Thursday, June 3, 2010

More on Gisenyi's Acrobats

Last Sunday the acrobats’ leaders (ages 18-24) invited us over for dinner. We were again served chapatti and beans, and I was again impressed with their hospitality. Then I was blown away – I thought we’d eaten, but they announced that dinner was served! When we went into the small kitchen of their 3-room house, there was a magnificent spread including salad, sauce, and a very Rwandan display of nutritional variety: sweet potatoes, spaghetti, rice, and gooey cornmeal “bread.” That’s 4 starches. In Rwanda, the more the variety of starches, the richer the meal.

The acrobats have a partnership with the Swedish Clowns Without Borders, and are working with partners from places like Goma and Kampala. They also make very high quality banana-leaf cards (more on that later). They really are an incredible organization: the leaders and many of the members are orphans, some formerly street kids. They have a remarkable attitude about including girls and listening to the ideas of members of all ages, down to 8 years old. They teach each other, practicing at the youth center on weekdays and the public beach on weekends. With the help of Clowns Without Borders, they have rented a house where some formerly homeless members live, and where they served us dinner.

Today I practiced with them. Their meeting began with a ball game (something like hot potato handball with four teams). Then they warmed up by doing stretches and exercises in a circle, culminating with running in a circle doing cartwheels. I made quite the spectacle of myself and did a cartwheel for the first time in maybe 8 years. They split off into groups to practice and I got my own private cartwheel and summersault lesson. At the close of each meeting, they do energizer/cool-down exercises before coming together in a huddle. Any member that has something to say is invited to speak, with many reflecting on how good the practice was or thanking god for their safety.

Needless to say I’m excited about the possibilities of working with these guys – and who knows, maybe by the end of two years I’ll be doing backflips!

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