Laughter is the Shortest Distance Between Two People

May 27th, after two days in Jama and four shows, Gabi from Sao Paulo reaches us after a never-ending journey to Guayaquil by air and driven to Jama by Javier, our benefactor. There we are!! May 28th, we are all together to enjoy a day of an artistic and human meeting, rehearsals and rest.

The following days are full of emotions. The tired and suspicious looks turned into smiles and laughs by watching and sharing our clown stupidity, our freedom to be a fool and to laugh at our weaknesses. Javier drives us through kilometers on a road that is still fractured and becomes our stage manager with his great generosity.

Our show talks about four foreigners. We have, Pepinillo, a New-York singer who perfumes the Ecuadorean atmosphere with her irresistible accent and joy of sharing. Patacona is a Brazilian clown with an overjoyed heart who can’t stop moving and falling to the floor. Jupiter is a Mexican clown and slapstick expert. And finally, we have, Désiré, a French clown surprisingly delicate with his perfumed flowers for the children of Jama to smell, children who are used to breathing the dust of the destroyed houses.Four clowns stand and play instruments to a large group of children on a dirt road in a damaged part of Ecuador.

These professional extroverts meet on stage to give their music, stupidity and tricks to invite kids and adults alike to laugh at our fragility, and to reinforce our humanism and altruism because it’s together that we create and recreate the world.

We choose volunteers from the audience. One volunteer makes a love parade between a bee and a flower; another one learns to dance and wears vivid colors with Patacona and receives a hilarious customized song by Pepinillo. A courageous child stands between two flying clubs which will take away the hat he’s been holding with his teeth. Four young fellows demonstrate that even when the circumstances teach us to give away, we can lean on others and not fall, as we can always count on the human when material difficulties are present.

Mutual aid between the inhabitants of Manabí is happening, and we met many people striving for the physical and psychological reconstruction of the city. I was particularly moved by the determination, generosity, and altruism of the quiet and humble population of Manabí and by fellows like Javier, our benefactor. Or Daniel, a student preparing to become a physical education teacher who decided to come to his native city of Jama to do his internship with traumatized children. We also reached the neighboring and poorer region of Esmeraldas, to present our show in the village of Chamanga. Over there, it’s very strong to feel how families seem to struggle and to notice how difficult it is to illuminate the dull eyes of children, under the burning sun of noon. I believe that for this impoverished region of Esmeraldas, that was devastated by the earthquake, but receives less media, it will be difficult to recover.

In the Manabí region, there was a lot of national as well as international humanitarian aid. However, there were some situations that made me reflect on the humanitarian response. For instance, while we participated in a children’s festival organized by a foundation from Quito, I felt quite sad as I realized that there was no water to distribute to the people but sweetened and artificially flavored sodas. Also, when humanitarian aid is organized to provide a “refugees” camp for those who have no home, the daily life of these people is upset. An impenetrable fence surrounds the camp; there is a lot of house rules and large military and police presence to enforce them. It is forbidden to throw papers on the floor for a population that probably did not have a trash can in their old house. Could this be an opportunity to make environmental education? It certainly is, but today the priority is the psychological well-being of the people. And I can feel that people who were able to stay at home or pitch a tent on their land and thus keep a social fabric with their neighbors seem more psychologically resilient and vigorous to recover from this tragedy.Looking inside the camp, past the tall fence, is a refugee camp with long rows of white, sterile shelters.

Sometimes I wonder how people will afford to get food or pharmaceutical products once the aid is over. I feel the limits of our society which can not provide solutions beyond the short term. As Clowns without borders, we are not different, since we are a short-lived breath of fresh air to the population, but we hope to remain a memory in the minds of Ecuadorians, a memory that will hopefully help them move forward to rebuild their lives upon solidarity and sharing.

Thanks to Clowns Without Borders USA, Global Smile and the Prefecture of Guayas for coordination, logistics and support. And thanks to my companions for their laughing and big heart, Julia, Gabi, and Andrés!!!!

Because laughter is the shortest distance between two people…and more!!!

Erwan for CWB

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