I realised earlier this week that we are more than half way through the Nicaragua tour and this got me thinking about some of my favorite moments so far. I have no doubt there will be more to come… Of course, there are some downsides as well, I think I can get that out of the way now: water being cut off to the barrio where we’re staying, dust everywhere, not understanding everything people say,  being hissed at (the nicaraguan cat-call) in the street, power cuts, not having your own space when you want it… But really it all pales in comparison to what I see as the good stuff, the stuff that makes PWB projects for me! Here we go (drumroll)…

1. Teaching Elliot (13) and Miguel (17) how to pass 6 clubs. They could both already juggle 3 or 4 balls and pass 6 solidly. Their first attempts with 6 clubs they both did 4 or 5 solid throws and catches, accompanied by growing grins, lots of laughs, and a hint of that slightly awkward teenage thing, where you can see that inside they are bursting with a ton of excitement and emotion about what they have just achieved and don’t quite know how to show it fully!  However, their feelings are palpable and this week both have come leaps and bounds and are happily passing clubs with us, and fairly solidly passing with each other… and even putting in tricks!

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Club juggling be plentiful at Los Quinchos!

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Hammocks, clubs, and coconuts!

2. Jake and his coconuts… He climbed a tree in the courtyard where we’re staying and has been drinking and eating his way through the large pile of coconuts that he got down.  He has refined his technique, which usually but not always, includes use of a knife, saw, bare hands tearing the outer husk off, straw to drink the juice, and then banging the coconut hard on the concrete to crack the inner shell. I don’t need to say any more about the sweaty state that this gets him into, I will just say that Jake really likes coconuts…

3. Watching the group of older children from El Barrilete rehearse and then perform their own acrobatic and acro-balance routine.  We had taught them various moves, as had the lads from Estelí, but they made a whole act all by themselves, complete with entrances, combination tricks that they had made up, and a finale. It’s truly rewarding to see children find their own way to perform tricks and seeing them perform them at the end of the month was fantastic.

4. Going to see the ‘Circo Internacional Los Quinchos’ this week.  It was amazing!  There was stilt walking, dancing on stilts, clowns, unicycling, juggling, and acro-balance, all performed by a select group of the children that we taught here at Los Quinchos last year.

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Los Quinchos stilt crew waiting to perform

They have made their own acts, have costumes and music, and the whole show is compered by Rojito the Clown (also known as Carlos) who is one of the Los Quinchos coordinators from the boys’ home in Granada. The epic dust-covered ride both before and after the show has to be mentioned. The whole PWB team rode in the back of a pick-up with some of the circus troupe (some in full make up and costume).

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Dust and clowns – circus in Nicaragua!

We headed out of San Marcos and down approximately 10km of dust/dirt track, occasionally stopping to ask how much further it was to the village. Regular shouts of ‘Ramona!’ from the boys warned us when branches across the track (called rama) looked likely to thwack into our faces. A special shout out and respect to Franca, an elderly Italian supporter of Los Quinchos, who also rode in the back of a truck both there and back! I hope to be doing the same at her age!

5. Our skill exchanges with the stilt walking salsa troupe from Leon. I think I can speak for all of us in saying that we had a lot of fun.  In the last session we had I even managed to salsa, throw in an acrobatic partner move we’d taught, and then back to salsa, and land more or less back in rhythm I think!

6. Justin’s reaction when he turned up at Los Quinchos and saw where we would be staying for the next month. I don’t know what expectations he had but they were certainly exceeded as he settled into his own little room in the ‘Hotelito’ in the Centro Cultural.

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La Escuela students from Granada inspiring Los Quinchos

7. Having the youth circus troupe from La Escuela de La Comedia y El Mimo come and perform for Los Quinchos. It was a super exciting day already with visiting Italian supporters, pizza, missionaries bringing donations of clothes and then the bus of Escuela performers plus guest artist Tito from Australia.  The whole of Los Quinchos watched the show with founder Zelinda in the centre of the audience of her children. The faces of the children as they watched the show, performed by children the same age as themselves, were a picture, as (we hope) they realise what is possible with practice!

8. Face painting the children of El Barrilete to get ready for their final show.

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Hearts and flowers for all!

Normally having a queue of over-excitable children wanting their faces painted fills me with a certain amount of dread but how can you not smile when there is boy after little boy asking for hearts, butterflies or flowers to be painted on their faces?! There was the odd one out that wanted a spider, but for the most part… and the girls wanted the same, in case you’re wondering.

9. Bags and his grasp of Spanish. Ever the english eccentric abroad, I do enjoy his look of innocent  incomprehension when some unsuspecting soul tries to speak with him too quickly or asks a complicated question. He takes delight in asking for translations of silly, absurd or plain weird things and sometimes I wish that he could communicate these things himself but mostly I enjoy the challenge – Thanks Bags!

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Innocent incomprehension . . .

Finally… Number 10… I can’t decide… Eskimo ice-cream? Fresh fruit juice (fresco)? Watching the twins from Los Quinchos giggling and firing spitballs out of straws? The whole of El Berrinche festival? Watermelon being available everywhere? 16 of us (PWB and Quinchos kids) in the back of the pick up going for dinner? The rate at which kids learn here (I swear its faster than kids in the UK….)? The smiles, hugs, or fist bumps when they pass by on their way to or from school?  I don’t know, all of it I guess!

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