Wow! When the ball starts rolling, it rolls fast! This week was filled with amazing classes and performances around Jakarta! I started Monday out with Chinese New Years, so everyone was busy watching and celebrating the year of the Ox! I was able to catch some really fantastic acrobatic-esque performances and traditional dragon dances. Everywhere you went there were loud drums beating and tons of people gathering around! I was also lucky enough to get connected with an Indonesian photographer, Rangga Ranjani, who wants to create an art gallery exhibition based around my clown and circus work with the kids. Aside from being honored that he was interested in doing something like that with our work, I was also excited because now I have a great photographer following me around and can share his images with everyone via this website! If you’d like to contact him, his website is in the links section!
Tuesday started out with the JIS circus club. Thanks to Yuchiro Hara, a JIS faculty member, the circus club was able to continue semester 1 in my absence. As a result, I came back to excited students, who’d been practicing the skills I taught them last year, all semester. I was really impressed with their progression!
Wednesday was my weekly visit to the Cilincing fishing village. I have to say, this was probably the most amazing class I’ve taught with the Cilincing kids. I decided to let the kids spread out a little by working outside of our usual tiny classroom. The kids were worried about getting the equipment dirty, but I told them we could just wipe them down if they got too messy. As a result of these added learning spaces I didn’t have to separate the boys and girls, because most of the boys went outside and then the girls felt much more comfortable working inside.
One thing that was a bit depressing and uplifting at the same time was when a few of the boys decided to practice in the rubbles of one of our old classrooms. At first I saw them practice their juggling and spinning plates on top of a pile of rocks and my first instinct was to tell them to find a safer place to work. Then one of the kids told me that it was all right, they’d already removed all the glass and dangerous materials and they often played there, because it was on of the only dry open spaces in the village. When I watched them playing in the destruction of their previous dwelling, I found it inspiring to watch them in their youth experiencing so much joy in a place where so much sadness had taken place.
Class lasted well over two hours today, because the kids weren’t getting bored at all! They have finally stopped giving up after they try something new and don’t get it immediately. I often work on teaching them to not say, “aku tidak bisa”(I can’t do it) and instead to stay, “aku belom bisa”(I can not yet do it”. Today for the first time, I began to see them not just repeat these words to please me, but actually to believe that they could master any skill if they just kept trying.
Towards the end of class a few of the kids and I went outside our small classroom to an area where there was not any height restrictions. I had begun teaching them some simple acrobatic skills last week, to help them begin learning how to use their bodies in a “circus” way and today I wanted to teach them, what I consider, the fundamental trick in pyramid acrobatics, the Two-High. When I told the kids what we would be doing, many of them looked at me in shock, and then started laughing, thinking that I was joking. When they realized I was serious, one of the girls said, “Kak Dan, bisa percaya kamu ya?” (I can trust you, right?” I assured her that she could and in fact the area that we were working in had a bamboo pole about the height of a handrail once we were standing upright, so if she got scared, she could just hold on to the railing. Not all the kids wanted to try it and I was okay with that. In fact, I was shocked that it was mostly the girls who were interested in trying it, because they are usually the hardest to persuade to try new things. The laughter and adrenaline was amazing. The boys stood back and watched as the girls did something they were too scared to try. It was a really great moment for the girls and for me to witness them have such huge personal successes!
We finished class shortly after this. I introduced to the kids the idea of Sunday circus and told them that JIS had offered to donate a bus to pick them all up and take them to South Jakarta. They were all very excited. I told them they could all come but there were a few rules. They had to behave on the bus, they had to be nice to the other students, and they had to try all the new things they would learn. They all agreed with energy and excitement.
Thursday brought me to an orphanage in Bintaro, South Jakarta introduced to me by an old friend. Sarah Jane picked me up at my boarding house around 2pm and we set off to bear the traffic that makes up of so much of a day in Jakarta. We pulled up to a very large, clean building where about 50 children and 15 newborns now call home.
As I began to set up for the show, the very friendly home staff began laying out carpets for the kids to sit on. I gathered up a few things I needed for the show that I don’t carry with me and started hit play on the boom box. As the kids came out into the living room to the sound of Merle Evans and his traditional circus band, you could see the excitement spread across their faces.
I began the show with my usual sweeping of the floor and then sweeping of the audience and I could tell it was going to be a tough show when some of the kids didn’t move as I was trying to sweep them up. Many of the kids were young, so I decided to tone the show down a bit so that it wasn’t overwhelming to them.
I borrowed a ladder from the orphanage, because the car that picked me up was too small to bring my own, and when I put the enormous ladder on my chin, it weighed a lot more than I thought it would be. We had to move out of the living room into an area with a higher ceiling for this bit and the kids were really cute when I asked them all to follow me. They all jumped up and chased after me, giggling and laughing all the way.
After the show I set up three stations for the kids to rotate through and get a chance to try some circus themselves. At first they were tentative to try things and they all gravitated to the flower sticks because they looked the easiest. It was amazing how in such a short amount of time, there confidence and bravery grew, because by the end of the hour or so workshop, they were trying everything and jumping in front of the video camera brought by TransTV. TransTV came to film a show and workshop so they can air a 5-minute report about the work that’s happening with Clowns without Borders and Hidung Merah Circus in Jakarta.
I left the orphanage with kids giving me hugs and high fives!
Friday afternoon, I joined YE Water Program in Bintaro Lama. They were celebrating a graduation day for 15 or of the adults in the village from their field study water safety and sanitation classes. I was about an hour late because of traffic but when I got there, everyone was still hanging out, listening to loud dangdut music. I was greeted at the car by a handful of eager kids; excited to see what this bule (foreigner) clown was going to do!
The YEWP staff helped bring my stuff back to the performance space and I began to set things up. The village that I was about to perform at is a scavenger village. They make their income by collecting trash and then selling it to the recycling factories for pennies. I was set up to perform in front of their garbage carts, so it smelled a little. I tried hard not to show any reaction to the smell as not to offend anyone and found a corner to change into my clown gear.
By the time I’d come out of the corner (5 minutes max) around 350 people had gathered and they were tying rope between the two houses in front of the stage so that the kids didn’t just fill the performance space. They were already dancing to the circus music before I started the show.
This was very possibly my most memorable show in almost two years of performing the same show. As I began to sweep the stage as a set up to sweeping the audience, I realized that the stage was actually filled with garbage. So when I finished sweeping the stage and began sweeping the kids, they didn’t realize I was joking. They politely moved out of the way and kept clearing a path for me. It wasn’t until I bent over and started bumping into people with my bum that they realized I was joking and they started laughing hysterically.
A little later on in the show, I ask for a volunteer and noticed that one of the older woman in the audience was teasing the kids by raising her hands and dancing like a clown herself. When I saw this, I immediately stopped what I was doing and started to dance like she was. The whole crowd erupted in laughter and the woman ran off laughing and embarrassed at the same time. Of course 2 seconds later she was squeezing her way to the front to watch the show with the rest.
I’ve added a bit in the show where I ask a mother or father and their child to come on stage with me. I ask the father to stand behind me with his hands up and then I have the child climb to my shoulders. Making sure of course, that they both know what’s going to happen before it does, but that the audience has no idea. I was excited to see that there was a father who was so excited to come on stage and be a part of the show, calling for his daughter to come up with him. Once the girl had climbed to my shoulders and I’d stood up straight, I instructed the father to stand in front of me and take his daughter’s hands. She then steps to his shoulders and they do a two high together in front of their whole village. The smile on the daughter’s face was almost as big as the smile on her father’s. Once applause stops I lift the girl off her dad’s shoulders and they give a big tada together. It was really beautiful to watch a father have this moment of triumph with his daughter, especially because, too often Indonesian fathers and daughters don’t have close relationships because of the culture gender rules. I was very please with this gag today!
What a week! And next week is even busier. I have 3 shows and 3 workshops scheduled and am hoping to schedule another of each! Stayed tuned!