Part Two - February, 2004
These are the students at the end of the three week
session. Every Friday afternoon we watched various circus videos for
discussion and inspiration, then talked about how the work was going,
followed by more informal talk over a meal.
day is something new and unusual. Tonight, outside a crescent moon hangs
in the sky, but it hangs horizontally, like a thin smile. In Canada,
these moon-slivers hang like an earring, but here the moon smiles as I
wander through the streets.
Everyone here calls Ouagadougou simply Ouaga (Wog-ah). Next weekend I'm
going to travel with Moussa to the next largest town , Bobo Dioulassa,
which everyone calls Bobo. This will be my second time out of Ouaga, and
I'm really looking forward to it.
Yesterday, Bamogo, Andre and I drove outside the city. First stop was a
sculpture workshop, where people come from all over to learn carving in
stone. We wandered among the countless large rocks which festooned the
grounds, many of which had been carved into fantastic faces and figures
and abstract shapes.
Then we drove to a zoo. Although it was closed, Bamogo seems to know
everybody in the country, and we were given a personal tour by one of
guides. Although some of the animals had enough space, many of then were
in cages that were far too small; it was a sobering, saddening sight to
see these beautiful, majestic animals who will never hunt, race, or be
with their families in the forest or savannah.
The guide took us very close to some of the enclosures where visitors
aren't usually allowed to go. The lions were mere feet away, and I was
very glad there were bars between us. I saw a warthog, and said to
Andre, "It's like God a had a contest to see which animal could be
the ugliest, and the warthog came in first." The hyenas were
accustomed, even friendly to the guide, who patted them through the bars
as if they were dogs. It was a revelation to see how huge, muscular and
strong they are.
Tradition is very strong here. Every morning at 06:30 a very loud siren
goes off. It was once used to wake up workers to go to work, and even
though times and work schedules have changed the siren still goes off.
Also, the type of broom people use here is like a large whisk broom -
they hold it in their hand and have to bend over to use it. I see people
sweeping the street with this, work they'll do all day.
When I asked one of the students if anyone used a broom with a handle on
it, which would be much more comfortable, he said the small one was
traditional, and added, "C'est comme ca ici," (It's just like
that here). This was a phrase I was to hear more than once…
Classes: 6 mornings a week I get up very early and take a taxi at 7:10
to the office of the Jeunesse du Monde (World Youth), where I get in a
van with the students. (Pick up from various locations around the city,
so it can take over an hour before we get to the orphanage). All of us
then drive to the "Center Specialisee et de Formation", the
Centre for Specialized Education and Training, or C.E.S.F. for short.
This is a series of long, one story buildings where orphaned and
abandoned boys live (there is another facility for girls elsewhere.
These boys live here for 4-5 years, where they are housed, fed, taught
and learn a trade.
kids I'm working with are learning to become circus teachers and
performers. Every day Andre works with them on acrobatics, and I teach
them theatre exercises and juggling. We work from 8:00-12:30, then take
a break from 12:30-3:00 (everybody does; stores, banks, restaurants all
close down because it's too hot to do anything!). Then we work again for
another 2 hours.
going very, very well. Andre and I are a good team, and we have similar
backgrounds and approaches. The students are truly eager to learn, and
work hard, and I can see their progress from one day to another…
students are in their teens and early twenties, and all come from
difficult life situations. But, the first week has gone incredibly well
and they work very hard and want to learn all they can from us. Twice a
week they teach a group of the young boys at the school. It's amazing to
see some of these very small kids juggling 4 balls, or riding the
unicycle while juggling rings, or doing back flips across the mat.
program, Cirque du Monde, really works. It's amazing to see kids who
have really had hard lives enjoying themselves, and creating, working
with each other and beginning new lives with hope in them.
Last night Andre and I went to a traditional African storytelling circle
at the Espace Culturel Gambidi. There were two rings of stones, and this
is where the storytellers stood, lit only by the light of three lanterns
inside the circles. There were several storytellers, and they all began
the same way, with a call and response from the audience:
Histoire! (A story!)
Audience: Raconte! (Tell us!)
Storyteller: Histoire! (A story!)
Audience: Raconte! (Tell us!)
Storyteller: Je vais raconte une histoire! (I will tell you a story!)
Audience: C'est une mensonge! (It is a lie!)
Storyteller: Je vais raconte quand'meme! (I will tell you anyway!)
Audience: Raconte a nous quand'meme! (Tell us anyway!)
the storyteller would tell us a story, a tall tale or a joke. There were
three drummers who accompanied the teller when he or she started singing
(all the stories had songs in them), and the audience was part of this
too, calling out "No!" when something surprising happened,
singing and laughing and chanting.
is something new. Last week I saw my first scorpion - well, the first
one that wasn't in a cage, anyway. This one was in the classroom, just
scuttling along as if it wanted to learn a forward roll too.
bats. Big bats. Tonight Andre and I went to a restaurant called La
Foret, which is outside in a forest (where did they get the name from?).
Beside the swimming pool, and bats kept swooping and skimming just above
the water, gobbling up scrumptious insects. Just as well, as mosquitoes
here carry malaria, a nasty. My dessert, as every evening was my malaria
pill, which I'll have to take for a month after I'm back too.
day the students dance for the last 25 minutes of the class. It's highly
choreographed and very energetic. Two will be playing the drums; the dou
dou (which is actually two drums, one larger than the other, which are
played with sticks), and the djembe, played with the hands like a bongo.
practiced with them a few times, and though they complimented me on my
dancing, I secretly suspect they were being polite and that I looked
like a thrashing fish beside their fluid, graceful and practiced
Friday evening Andre left for the airport; his work with the National
only allowed him to stay for 2 weeks, leaving me in charge for the last
that afternoon we had lunch at Moustapha's, then all the monitors got
together for a talk about the program. Again, it was almost an
embarrassing expression of satisfaction and appreciation from all the
students. Afterwards, Andre and I also spoke. For him it was a summing
up, with suggestions for the coming week and beyond, and a passing of
the torch to me. I talked of the importance of the group, making the
analogy of the safety wire the acrobats used in the Cirque video we had
watched. "You are the safety wire for each other".
|... more in Part Three!
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