On wednesday we began our circus program in the roma gypsy area. It was for this reason I carried a trailer full of circus equipment across Europe on my tricycle, of course it wasn't untill I had cycled half way that my sister agreed to come and help and I realised I could have sent everything over with her by plane and enjoyed a much lighter load... But the circus arrived all the same. I had spent many days making more equipment, (flower sticks from old inner tubes, staffs from broom handles, even stilts were cut to size at the local saw mill) and Charlie had brought some of the things i left behind in England to add to the collection. So when the gates opened on Wednesday morning we were ready for the beautiful chaos that awaited us.
And chaos it was... Over 40 kids arrived and soon the courtyard was alive with balls and rings flying through the air, brightly coloured socks were spinning around children's heads, diablo's shot up into the sky and occasionally wooden stills would crash to the ground as a kid tumbled down after. There was laughter, shouting, screaming, snatching, cheating, fighting... I discoverd quickly that embracing the crazyness is much easier than trying to control it... Although not always the best idea.
The next day was more successful, we scrapped the games that everyone cheated at and returned to silly warm ups which mainly consisted of the 'wiggling fingers, shaking wrists, spinning arms, circling hips turning round on one foot dance,' it's not at all sexy but apparently quite entertaining. I even taught the kids how to bow and explained that if we had to drag them offstage everytime as they continued to do "just one more trick" it kind of ruins the show...
On Thursday night we were invited to a birthday party of a friend from the Roma community. Raji's birthday was slightly eclipsed by the presence of his new born daughter but still the music blaired out of the giant speaker (that somehow apeared part way through the evening) and of course we were subjected to traditional dancing, in wich everyone joins hads and dances around and around in circles, over and over again, it's actually quite fun if a little dizzy. It was possibly slightly more dizzy for me as I had not learned the art of leaving the last bit of my drink. Apparently if you Finnish your beer your host fills it right back up again... Thankfully they were quite small cups, but I must admit I couldn't tell you how many times it was refilled. I didn't often refuse but even when I did I was completely ignored.
There are many things that are difficult to understand about Roma culture, many hard things, perhaps even wrong things. But there are also some beautiful things. And for one they deffinatley know how to party.
The next night as we walked our way down to the bridge we could see the crowd had already gathered. For me it was a familiar scene, I rembered mine and Patrick's show there last year, the kids had remembered too, for weeks they had been miming and pointing, asking when we would make a show. They all seemed to like the fire breathing best as that was the most common mime they made. I didn't even try to explain that I wasn't going to breath fire, I just nodded and said "soon."
We arrived at the bridge to find hords of excited children, adults and families had come out to see what was going on too. I would like to say that it was because they had heard how good we were, but the reality is that there really isn't much else to do...
I have made countless shows throughout the summer in all kinds of places, but this place and these people hold a special place in my heart. Often I count my success by the amount of coins in my hat, here I just enjoy smiles, high fives, cheers and laughter. The music blaired, fire burned, people shouted... Occasionally a car would come through and we would have to pause as it passed. The circle seemed to get closer and closer, untill I dropped my staff into the croud and everyone jumped back. Charlie did great as usual (every time I see her she gets better) and she whispered instructions as we performed our partner ruitine trying to prevent me from hitting her in the head with my poi...
It was a great show though, and all the better for having my little sister join in. As we packed away, dripping with sweat and stinking of fuel, the excitement slowly died away and I thought to myself. I love this!
After a mostly relaxing weekend (well for me it was relaxing, Charlie was a bit saw after the "little" bike ride I took her on)
we have begun another week of circus workshops here in the Roma area. We are working with the kids on a show to perform to their families and the rest of the community. Today is day two and little routines are taking shape and stars are beginning to emerge. It's hard work, hot in the sun and the kids are pretty wild. most nights I'm ready to crash by 9 o'clock. But its worth it, not just for the fun, and it is a lot of fun, but for many of these kids life is survival and childhood is short. The guys who serve this community have created a sanctuary for the kids here, where they find safety, guidance, love, education, fresh fruit and so much more. It is such a privilage to be apart of something so special and even for just these few weeks to be able to bless this community in giving what we have.