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Guatemala, Day 6: Wrapping up with a final day of madness - JonM

Dec. 5th, 2008

04:45 pm - Guatemala, Day 6: Wrapping up with a final day of madness

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I woke to discover the bug that had been going around the team finally got to me, with a sore throat that felt like sandpaper. Done with the lessons, we were set to go to their end of the year fair, where we'd have the full contingent of 500 kids and their families, for 4 hours of riotous festivities.

Lunch was to be hot dogs, so before we loaded into the van we made a journey to the Bodera (supermarket) to get some additional rations. I got some dried fruit and nuts, which would work well to tide me through the day.

After getting stuck in some traffic heading into Guatemala City, we arrived at the Camino Seguro project building, where the street was clotted with kids. The plan was for the kids to start at the project building, and parade the mile or so to the guarderia (day care center) where the festivities would be held. Half of us got out to join the kids on their march, while myself and the remaining team members went ahead in the van to get things set up.

As soon as the van door opened to let the marchers out, the kids mobbed us, surging into the van. We successfully repelled the invaders, only to encounter similar difficulties when we opened the back door to get some instruments out. We distracted some of them by handing out the sandpaper we had used in percussion, and giving a choice few kids a cow bell and a horn.

Arriving at the guarderia, we unpacked the essentials, and emptied our pockets, stowing the valuables in the van. I tossed a line over the rig, and Lara climbed up to rig the equipment: a rope, the trapeze, and Kerri's tissu. Lara and I then worked for a couple minutes to formulate a quick doubles rope routine for the show later on in the day.

Soon enough, the shouts of "the children are coming!" echoed out in the courtyard. The field was quickly filled with kids, parents and teachers. Rejoined with the rest of the team, we were regaled with stories of awesomeness on the march. But there wasn't much time to relax, and the kids started coming up to the tent. I recognized many of the kids from the previous days' lessons, both the troublemakers and the quick learners.

For the aerial station, we had the trapeze down, and ran the kids through a quick progression: hang from your knees, sit up, stand, arabesque, come down. Some of the kids who had done well previously got to show off their tricks, and we gave them a couple of extra tricks to try out.

We didn't really have a set plan for what would go on inside the tent, aside from a table for face painting. Surprisingly, the kids (mostly the older ones) were really into just stretching. So Jim, Kerri, Noel and Jenn spent pretty much the whole time doing partner stretching with kid after kid.

Dan walked out amongst the crowd, distributing the last of the juggling balls and poi, giving demonstrations and sharing moves with the interested people.

For the first half, I mostly just walked around taking pictures, and helping the other folks out when they got into a bind. Around noon I got tired of taking pictures, so I tracked down Jorge to let me stow my camera in the van, scarfed down a hot dog, and took over for Noel on the aerial rig, with Brooks, one of the Camino Seguro volunteer, helping me out. Kid after kid came up, did their trick, and either immediately got back in line, or ran off to some other attraction.

The hardest part wasn't spotting the kids as they did their tricks, though. The real challenge was keeping the other kids in order; they'd crowd around us, shoving each other and sometimes the kid that was up in the air. Many times a random kid came out of nowhere and jumped on the equipment, whether or not someone was on it already.

Throughout the day, there were various activities happening on stage, from your typical pro-environmental skits (although in these cases, the kids were talking about things which have a direct impact on them), to singing and hip hop dancing. As 1:30pm finally rolled around, it was our turn to perform and close out the event.

Jim and Kerri started off with their "Dead or Alive" skit, with Jenn narrating and Matt and Sari providing the beats. Dan juggled and paddle balled, pulling "senorita" Mark out of the audience as a "volunteer" for another funny skit. After moving everyone over to watch the aerial rig (and the subsequent shoeing of kids to preserve the space we needed to perform) Lara and I finished off the show with a quick doubles rope act.

And with that, our work with Camino Seguro came to an end. We took some group pictures, broke down the equipment and stacked it neatly, and then piled back in the van to go back to Antigua.

Back at the hotel, it was only half past three, so we all broke off and did our own things. I pulled the day's pictures off my camera, and then went out to walk around the city and take pictures. Antigua's a pretty nice town for photography: time was, it was the capitol of Guatemala, until it burned down and the capitol relocated. As a result, there are many historic ruins scattered throughout the town. Laid out on a grid, the town is easy to navigate, excepting the sidewalks, whose constant undulation make for a sure fall if you're not paying attention.

As the sun was setting, I arrived at the Parque Central, which was halfway strung with Christmas lights. It's unfortunate that the security situation in Antigua is so bad, otherwise I'd love to go around the city at night and take pictures. But, with my giant camera I make an obvious target, and the threat of robbery (or worse) causes the city to shut down fairly early.

Ah well. At least I managed to find some postcards.

Shortly, we're headed off to dinner, at some restaurant which features live dancing. This should be a pretty fun night, as several people take off tomorrow, making this our last collective hurrah.

Tomorrow, it sounds like those of us not leaving are going to go hike up the volcano. A first for me, I'm really looking forward to it.