Week four in San Marcos marks our final moments with the Quincho kids, and the home stretch of our 3 month volunteer tour in Nicaragua. However, as the PWB group began the week we were preoccupied with the limited amount of time we had to prepare the kids for their final performance, where they had the opportunity to create routines and showcase the amazing skills they’ve absorbed over the month. The PWB group also had a show to perform at the kids’ school, props to ready, and a safe and responsible fire-performing protocol to create for the older Quinchos that had shown they were ready to add fire to their repertoire. These tasks kept our minds occupied from the reality of leaving and realizing how much we were going to miss this exceptional family of kids.

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What a month!

We kicked Monday night off with introducing six of the Quinchos to the art of fire performance, which first included a lengthy discussion on fire and fuel safety, something we’ve noticed is lacking among other fire artists we’ve come across in this part of the world. Despite the obvious excitement and nervousness that precedes burning your fire toys for the first time, the kids were mature and receptive to the process of keeping things safe, and soon they were ready to experience the process for themselves.

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First time with fire!

Watching their faces light up (with huge smiles!) in the swishing glow of the fire was a wonderful highlight for all of us; witnessing two of the girls burn the fire hoop and staff reminded me of the first time I fire danced 10 years ago, and what an empowering moment that had been. The endorphins and energy of the moment following each of their turns was evident, and we were all impressed with their comfort and carefulness while approaching the situation. After Monday, the six of them continued their fire practice with us each night, building up confidence and safety-savvy to be able to present an impressive fire show to their peers on Saturday night.

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“Empowering moment”?

While the nights were filled with fire, we spent extra time with the kids outside of our daily 2 hours we had with them to facilitate the juggling, acro, hoop, wand, staff, diabolo, dance, and percussion routines that were being created. This extra practice time was amazing; there were a lot of wonderful breakthroughs the kids experienced with just a little bit more time. So often we hear someone say “No puedo!” (“I can’t do it!”) However, with a few more moments of practice, they always seem to get the trick they were trying, and look very pleased with exceeding the low expectation they set for themselves a few minutes before.

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The twins practicing their routine!

On Wednesday, we got the chance to put on a super fun performance of our show at their school. They joined us on “stage” (more of a dirt patch obstacle course really, with tree roots that tested our ninja skills, random concrete, and a large tree with low hanging branches in the center) and performed our dance with us, in addition to showing off a little for their classmates! Halfway through the week, we met a volunteer brigade visiting the Quinchos organization that wanted to see the kids perform their newly acquired skills before they left over the weekend, which meant having kids’ acts ready for Friday and not just Sunday! So the deadline moved up a bit.

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Hoop juggling at the local school.

I think the lot of us allowed some of this to stress us out; in addition to the thoughts of saying goodbye to these kids lurking in the back of our brains, there existed the self-inflicted pressure and barrage of internal questioning leading up to the show:

“Which acts are ready for Friday, if any?”
“Where are the boys?? They didn’t show up to rehearse their acro routine!”
“What do you mean they didn’t create their poi act yet??”
“Have we imparted the importance of practice enough?”
“…Wait, this is about them having fun and letting them take over…so…why am I being so serious?”

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Why so serious?

I think in that week of preparation the fact that everything always turns out amazing escapes the anxiety-riddled brain and keeps one on their toes. The truth is, Friday’s show went swimmingly. It may have even acted as impetus for them to take full advantage of the practice time we had on our last Saturday session of “Circo” at the farm. I had a sentimental minute of watching Daniyuska and Maria (the girls that did a contact staff piece) rehearse their movements to an ethereal music track, foreground to 30 kids busy at play, framing a beautiful photo in my memory: diabolos being thrown in the air, practicing acro pyramids and cartwheels, multiple hoops and juggling balls flying up and down, the beauty of it all enhanced by a sweet breeze and the sunlight blinking through the trees and onto our concrete practice space for our last time there.

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Cartwheels and sweet, sweet sunshine!

Before we knew it Sunday was upon us, which meant packing up our things while tying up the loose ends of the show held at the Osteria restaurant. The PWB crew and the kids marched over to the restaurant, acro mats and an artillery of props in hand, an audience of volunteers and other Quinchos waiting to be entertained. Pre show consisted of last minute play with props, face painting by Emily, and picking out silly outfits that we brought, the boys taking a shine to our wild unicorn and galaxy leggings. Two of the Quinchos volunteered to emcee the show and suddenly the “Circo Internacional Los Quinchos” were on, entering the humble stage (some on stilts!) clapping their hands and snapping fingers for the body percussion rhythm taught by Justin. The kids on stilts followed this with an awesome salsa-esque dance they learned the week before from the lovely “Zanquistas” from Leon, and then the littlest guys, “Los Cachorros” (The puppies!) made the audience laugh with their utter cuteness during their wand-diabolo-poi-acro-hoop mash-up. A practically flawless juggling routine, floating wand duet, a killer diabolo trio, group acro and a massive dance battle are just a few examples of an 18-act show!

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Leggings and two-highs – they definitely caught circus.

The kids were incredibly impressive. Seeing them perform was proof to all of us that not only had they leveled up in their skills, but that they had gained awareness of their audience and how to be on stage. The idea of performing and linking sequences together was taking shape to them, and we’re sure those will be things focused on even more for next year.

The end of the show meant inevitable goodbyes with this family of children we’ve connected with over the past month. The hour following the show was marked with dancing, laughing, embracing, crying, and questions of when we’d come back. It was pretty heart wrenching, and an indication of how this month imprinted on all of us. Their displays of affection and how candid they were with their feelings in that moment felt rare and special, and hinted that the circus classes throughout the month provided more than just skills to practice. I seemed to forget how difficult it is to be a kid, and that I can’t fathom the rough experiences they’ve had in the past that gave that much more gravity to the moment of goodbye.

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The all-star cast of Circo Internacional Los Quinchos! Adios amigos!

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