homes or businesses?” I asked, as I pointed to the tin emergency relief shelters scattered throughout the mountainous town of Dharmastali, a region of Kathmandu most affected by the two earthquakes back in April 2015.
“These were all several story tall homes, just like ours.” She answered.
“Ah, I see.” I replied.
“Many people died.” She said.
“Were you here?” I asked. “During the earthquake?”
“Yes.” She answered. Nothing more.
Juliana and I stood among a group of artists we’d only met a week ago but who were, at that moment, our ensemble. They are part of a theatre troupe Circus Kathmandu (CK), formed in 2010. Circus Kathmandu is made up of thirteen young Nepalese artists rescued from trafficking and the streets who have turned to contemporary circus to build their self-esteem. Their circus skills are world-class and they are now diving into the world of ensemble-based clown performance. After the earthquake, they wanted to give back to Nepal, so they contacted Clowns Without Borders. We arrived in country one week ago and, after a lot of hard work by everyone, today we put up our first clown show.
Moments later, we found ourselves down in the square, setting up the sound system, rolling out the carpet, setting the hula hoops, the hand-balancing chair, the juggling knives, and the rest of our props. The kids and parents circled us. Old grandmothers, cackling in delight, just cracking up. Tiny kids with big bright eyes. A pile of nervous teenagers hanging on each other, holding in their joy as it bursts out of their faces.
At the end of the show, we pull out juggling balls and bubbles. The children descend. We play, and play, and play, and I can see my fellow ensemble members, and new clowns, learning in real time about the red nose and what it’s doing for them and what its doing for the kids circling them.
I still can’t tell what’s more amazing about this trip, the chance to witness and support the CK artists as they flower into clowns, or the laughter and delight on the faces of these young kids who
stand transfixed watching our ensemble do our thing. No need to decide. It’s all good.
And on top of it all, its Tihar, Nepal’s biggest national holiday. These people know how to celebrate. It’s a real honor to be here. Grateful to CK for inviting us to do this work with their artists. Also, grateful to CWB USA for funding this project, if you’d like to support our work, please donate here.
We’ll continue to travel to displacement camps around Nepal for one more week. Two shows down and seven more to go. More pictures here!!