This week was yet another fantastic and busy one! Along with the amazing kids that I get to work with and perform for, TransTV (a national TV station) aired a 6-minute report about the project, and I’ve been getting great feedback from people all around town. I’m still waiting for the okay from the studio to upload the report online, but as soon as I get it, I’ll post it right here for everyone to have a look!
Sunday started out with a program that I’ve wanted to start here since the beginning of 2008 and finally all the pieces fell in place. Jakarta International School very generously donated two buses and their facilities to us every Sunday! One bus picks up the One More Chance halfway house kids and the other drives all the way to Cilincing to pick up 17 kids and bring them back to JIS. This week I opted to only bring the Cilincing kids, because many of them had never left their kampung area and I thought they would be pretty excited as it is. Boy, was I right! I rode up with the bus so that I could introduce the driver to the kid’s parents and make sure everyone was comfortable with sending their kids to south Jakarta.
When I arrived in Cilincing, all the kids and their mom’s were waiting in front of the village. The kids were all dressed in their red CWB t-shirts and the mom’s had all packed backpacks for them with bottles of water and snacks for the road. The excitement was so thick in the air; you could have sliced it with a knife. Before the kids got on the bus, the mothers all cautioned them to behave well and to make sure they sit in their seats and wear seatbelts.
As we got on the toll road and started driving south, I noticed one of the youngest boys bewildered with his hands and face pressed against the window. I moved to sit next to him and ask him how he was doing. He replied, “Aku belom tau, Indonesia indah begini!” (I never knew Indonesia was this beautiful!) It was at this point that I realized most of these kids didn’t get to experience the beauty of their own country. The Indonesia they know is a filthy ocean and falling down houses.
When we arrived at JIS, they were even more star struck. JIS was like a fortress to them, surrounded by enormous gates with 2 security checkpoints and flat screen TVs in the hallways. On our way to the gymnasium, I took the kids on a little tour of the school and showed them different parts of the school. The part of the school they enjoyed the most was the swimming pool. I told them they could just jump in, that I’d have to get permission from the school first but maybe in a few weeks, after Circus we could have a pool party! They were very keen on that idea.
When we got to the gym, there were gymnastic mats, a mini tramp and a german wheel! The kids just about exploded with excitement. It took some time for me to calm them down and explain that we would play on all the equipment, but we had to do it in a calm and orderly fashion so that no one got hurt. We had a great 2 hour circus lesson. About half way through the lesson, I took the kids out to the water fountain and they were amazed that they could drink straight from the faucet! When they looked out at the beautiful football field with the running track around it, they asked me if that was for running on. When I told them yes, they asked if it would be all right if they ran on it. Of course I said yes, and the kids, bursting with joy, ran three laps! I finally had to stop them from running, because I didn’t want them to be too exhausted to finish the circus lessons. When it was time to finish, they begged me to let them stay another hour or two, but I had to go because I had another show in an hour. The kids all piled onto the bus and headed back to Cilincing. The bus driver told me later that every single one of them was sleeping by the time they arrived in Cilincing.
In the afternoon, I was picked up by a friend and taken to an orphanage in Depok, Jakarta. There were around 75 kids of all ages. I met the Bapak of the house who showed me around a bit and then the yayasan I was connected with helped me find a spot to set up. I chose to work outside, so that when the locals from around the neighborhood, heard the music, they would come over and watch too. It was a really nice show and the kids were very excited! There was a great vibe in the air this day, because not only were the kids getting a clown show, but the boyfriend of one of the yayasan members had come along and he is quite a famous Indonesian actor. Ironically enough, the first Indonesian movie I saw when I was in high school here, was a movie that he starred in.
After the show some of the Ibus had prepared tea and snacks for us. Even though I was exhausted and not particularly hungry, I knew that its an insult if you deny an offering of food. We sat down and had a few cups of tea and one of the yayasan members explained to me how this orphanage had begun. The bapak had simply started taking children in off the street into his family, until there were so many of them that he had to become official. It warms my heart to hear stories of people’s generosity like this.
Monday I visited an after school program to bring creativity and art to poor children in Jakarta. The building was a small schoolhouse, with only a few rooms. The kids were all waiting quietly and respectfully when I arrived. I handed out clown noses, scoped out a performance space outside, and threw on my clown gear. While I was getting dressed, the kids all went across the street to the neighborhood badminton court. As I approached the field, the laughter began erupting! I started the show out with making everyone stand up and sit down, move closer, back up and such. It’s a way for me to be able to understand what kind of vibe the kids are sending out on any particular day. They were sending out a great one! When I asked them to move closer, they did and when I said, “Oops! Too close!” They all laughed and moved back.
It was really funny when I found out that one of the boys in the audience’s nickname was “Badut”(Clown!) We had a great time goofing around and I felt like the audience really enjoyed the performance. After the show, we had a workshop of circus and the kids really got into it. One of the boys already knew how to juggle and amazing his peers with his juggling skills! When it was time to go, al the kids gathered around to shack my hand and to it to their foreheads. It was a great afternoon!
Tuesday I taught Circus Club at JIS in the afternoon and was again amazed at how much these kids are excelling. It seemed also like every kid had brought at least two friends along to learn circus. I really promoted the Sunday Circus class for the kids and some of them were very interested in joining. We’ll see how it goes next week!
Wednesday was my weekly visit to Cilincing. The relationship that I’m building with these kids is really great, especially now that I will be seeing them twice a week. Their work ethic and perseverance is becoming so much better than the first weeks I worked with them last year. It used to be that if I asked a kid to do something difficult, most of them would try once or twice and if they didn’t get it and I wasn’t standing right in front of them, they would give up and move onto a different skill. They are starting to learn now that if they don’t get something right away, all they have to do is practice. And some things will take them several days or even weeks to learn.
It was a bit of a hectic day in Cilincing, with TransTV shooting for their report. It seemed like half the village was either in the room or standing outside looking in. Luckily, today we moved into a larger home that gave enough space for the kids to spread out and not be stepping all over each other as they were trying to learn. Today we continued our basic acrobatics. For the first time I had to really firmly to some of the boys, because after they learned how to stand on each others shoulders and we had moved on, they were so excited about being able to do a two-high, they were doing it all by themselves. I explained to them, that if they wanted to practice, they had to have another person standing behind them in case they fell backwards. It is exciting and terrifying that these kids seem to have no fear! It’s good because they take risks and don’t put up walls around difficult tricks, but it’s a bit terrifying because I don’t want them to do these things without me. I explained this to them and the rest of the class whenever any of them would do an acrobatic trick they always had someone spotting.
Saturday afternoon, I was picked up and brought to a homeless shelter for street children. It was a really nice facility with a school, basketball court, bunks for the kids to sleep in and a dining hall to eat at. I performed my show and then gave a circus workshop afterwards. I was so impressed with these kids and their creativity and natural talent for learning circus that I decided to return every other week and give progressive lessons. We decided that the younger kids would study first and then the older kids would study, so that I could focus on more appropriate skills for age groups. When I told them that I would return in another 2 weeks, they responded by saying, “Jauh!!! Minggu depan aja!” (Too far away! Come back next week!) I was pleased with there excitement, but explained that Bekasi was too far away for me to come every week, but that if they were interested, they could join my Sunday circus lessons at JIS with the Cilincing, OMC and JIS kids. They were even more excited about that idea!
Another fantastic week. I couldn’t be happier with the response I’m receiving from children and adults alike. I get at least one call a day from a different yayasan asking if I’d be interested in coming to their school to present a circus performance. And of course, my answer is always, “Yes!”