On this, our first full day of this trip, what I am most touched by is the vibrancy, the joy, and the connections that can be made between people without a word of common language being spoken. Arriving at Refuge, a camp we had done a show for the evening before, we were greeted by waving hands and smiling faces, children walking amidst rubble, who live in tents, who literally, and truly have nothing – nothing except that undefeatable thing called joy. Boys who, in the United States would have begun to be what I like to call “Too Cool for School” – acting much tougher and older than their years – here play, and clap, and sing and dance with a reckless abandon that belies their circumstances. They make me feel small and petty for being annoyed at, well, anything. Our workshop of physical theatre games, and movement work, and rhythmic clapping and stomping lasts for over two hours, and they give us their full attention. I forget where I am, the rubble and tents melt away, and all I see is their happiness, their elation, their liveliness.
But then, out of hunger, an adorable girl in a white dress that resembles the one I made my first communion in faints. Even getting her cold water to bring her body temperature down is a struggle here, and reality slams hard into my face. But as I stand, rather helplessly, looking on – a child looks up at me, and sings a bit of the song we had been singing earlier, and I am back in the joy and wonder. I realize, I can’t medically help that little girl, but, I can, I WILL play as hard with those kids as they want me to. And I find myself wanting to bow to them for their ability to find such pleasure, and life in this place that could be so easily a hell-hole. And I am struck by the community that we were able to build through play, and song, and dance in one amazing morning.
Later that day, we went to a different camp, for a show. We were greeted with children on a platform drumming, and singing in welcome to us. They gather around, as we play a game of how many ways we can say, ”Bonjour!” Adults emerge from tents, and all make their way to our “stage” and we begin. They are a shier crowd than our first show, but after Gwen shows her ENORMOUSLY padded butt, they laugh, and we are off. At one point an adult man is pulled onto the stage, to dance with me, and the place goes NUTS. Again, the word I am thinking of is community, with everyone laughing and playing together.
Children follow Jay as he leads a workshop in Le Refuge camp
Sometime during the show, I spy a teenage girl. My favorite clown prey, and I strike an “I’m a tough girl pose”, she gives it to me right back. All through the show, we play this game, and as we drive off after the show, she is the last person I see. We exchange one last – two teenage sisters with a bad attitude – and I leave, really glad we have a workshop with her the next day.