Aug 25 2015
We had only a day to decide what we are teaching and what we will be doing in our show. Never the less I was not worried about it because I was grouped with such talented persons that came to the table with their own skills and experience.
Our first class was a great learning experience. We requested to have 20 children from the ages of 8-12 and 20 youth from the ages of 13-25. Instead of having 20 kids in each class we had over 35 in each group and sadly had to turn the other kids away, I did not want to turn any of them away and decided instead of spending 6 days with each group we chose to spend 3 days with one group and have a completely different group of kids for the next half, with that being said we were able to double the initial group of kids we expected to have from reaching only 80 kids to 160 in the three weeks that we will be here.
Since there were so many cultures mixed into the melting pot of Kakuma it was a little difficult to comprehend that we were teaching skills to kids in which 98% of them didn’t speak english, The most common languages were Swahili, Arabic, Turkana, English, and French. Erin and I worked with the younger kids while Gavin and Andreas worked with the older youth. We warmed up the class with some mimic vocal warm-up games that Erin was very custom to doing and helped give me ideas on how to get the class involved. They really enjoyed this exercise and were thoroughly involved with this activity with huge smiles on their faces. We then played some clapping games that worked on improv, multi-tasking, and group building skills.
Our next activity brought both classrooms together by making their own juggling balls out of common things we found in the camp. Each kid was asked to look for 3 medium sized rocks outside. We continued to show them how we wrapped the rock into a piece of paper, placed a plastic bag around it, and sealed it with tape. This exercise went by faster then we expected which meant we were able to start juggling immediately.
I was so surprised how quickly the adolescents picked up these hand eye skills. Especially since most of the girls and a few boys were able to juggle by the end of the class. 3 hours seemed to fly by, at the end of the class Erin made a heart shape with her hands and said, “My heart is your heart” and we passed it around the room. What a wonderful way to end our first class. I was so excited to report back to my fellow teammates and see how their class went.
It seems that the older kids were having a more difficult time paying attention and showing interest, though the younger kids had more ambition the older found it frustrating and gave up a little easier form what I heard. I did not give up hope for that was the reason we were there, to help inspire and teach these kids skills that they could teach other kids in the camp. We decided to switch groups the next day and I was determined to show these youth as good as a time as we did with the children.
Between every workshop we have a short rest before we get ready for the show. Just enough time to get some lunch which has been provided by the UNCHR and just enough time to take an hour nap. The heat and activity wears you out and a nap is the perfect thing to prepare yourself for what is to come.
We arrived in a Market place in the small town of Lokitaung there was a wide street full of merchants. It was less crowded then the original market that we were introduced to the day before, but similar, this one was a little more rual and had less amenities. The minute we got out of the car in full clown attire we were greater by refugees that wanted to shake our hands and see why we were there. Kids came up to us at first afraid but laughed when we made fools of ourselves. We paraded though the market to create a bigger crow for our show which was to be performed behind the market in the large field.
We drew a huge circle in the ground and invited the kids to join us. there were at least 75 kids waiting for the show to start so I decided to warm up the crowd with some juggling and balancing bits. They helped release all the tension and doubts I had leading up to the show. I was afraid that the kids wouldn’t know how to react to a “Muzungu” (white person) with a red nose. Reminded that laughter in any language is the same I continued to perform my bits to the amazement and awe of the children. The show went great! We covered ourselves head to toe in fine dust and often battled the beating sun without any shade. Half way though our crowd grew 4 times in size reaching over 300 kids and adults surrounding us laughing, cheering, watching in amazement and awe. At the end of the show there were over 400 people swarming over us, our initial circle collapsed as everyone wanted to thank us and shake our hand. From the old adults to the tinniest of kids they were grateful for our gift. It was such a picturesque moment when we drove away to watch all the kids chase after the car. My heart is full of love and I’m reminded why I’m in this line of work. I’m so grateful for this experience.
Back at the UNHCR compound we reflected on our day together and had a good heart to heart with each other on what was on our mind, what was troubling us, and what we can do to help each other. It’s important to be able to have these moments with your team and it builds a strong trusting foundation that will hopefully carry us though thick and thin on this adventure. I can’t wait for tomorrow.
We arrived at Horseed Primary School to the same group of kids that we had before. All of the younger children were accounted for but we lost 5 of the older kids. Today Erin and I decided to do a similar warmup we did with the children but with a more complicated group activity which they proved to be successful when faced with a challenge. Our juggling portion of the class was just as successful with the older kids. tho there we not many girls in the class 2 out of 3 girls were juggling before any of the boys did. Eventually we were juggling side by side together with our home made juggling balls, As I watched them practice on their own I was so proud of them I couldn’t help but show them my excitement every time they did something right. truthfully they learned to juggle faster then when I taught kids in the states, even with a language barrier.
Our next exercise was a bit of acrobatics and tumbling. I was not aware that almost all the kids already had most of the skills I was trying to teach them front rolls, shoulder rolls, cartwheels, walking on the hands. I’m guessing tomorrow I’ll try and teach them some acro-balance and group pyramids. What an amazing group of kids with such talent.
After the class we were invited to a multi-cultural event and competition where teens rehearsed an act to compete and perform in front of their community. The building was behind the school and was packed with every different type of culture. We were welcomed in and given a front row seat to watch the performances, the first act was a 30min drama started with a father dying and a widowed stepmother being forced to raise her step daughter along with her two other daughters. She treated her very disrespectfuly and wished she was no longer her burden, so she arranged her to be married to a young man tho she was underage and two young to be married she continued to proceed with the wedding, the step daughter was not happy and felt grief and sorrow that she was forced into this marriage against her will. During the wedding reception the police break up the party and expose the mother for her wrongdoing. I asked the guy next to me why the step mother treated her step daughter so badly and he said in their culture it was normal for another woman to treat a child like that if it was not their child. The next act was a hip hop group of 15 teens reenacting a hip hop video, pacing around the stage trading off the mic and showing off their MC skills.
I was asked to perform for them on such short notice, I had no props nor any idea what I was going to do. When I agreed to do it I didn’t ask my partners if they wanted to do something with me. When I did they didn’t seem prepared either. So I went up there alone only armed with a plastic chair. After greeting the crowd I asked the sound guy for his base ball cap. It smelled so bad I gave it back and asked the guy next to him for his hat, which was worse then the original one I picked. After balancing it on my nose and catching it on my head I struck a powerful Run DMC pose and immediately gained the rapport of the audience. I asked one of the theater performers on stage to play a quick game and he mimicked my every move until we collaborated together with a thigh stand. For the finale I balanced the chair on my chin, flipped it around and casually sat in it to end in a huge response. What a great unexpected audience, I had no idea they would appreciate what I had to offer. It was awesome!
On our way to each show we re-cap our notes from the night before. It’s a good time to help brainstorm on how to make the act better and things we can improve on. This is my favorite part of performing the same act over and over again. Though it’s the same premise, we always find ways to make it better and better every time we perform it.
We arrived at the other end of the market and realized this parade is going to be twice as long as the first. We started parading behind the car as it slowly crept thought the narrow street. I first saw a young Somali kid and quickly became his friend. Clarese (our event coordinator) followed us and informed that the kids were invited to follow us through the market to our show which was in front of a primary school on the other side of the market. This kid followed us the whole way. We stopped by almost every shop to greet everyone with huge smiles in return. There was a woman who came up to Erin and started dancing with her, she was so full of joy to see us she could not control her excitement. Our crowd was huge 3x the size of our first parade and it was a lot harder to manipulate the crowd into a full circle when we reached the school.
We hit a note with the kids and adults who came to watch. We even had local police step into our show to keep pushing the crowd back. It was not a problem for us. Our bits and acts with little rehearsal went off without a hitch. Gavin’s magic had a huge impact on the crowd. Enough to make one adult freak out and walk away. For all I know, black magic is real in their culture. This audience was so great! At the end of the show we learned from the last one to pack up all the props and then great the kids afterwards. Everyone wanted to shake my hand and squeak my horn that I had in my pocket. Their faces were priceless, I could see so much love and admiration for us in their eyes. One girl stood out to me. She was waring a beat up, dirty, torn, faded worn out Cinderella princess dress (The one I see all the time working renaissance fairs) Though it was a ragged cloth and not as pristine as I would normally see it I got real emotional realizing how this young girl wishes to love another life just as in the young girl in the story of Cinderella. All of them wish to leave this place some day and have an opportunity to make something of themselves but while they are here all they can do is dream of a better tomorrow. I’m so glad to be able to be here for these kids and give them something to laugh about. The ride back to the UN compound was an emotional one, I’ll tell ya that.