So it BEGINS…after settling into our new flat in lovely Leon once again, a spacious house with a nice garden and friendly family neighbour, Amalia, the head of Las Chavaladas, who also happens to organise our trips and provide us with contacts. We spend our first full day buying supplies in the morning and sorting equipment. We have a show at El Barrilete in the afternoon, which is where we will be spending a lot of our time building on what the previous 3 tours have done here at this youth club centre which provides before, during, and after school care freely for the community.

Unfortunately one of our intrepid team, Jake, is out sick with a cold (if you can believe it in the tropics!), so at lunch we revisit the whole show and come up with a plan C having already previously used up our plan B for our 1st show, when Rachel and Rachel were out sick. Feeling underprepared but confident in all of our abilities we get taken with Edwing, our neighbour, on a crazy camioneta ride to the Centre. For the majority of the team this is our first experience of what it might be like to be strapped to the roof of a rally car! Dressed in our costumes and carrying various kit, we squeeze into the truck, bumping and beeping at break-neck speed. Quick! It’s a Circus Emergency!

On arrival we are greeted by a large group of children, some very young and all extremely excited. As a team we have a quick check-in to talk through the show minus one performer, with things getting rearranged on the spot. Having previously been on PWB tours this is something I’m well versed in and although it seems rushed I know that we have a collection of fantastic performance skills and whatever we do now will be 100% entertainment.

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The centre resembles an old petrol station with concrete floors and a shady car port area, ideal for a show. However due to the height of the car port we choose to perform on the dirt in the sun! Of course, all part of a tour! Alex’s circus instincts kick in and he plays a few games with the children, as do myself and Rachel, before we hit the dirt for our show. The show is chaotic and full of mistakes but, with all things considered, pretty good! We have fun and the children definitely have fun, roaring with laughter especially at the clown skit. Immediately afterwards a speech is given by one of the older boys welcoming us back and how they are looking forward to us exploring circus and performance with them.

Maggie, Kate and Chris are also there to show support. They are the main reason Performers Without Borders travelled to Nicaragua, Maggie being the mother of PWB veteran Rob. They have spent many years here in Nica providing assistance on many social projects and developing contacts throughout the country whilst fundraising back home in Europe.

We have a quick open box session which is hard to close as the enthusiasm for circus hasn’t waned since last year, but we manage and head back to the flat for French Onion Soup and wine from our head chef of the night Juniper! Tres fantastic!

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Day 2 and we are ready for more, full throttle…(and thats just the Camionetas) PWB POWER. We perform a show early at 9:00 with Aldea, an orphanage of sorts. The children have very young mothers which is very common in this country and cannot cope looking after them. The place is well funded and full of very young children, toddlers mainly. We have an excellent shady area with a high enough celling to perform in and the children begin arriving in line formations which is very cute especially when they attempt to sit down.

The show is once again Jake-less but we agree to take our time with this performance to play with the children before hand, and they are well and truly rapt in our antics. They scream in excitement when I pretend to crash my unicycle and jump over Rachel, and again when we bring a member of staff up on stage, provide her with a crash helmet and proceed to throw things around her head to their delight.

A fun show and we head back to the flat (can I say home now? Home is where your juggling toys are right?) happy and excited for more. Quick team lunch and we are back to Barrilete and the rally driving Camioneta ride. The conductor has an amazing whistle which I’m pretty jealous of, perfected since boyhood, I imagine. On arrival we find welcoming smiles, high fives followed by fist bumps, and hugs!

Cesar leads a new game to us all involving flying animals, which is tricky for me to follow with my Spanish. Racheli leads musical statues (a global classic) and gives us a chance to bust out the moves! Circus relay races and dancing penguins and flamingos are all in a days work for the PWB crew. When the toys appear there is a real thirst for practice. Acrobatics, Wand, Hoop, Staff and Diabolo! Everyone on the team is working hard with the sun beating down. We are dusty and sweaty but all the children are happy to share their skills at the end of the season.

Today was Australia Day and so Rachel and I cook veggie burgers with pineapple, beetroot and an egg and a side of chips, singing “Waltzing Matilda”. Great food after a hectic day.

Day 3 is an early start for 4 of the team who head to Las Chavaladas which is a rescue centre for boys on the street, providing meals, accommodation, education, and of course safety. Arriving as the boys finish their morning chores, brushing their teeth with brand new toothbrushes each with a name tag, Myself, Aileen, Cesar, and Rachel use the basketball court to hold workshops for 17 eager faces.

We play some quick games before splitting into 2 for group juggling, then staff spinning (Baston) and ball juggling (Pelotas) with some unicycling in there for good measure. Open box follows and I’m really impressed with the skill level already shown by the boys. I was wearing my Nike shoes and a young boy was (I think) trying to tell me his friend’s nickname was Nike due to a scar across his forehead. These boys have lead tough lives and it is a real joy to spend time with them just having fun.

It had been a fantastic first session and we are all eager to return. We head back home in the pick up (Ute if you’re an Aussie) for a quick lunch and back to Barrilete. We have learned from our last 2 sessions and decide it best to split the group by age and have a separate session for the munchkins indoors. Smaller groups for the prop session allow for more focus and the whole thing runs much smoother than previously and we allow the munchkins back for open box.

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We head back on a Camioneta with Juniper hanging off the back giggling like a school girl. We are kindly taken out for dinner by Maggie, Chris, and Kate to a vegetarian restaurant with amazing food, great conversation, and a chance to relax after a long day.

At our new home we are slowly being inundated with mosquitoes who seem to love the circus props as much as we do. Rachel and Juniper practice their backhand, smash, and serve with an electrified tennis racket bug zapper with a high death toll.

The garden is a bird paradise with humming birds, various doves, long tailed magpies and flocks of guardabarranco, the national bird which roosts around the trees at night.  We have the morning off to enjoy the space on day 4, train, and clean our clothes and the house, before heading to Barrilete in the afternoon.

We have ‘Grandpa Joe’ driving this Camioneta ride and I believe I could run just as fast. Edwin explains that they have to run on a schedule and a lot of the time they drive slow on purpose to become late so they can floor it like Michael Schumacher to make up the time.

Theatre games are on the curriculum today and we once again spilt the group by age with Juniper in command of her beloved “tiny tots.” Plates are spun despite the wind and lack of Spanish on my behalf, rings are thrown, clowns are made, and laughs are had. It’s a fantastic session and we are slowly learning the names and characters in the group. Jake returned for this session and it was great to see a full team…PWB POWER.

It’s Friday and the last day before we have the weekend off, it is getting difficult to keep up with all our activities, not only workshops, but also preparing lunch, dinner, cleaning clothes and the house, writing the curriculum, and the ever long battle with mosquitoes.

In the morning we all travel with Edwin to Niños del Fortín, a school and youth centre providing education and food for children whose families used to work on the rubbish tips and are now employed at the recycling centre…which sounds better and more hygienic, however they are all now on minimum wage and cannot make as much money from when they would have scoured the tip for hidden treasures. 40 or more children are here and it is also school holidays so we may have more children later – our largest group so far.

The school is pretty basic, dirt playground and rusty swings. We clear a shady area of tables and benches which need a lick of paint or replacing.  There is a big age range in this group and some of the boys are a bit “too cool for skool” and don’t participate in the group games. We still take the time to play the games as we think it is important for the children to get to know us, have fun, and relax in our company.

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Splitting them into groups just about works and I am teaching juggling. The older boys are my first group and I was impressed with their attention and perseverance with the skills and my terrible Spanish. This is a challenge for the group to consider with regards to age specific games and attempting to please all. I have a fantastic time teaching juggling and make a lot of breakthroughs, with the help of Edwing as my translator when needed.

At the end of the session we have a lovely show-and-tell period followed by lunch provided by the centre. This reminds me of my previous tours in India, sitting down to lunch with the children is a great way to connect.

In the afternoon 5 of us head to Las Chavaladas and the boys are once again excited and keen to meet 4 new members of PWB. Fun is had by all including myself teaching hula hoop for the first time! During open box we put on the tunes, rig up the slack line and have fun “Nos DIVERTIMOS!!” a really nice way to finish a very busy week and our first introduction to the work and centres here in Leon, sharing hundreds of smiles and creating a space to create, explore and learn.

The weekend is free and we are keen to explore and relax. Thanks very much for reading and supporting us. I hope you will stay tuned to hear more of our Nica adventure!

Andy. x

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  • Nikohl Vandel

    Yeah! So great to see y’all back there doing it again! Thank you for the stories too!

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