On January 4th 2018, a group of somewhat functional circus types managed to meet in Goa under the name: Performers Without Borders, to join forces, to teach and perform for children in areas of high poverty. Our aim? To share some smiles…. 

Since then, we spent some time in Gokana for bootcamp and to begin adjusting to the Indian lifestyle. Next we took our brand new, all singing, all dancing, circus show – to begin doing what we came here to do.

Today is our final day here at the Gandhi Ashram in Ahmedabad; soon we will be boarding a 36 hour train to Varanasi to continue onto the next stage of our adventure. Today marks the end of the second of four destinations and one third of our total time together as a group. It is amazing how time spent in one place can simultaneously feel like a second and a lifetime.

Our arrival here, just 13 days ago, began a little sooner than we anticipated – roughly 10 hours earlier than expected – as what we thought was a 30 hour train, turned out, well, not to be. Luckily, bootcamp had prepared us for solid teamwork. Between us we got our team of 7 and all our luggage off the train and into three ‘tuck tucks’ (rickshaws) – much to the surprise of all of us – and en route to a last minute booked hostel. Despite confusion, tiredness and a general mild hysteria from the team we settled down into our hair covered beds for a night of rest, dreaming of what tomorrow might bring. One thing was certain – we weren’t in the luxury of Namaste Yoga Farm anymore.

When we arrived the following day, we were welcomed with open arms by people with sparkling eyes. You know those special kind of smiles that reach the eyes – the kind of smiles filled with warmth you can not fake? This was the kind of smile we were greeted with by everyone we met.

We were told the rules of staying here, shown the places we would be staying and were given a tour of the Gandhi museum. Each team member was lost in their own internal journey of self-exploration – and we hadn’t even begun working yet. It was clear that being here would present challenges for each of us – and would change all of us, at least a little.

In our first few days here, we realised everything would be different – from our clothing to our hair. Culture shock a plenty.

But the changes we were asked to make seemed almost inconsequential.

Our job while here was to visit some of the local communities and villages and inspire, through workshops and performances… What we didn’t expect was how inspired we would be by the welcome we received at each and every place we visited.

When I think about the places we have been – I think about how beautiful it is. But let me be clear – it is the people who are beautiful – with their colourful clothing and warm smiles of welcome. The place is not. It is dirty, with strong smells of rotting and piles upon piles of litter. It is cramped, with people and houses crammed together, in unhygienic, unsanitary conditions. By Western standards – it is inhumane.

Between hundred of smiles, cries of “selfie, selfie”, shows and teachings, the days passed by like blurs

We learned a lot across our time here: how to eat food we didn’t want to begin with, (because saying no to Indian mama’s is almost impossible and wasting food isn’t okay), how one selfie means at least five and how as a white person, eating an omelette in a street warrants a crowd of fifteen spectators…..

We also learned how much of an impact Performers Without Borders really makes.

Before I came here, I was convinced that workshops without words are possible, that the performing arts offers us the opportunity to break barriers; cultural, social, political – but being here gave me the affirmation I was looking for.

Smiles truly are universal.

Kiera (6)

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