January 25, 2009
I’ve been in Jakarta for over two weeks now and things have been quickly beginning to roll. Aside from being out of commission for several days due to illness, I’ve been busily meeting with different groups and creating a schedule for the next few months.
Unfortunately, my first visit to Cilincing was cancelled due to the severe flooding of the village and roads leading to it. Cilincing was hit bad this month. The ocean shore village lost over 40 homes to flooding and wave surges. The families in these homes are now living with friends and relatives around the village as well as camping out in the Masjid prayer room.
My second attempt to visit Cilincing was more successful than the first. It didn’t rain much last week, so the roads had cleared and we were able to reach Cilincing in a little over one hour. When I arrived at the village, I was immediately reminded of the strong fish aroma and the wandering goats and dogs. The kids were all very excited to see me again. I met a few of them at the front and they said hi and immediately ran to get the rest of their friends. We held class in the living room of a family whose house hadn’t been damaged by the flooding. As we walked back to the home in which we’d be having our lesson in, I was astonished at the devastation of the homes on the shorefront. The houses that we once held class in, were now filled with rocks, their shells torn away, leaving only rubble and bamboo frames standing. I ask one woman, who was showing me the remains of her home, if she was able to get everything valuable out before it was all taken to sea. She said that luckily, they didn’t have much of value to be washed away, but they were able to get the majority of things out with only minimal water damage.
After about fifteen minutes of surveying the destroyed homes, all the kids had arrived from different parts of the village and were waiting for me in the living room down the alley. When I entered the room, I was welcomed with warm smiles, a few hugs and one of my favorite sounds, “’Kak Dan!” I asked the kids how many of them remembered some of the circus skills that we’d learned last year and a few spoke up with positive reactions. However, the overall consensus was that it had been too long ago, and they couldn’t remember how to do anything. It was at this point that I wanted to use the old metaphor, “It’s like riding a bike”, when I realized most of these children probably had never rode on a bike. So I skipped the metaphor and told them that it would come back to them quickly and to just give it a try. Sure enough they were shouting for my attention to show me their most recent success within five minutes of the beginning of the lesson.
The kids had all grown up a lot and quickly remembered the way I run class, not allowing kids to quit before they try something and insisting that all students show a mutual support for each other. I noticed about half way through class that the girls were still standing in a line in the corner. They were intimidated by the boys and didn’t want to be laughed at. At this point it was too late to separate the class, but I will definitely do this for next week. After an hour or two of spinning plates and juggling, we all sat down and discussed a few things. I explained to the children about a Sunday circus class at Jakarta International School in south Jakarta. I told them that I could arrange a vehicle to take them to and from their village and if they wanted to join, all they had to do was come with a smile and not be afraid to meet the other students who will be attending. Several of them were very excited about the idea of training circus with other kids and some of them were just excited to leave the village and take a ride to south Jakarta. I explained to the kids that this program would start in a few weeks and they were all welcome to join if they wanted to and if they got permission from their parents. We ended class and several of the older boys offered to haul my trunk of circus equipment out to the car for me. Then the kids very respectfully shook my hand and touched it to their forehead and ran off shouting excitedly about a number of different things.
I’ve booked visits to an orphanage, JIS, Cilincing and homeless shelter for kids next week. My schedule is filling up more and more each time I check my email and I can’t wait to continue all the work!