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Guatemala, Day 5: The final day of lessons - JonM

Dec. 4th, 2008

07:49 pm - Guatemala, Day 5: The final day of lessons

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For the first time this trip, I slept until the alarm clock went off. After the usual shower, shave and breakfast, we loaded up in the van for the last day of lessons with the kids.

Our plan was roughly the same as yesterday: A short demonstration of circus talents, some music exercises, and then divide the kids up into groups to rotate them through activities. For the demonstration, Jim and Kerri whipped up a "Dead or Alive" comedy sketch which the kids really enjoyed. Dan did a funny juggling bit, and Lara did a short rope piece.

For the music, Matt and Sari worked on percussion to accompany the song we had been teaching them. It took a little while to get the kids on the same page with the percussion, but eventually they had a good groove going. As Sari was putting her guitar down, the kids asked to sing the words to the song again, which was cool since we didn't know for sure if they were into it or not. So we brought out the word cards and ran them through the song a few times.

Dividing the kids up and working them through the activity stations was the same chaos as yesterday. Jim and I worked the acrobatics station, and it went pretty well barring a few bad apples. After several rotations, the teachers said time was up, and the kids packed off in the buses. As they departed, we gave each kid a special present: three juggling balls of their own to keep and play with. (Getting those 400 balls was no small feat, and involved buying out several vendors in the marcada near the hotel...)

We secured the gear, and headed off for lunch, going back to the comedore next to the Camino Seguro project. In spite of the appearances, the food that came out of those kitchens was top notch, and today I got a beef chow mein with salad and horchata, for under 20 quetzales.

After lunch we went into the Camino Seguro project building. Lisa was going to show us the movie "Recycled Life", a documentary they produced a few years ago about the people who work in the dump. It took a little longer than expected for Lisa to show up, so we went on a little tour of the facility, checking out the library and the kitchen. Watching the movie was very moving, as it showed many aspects of these people's lives that would be impossible or unsafe for us to experience first hand.

We left the project a little sobered, and headed back to the Democracia, where we juggled, practiced skits, and ate candy while we waited for the kids to show up. The kids were going to be late, we learned, because they were going to the cemetary to offer respect for a young girl who had died Tuesday in a freak lolipop asphyxiation.

Eventually they arrived, the little shrieking balls of terror. We ran through the demo again, with Mark substituting for Jim in the hilarious "Dead or Alive" skit with Kerri, as Jim was off changing his flight to stay a day longer. As the kids had come in and sat down, they were singing the cute Tongan song that Sari had done each day before, so the music lesson was mostly focused on that.

With the late start, we only had about an hour to work with the kids, so we split them up quickly and tried to go through as many rotations as we could. For the most part, the kids behaved, but some of the kids were really atrocious, including a girl who made a rude gesture to me after I told her to get down off a tree and come join the group. The time passed pretty quick, and eventually the kids left, with juggling balls in hand.

Done with lessons at the Democracia, we dismantled the rig, which went surprisingly easy, and loaded all our gear into the van. Roberto, the manager of the Democracia, had been a thorn in our side the entire time, so we decided to kill him with kindness and thank him as a group before we left. It may have worked, as he asked us to come back next year and work with more of the kids...

Tomorrow there is going to be a big fair-type end of year celebration at the Guarderia (day care center), so we went over to setup the aerial rig for demonstrations throughout the day. As we arrived, we encountered several of the kids we had worked with earlier that day, walking along the street and playing with their new juggling balls. Seeing those same kids in their home environment, a slum filled with squatters and drug addicts, as opposed to the clean environs of the Democracia, really hammered home the reality of their situation.

We unloaded the rig and got it set up when Amy, the volunteer running the event, showed up and demanded that it be moved. After some harrowing discussions, in which Amy couldn't really form an opinion on where it _should_ go, we got it situated and staked down to everyone's sastisfaction.

By the time we got things sorted at the Guarderia, it was pretty late, so we had our first ride back to Antigua in the dark. We got back to the hotel at about a quarter to 7, so we had just enough time to drop our bags, change clothes and check email before heading over to the restaurant, La Pena, which was our favorite so far.

La Pena has live music starting at 7:30 each night, but we wanted to talk to eachother, so we moved back into one of the rooms of the restaurant, where the music was still plenty loud. The food was good, and we had a couple rounds of shots to celebrate being done with the lessons and to toast how much Jenn saved our butts. After the food was done, Jim gave us a very animated demonstration of playing spoons, and we hung out for a little while until they brought us a big bowl of chicken soup to take back to Kerri, who had succumbed to Matt's flu.

We walked the soup back to the hotel, did a quick lice check, and went off to bed.

While we may be done with lessons, we're not completely off the hook: tomorrow's fair is going to be four hours of non-stop action, with 500 kids running around from point to point. Thankfully, we're not the only attraction, and there'll be a couple of bouncy castles, a trampoline, balloon modellers, and more, to keep the kids occupied.

I have to say, spending time hanging out with circus folk is fantastic, and the fact that we're all working together on such a great project makes it even better. These people are awesome, every one of them, and my life is certainly richer for the experience.