Another great week just flew by like it was only a few hours. I actually had to slow things down a bit this week, to begin preparing for the Clowns without Borders trip to Sumatra. A childhood friend of mine, Deddy Purwadi(who is now a professional musician and vocalist) will be joining me on the trip. We’ve started putting together a new show that combines my old show, with songs by Deddy and a few new clown bits between us. It’s really exciting to be able to prepare a show, with such a good friend, to share with children across northern Sumatra that are in real need of a little levity.
The week started out with our Sunday Hidung Merah Circus rehearsal. Today a few more JIS students and the regular Cilincing crowd joined us. The OMC kids couldn’t make it because they had begun end of trimester exams. We had a great class as usual. The kids are really beginning to become enthusiastic about not only playing with the circus equipment, but actually learning new and more difficult tricks. We had a few special guests today and the kids were very excited about it.
Deddy, whom the kids had already met and they were very excited to see him again. Also, a friend of mine, Andrew White, who is apparently a very popular TV actor, came by with his little son. I knew Andrew was an actor, but never really knew to what capacity, until he walked in late and all the girls started whispering and giggling. I ask the kids if they knew who this guy was and they all screamed, “Of course we do!” The kids had a blast playing with Andrew’s 3 year-old son and teaching Andrew and Deddy how to juggle and do different circus skills. They really go a kick out of it when I climbed up on Andrew’s shoulders into a two-high.
Next week, I’m going to start scheduling activities for the kids after circus class. The first activity will be a pool party, hosted by JIS HS teacher, Kathy Nestroff. The kids have been absolutely awed by the pool and I’m not sure they’ve ever been in such a large body of clean water, so it will be a fun afternoon!
Wednesday I visited Cilincing as usual, and we had another great lesson. The kids are showing great improvements after a few weeks of coming to circus twice a week. Not only are their skills improving, but also their attitudes are changing. They don’t give up as easily, they hardly ever say “I can’t” and it is a rare thing to hear a boy and a girl complain about working together. This is the same group of kids that last year; I had to separate into two classes, because the boys and girls refused to work at all if the other was present. After a few weeks of forcing mixed gender pairs, they are not complaining or making fun of the pair by calling them boyfriend and girlfriend.
Thursday I traveled all the way to West Jakarta leaving my boarding house at 630am to perform a show for an Indonesian elementary school. They kids were rowdy and excited and it made for a very interesting show. It was also possibly on of the hottest rooms I’ve ever performed in. Before the show even started, I was soaked with sweat and as I performed, I could feel the sweat dripping down my face.
Saturday I returned to the homeless shelter in Bekasi for our bi-lesson. The kids were very excited to see me back and met the car at the front of the complex. I separated the class into two groups: 13 and under and 14 and above. With the younger kids we workshopped some basic circus skills for about 50 minutes and then moved into a simple clown routine that the kids always get a kick out of learning. When it was time for the older kids to learn we broke up into two groups; one of the groups had free reign of the circus box and the worked on partner acrobatic skills with me. They were all very enthusiastic to learn and such nice kids that I decided to put the offer on the table for the older kids to join our Sunday Circus lessons. I wouldn’t be able to pick them up, because I was already sending a bus to Cilincing, but if they could get to JIS, they could learn circus with the Cilincing, OMC and JIS kids. I passed a notebook around and ask them to write down their name if they were interested, and if not then not to put their name on the list. About 15 of the 25 kids signed up and were excited to join the fun.
After class, I was hanging out with some of the kids and one of the young boys pulled me to the side. He had a story that he wanted to tell me and I was curious to hear it. He started telling me about how he became a street kid. He said that when he was about 6 years old, he ran away from home, because his parents used to beat him up and treat him like a slave. He decided he’d rather live on the street than be treated in the horrible way that they were treating him. He said he was on the street for a few months when he met, “Ka John”, who brought him to the shelter. I wasn’t quite clear who John was, but the love that this boy spoke his name with, showed how much it meant to him that this man found him and essentially saved his life. The story brought me to a “fighting back tears” stage, but it also made me realize how wonderful of an institution this shelter was. The kids are treated with love and respect. They are clean and polite. They even have different recycling bags set up around the complex to throw out plastics, paper, glass and garbage. They have an alternative education schoolhouse on the grounds, where the older kids begin learning trade skills so that when they turn 19 or 20, they can go out into the real world and get an average job.
I feel so humbled to be able to participate with an organization that is actually saving children’s lives and helping them move out of poverty. I’m very lucky to be involved with this group and I appreciate the opportunity every day.