By Jess Herman

Finishing the project more-or-less where we started in Granada at the school of Comedy and Mime (La Escuela De Commedia y Mimo) has an appropriate full circle feel to it. Returning to the festival site of El Berrinche to enjoy once again the Palapa play space and the ecologically built ‘Casa De Botellitas’ is the perfect end to this project. We have been in Granada for a week and half, doing what we do best – workshops, shows and playing!

We arrived in Semana Santa – the week leading up to Easter. This is the big summer holiday week in Nicaragua before the rainy season begins. Granada was a hubbub of activities, christianity and tourists. We performed a show in the Cafe Theatre of the school on three consecutive nights to raise funds for the school. The first two shows were PWB Cabarets and the last was an amalgamation of routines from us and from the young performers of the school as well as performers from a new project ran through the school in a town called Esteli. The boys from Los Quinchos were a great help by advertising the show on stilts, and not only joined Bags and Tilly for a routine, but also took part in the massive acrobatic finale to the show!

During the days of Semana Santa we were based in the school and had time to teach and play with these very talented groups of kids. Just to put things into perspective, 13 year old Brian can do back flips, juggle 5 balls and can pass 7 clubs on singles (juggler geeks out there you know how hard that is!)! It was a treat to have little structure for three days and to teach what the kids wanted to learn as opposed to having a syllabus. Skills these young performers chose to learn included poi and partner poi, slackline, hoop, club passing, 3 to 5 ball juggling, double staff, contact ball and acrobalance!

"Escuela" - School

We had two days off during which some of us went to Laguna Apoyo – a volcanic lake not too far away. As seems to happen in my time off – we found a project called ‘The Peace Project’ where they work with local kids – the leader of the project just so happens to be an ex-student from the School of Comedy and Mime! So yes, Jake and I managed to fit in another show and workshop in our time off! Wouldn’t have it any other way. We did manage to kayak around the beautiful Lake with the wonderful Matt from PWB – his fresh white skin from the UK was totally over roasted, burnt red knees despite the factor 50! Ouch!

At the beginning of last week we started a new program with our days split into three. In the mornings and late afternoons we would teach the young professional performers from the school and boys from the new project in Esteli. These four boys came to Granada for the week to learn more circus to take back with them and pass on. They were introduced to circus only 7 months ago and already have an acro-clown routine and can pass seven clubs to name just 2 of their talents! It is amazing – I am learning to juggle clubs and I just cannot believe how quickly these guys progress! Or perhaps I am particularly slow – it did take me 7 years to conquer 3 ball juggling!

Making juggling balls

In the afternoons we would teach approximately 40 kids from the local neighbourhoods. These same kids come to the school of Comedy and Mime to eat lunch, do homework and play 5 days a week. This meant that they already had some circus skills for us to build on. At the end of the week the kids presented a skill that they had learnt with us and we had a small and very entertaining show by a group of hungry Spanish Clowns!

To finish our time in Granada and indeed on the project we had one last show at the Cafe Theatre of Comedy and Mime. It was a great show with contributions from PWB (acro-staff, The Hip Hop Hoop Off, contact ball, acro and slack rope) and the young performers from the Escuela (comedy, mime, poi, unicycling, magic, acro-clowning,) as well as a combined diabolo act – Jake from PWB and Francisco from the school. The act that totally and utterly stole the show was the finale by the young people! We are talking various three people high pyramids and other shapes – one person basing 5 people at once (a 6 person dragon – does that mean anything to you? Let your imagination run wild), jumps and backflips over and under other people doing rolls and tumbles and handstands! Remember these kids are aged from 8 to 16 – I have been having some small lessons in acrobatics from them!

This brings us to the present moment – it is the last day of the project – we are organizing the equipment to donate and packing up the PWB Nica Box. Tomorrow the strangest thing will happen to me – I will be a tourist. I am lucky as I will not be returning to the UK until June. My original idea was to go and see and travel and do and be in Columbia or other countries nearby(ish). Volunteering my last three months has been epic and profound on different levels. Obviously volunteering is a way to really connect with the society you visit and an opportunity to give and therefore receive. A chance to understand more deeply the culture and make human connections and friendships.

Song session

I have little desire to chill for the next two months (although those who know me know I am not very good at relaxing!). I have already organized a show and a workshop on my way south to Costa Rica on Tuesday! I have been looking into more volunteering but in reality I think practicing some circus on a beach will be good for me – for a short while at least! I will visit some of the other social circus activities in Central America and might look at working on farms too.
Volunteering abroad as opposed to traveling – that is a whole different blog!

PWB Nicaragua 2013 – it has been an epic experience. It is all too true that you get out what you put in. This trip has sparked a relationship between myself and Central America and it is powerful to know that I can gift circus wherever I go. I hope that PWB Nicaragua will long continue, as from where I sit and sweat, this has been a tremendously successful project that has completely encompassed what PWB is all about…Seeing children grow in confidence, develop not only circus skills but teamwork and creativity, watching them achieve things they didn’t think were possible and through this become empowered to try more new things. We have left them with the opportunity to further explore their potential through circus and have heard that children from both Leon and San Marcos have already performed or have performances coming up…I can’t wait to see what the next year brings, watch this space for Nicaragua 2014 news!

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  • Sue Ball

    So good to hear the enthusiasm for PWB still there after the hard work of the past three months ! What a fantastic launch into Central America , with so many talented kids and great experiences .
    All power to the circus ( and all PWB-ers!)
    Sue Ball(Emily’s Mum)

  • Kate Saunders (Tia)

    You,ve all done a wonderful job, those children will have had life changing experiences which will enrich their lives and live with them forever. Maybe earn them a living too. Looking forward to catching up with them in January with maggie. Carry on enjoying yourselves.

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