Journal of Kristen Parks
We have arrived in San Diego! It was a long but easy; miraculously the two cars left separately but arrived to our destination within 15 minutes of each other. Everyone is in good spirits and excited for what is to come. Tomorrow we have our first show.
Show day number one. Today we performed at an emergency shelter in San Diego for recently released immigrants with families seeking asylum. There were many forms and disclosures to sign so I can't say too much. The families were from all over and spoke many languages. The shelter manager told us families come to this shelter for only 2 days as they await to be picked up or flown to their host family somewhere in the US. They said they have seen over 60,000 people since they opened at the beginning of the year. Also that their numbers have decreased, especially coming from mexico, as the government is no longer allowed new immigrants seeking asylum to await their trial in the US. Most are being sent back to Mexico wait weeks, often months for their asylum hearings.
We have arrived in Ensenada. The trip across the border, by car, was very easy. We drove through very slowly, no one stopped us or even checked our passports.
Right away everything in Mexico is so different, the buildings are not tall and many look slapped together without windows and openings that don’t close. Signs are hand painted, many things are very weathered and dirty or just old. The roads filled with potholes, so many potholes and huge ones, minivan sized! Everyone just drives around them. You get used to it quickly but its so different driving in the states. It's fun, like a video game, and the police here don't seem to care about much. I’ve ran many stop signs because I can't see them, but no one seems to mind and I’m not the only one either. Oh and then the smells, wow, never smelled anything quite like mexico, can’t unsmell those.
On our way to meet the other group there was a huge building fire in town. We drove right past it. The weird thing was everyone acted normal. Continued shopping, working etc. One guy was on the roof next door and was just standing there. And so much black smoke everywhere, eventually a cop car came and blocked the street, I never saw a fire truck came, no one was running or anything.
Our host here Alex is very lovely. She is so sweet and wonderful to host us and organize this part of our trip. She has a woman named Mari who works for her and cooks for us. She’s a wonderful cook, so many delicious meals, we are so lucky! Alex’s boyfriend Jayel is really wonderful and helps us a lot.
On our first day both shows were in a town called Maneadero, south of here. Our first show was for a home with children of Cerebral Palsy. Many of the kids were in chairs but not all of them. They loved our show and were full of smiles. Our second show was for an orphanage with about 40 kids. They had a lovely hall for us to perform and do our workshops. They just loved everything, especially the workshops. Many of the kids learned to juggle that day and they were very eager to learn everything. We were told not to ask the kids any questions about their past because many of them had been badly abused. After the show the staff gathered everyone to say thank you. Then they said a prayer and asked different children to say something they were thankful of (and Aileen translated for us). I thought it was such a nice way to thank a group and also give the children a voice.
Today we did 2 shows, both in an area called Guadalupe which is the wine country here. It was a very different area, inland with lots of vineyards and also tourism.
Our first show was for an indegenous group. They have been on their land for a long time, but they are surrounded by wealthy wineries and it sounds like they are always threatened by people trying to steal their land. We performed our show in a beautiful grove of live oak trees. There were so many and they provided wonderful shade for our audience. Nathan got to do his slackrop for the first time on tour. It's exciting to see it develop because it's different every time and needs such a large audience to perform. We did workshops for them as well.
After lunch we went to another orphanage in the area. We were told they had over 90 children but there were more like 45-50 for our show. We performed in the heat of the day under a patio cover. The kids loved the show, the dogs too. And the workshops! Everyone loves the workshops. The girls were so excited to do gymnastics with Aileen. Demonstrating their cartwheels and splits as soon as the show ended. They followed her all the way to the car, a little fan club, asking her questions, not wanting her to ever leave so they could continue learning gymnastics with her. Aileen told them to keep practicing every day and little by little they will gain more and more skills. The kids are so eager to learn, to learn anything and everything we show them.
Nathan does magic for the kids a lot of times before and after the show. I love how they all gather around, waiting for their turn to have a ping pong ball disappear from their hands. Robin does a balloon magic gag where the kids throw an imaginary balloon one by one and it appears. They line up, eager to participate in the magic. Every child eager to have their turn and experience the magic.
Today our shows were both very close to home, walking distance even. This morning we had a lovely show at an old folks home. The seniors were so happy to have visitors and were ready as soon as we arrived. Waving at us and smiling as we carried in our gear.
For one of the clown acts Slim and Nathan found a nun to be their volunteer. She was the best volunteer ever. She yelped at the first magic trick and then again when Nathan grabbed her shoe and made a ping pong ball appear out of it. She even did her own magic trick at the end and disappeared the ping pong ball into her habit, showed her hands and said tada.
The women all loved slim and blew him kisses, even kissed his cheeks. He wants to go back and give them all flowers.
After the show a few of us went into the audience to shake hands and greet the audience. Many senior thanked us for coming, saying no one ever comes to visit them and that they are forgotten, Some had tears in their eyes, feelings of joy and laughter made them sentimental and then cry.
I held one woman's hand for a long long time as she talked to me. I am not sure exactly what she said because my spanish is rough and her voice was so soft and she had no teeth. Her name was Luna, her eyes were wet and she smiled so much. She thanked us many times for coming to visit them.
After the show Aileen came back stage feeling emotional with tears in her eyes which brought nathan and bridget to tears as well, they hugged and cried together behind the curtain for a few minutes.
It was a very moving show and one of the best shows yet in many ways.
After the old folks home we went to perform for a center for the deaf and mute. We had a sign language interpreter for the show. Also James from our group studies american sign language and it's very similar (but still different) from Spanish sign language. We learned to clap by raising our hands and waving them. I love clapping this way.
It was a very large audience, close to 100 people, many adults, some children.
Slim and Nathan chose the interpreter for their volunteer for the first act. She was so embarrassed, like oh no i'm supposed to interpret. And then it was funny because when she went to interpret them it was like… no sense, shrug, shrug, because their spanish wasn’t that interpretable.
As a group we spent a long time discussing what we should do for a workshop for this group because of their disability. And also because it was such a large group. It was hard to predict what the group would be like because a large range of disabilities were expected. At the end of the show we made a circle and played a group game with a hula hoop. This game was a great choice, although it was a huge circle, it was very challenging for some of the people and everyone cheered and celebrated their accomplishments. Some needed more help than others but everyone got it and was a great group exercise. Then we did feathers and juggling, everyone had a blast. So many people have learned to juggle just this week, so cool!
Today we went farther south to a town called Buena vista. We had to ask directions a few times to find it. It was down a dirt road, very dusty, with just a few small stands, some dogs, felt very remote. The orphanage in Buena vista is the one we brought donations from the states, we brought underwear for the girls aged 3-17 and also training bras and some toiletries too.
When we arrived the manager told us that the boys were all gone. That the government came the day before and took them all away, because they did not have enough staff to keep them there. Almost all the orphanages here are run by christians and there are tons of them.
When I told the group in a whisper that the boys had been taken there was an emotional response. Noah started to cry and needed a hug. It was a very motivational show and really different to have a show for all girls. I think they really needed it that day and given everything that happened, our show was perfect timing for this group.
Robin said this was one of her favorite groups and had a hard time saying goodbye. She invented a new goodbye game exploring all the ways to say goodbye. She wanted to go back to play with them more. It's so hard because I love the kids at every opshange and want to go back to each and everyone of them.
Then we had our second back in Maneadero. We come to maneadero a lot! It was for a younger group of kids aged 3-5, they were very sweet, always a fun age group to perform for. After the show said a prayer for us and each of the kids told us something they are grateful for. One of the kids thanked god for the funny clown with the big balloon. I'm not a religious person but this one of the cutest things ever, and my favorite kids quote of the whole tour.
At night I am so tired and go to sleep so easily. We have had so many good meals here, I love the food. My favorite dishes so far have been the fish tacos and the green ceviche on the puffy tostada. Yum!
Today, Saturday we had only one show. The road to the show was a very very long dirt road with many large rocks. It was very slow and once we arrived it took us longer than usual to get ready because of the long drive. We are getting tired.
The audience was wonderful.. A big one too maybe 150 people. The area for the show was all dirt, probably 2-3 inches of dust. We just got covered in it. There were too many people to do a workshop so we did a long show with all the acts.
The people here looked different, maybe indegenous or from outside of mexico.There were a lot of mothers with new babies wrapped up and lots and lots of children of all ages. It was one of those audiences that seemed like they had never seen a show before, didn’t know how to clap. There were a couple of Americans there too, very nice and kind and helped us out on a better road with less rocks.
After the show we had the rest of the day off. Wow, half a day is amazing after enduring our schedule. I felt so refreshed after only a few hours, having time to explore the city and see the sights. We went to the tourist area, went to the waterfront, ate and drank things, watching the street performers, and got to be tourists on vacation for a few hours.
Today we are halfway through the tour, home stretch.Today we travelled to our new place in Rosarito with the Tijuana christian mission. Its down a long dirt road, several miles probably and hilly, must be hard to get in and out when it rains.
Everything is so different here. It's interesting how things look different now after being here a week. The way the fancy modern buildings stick and look odd, how the gated communities and paved streets without potholes look lavish and fancy. It must be so weird to go to the US and see all our lawns and sidewalks and everything. Reflections of my privileged eyes
We had our first meal at the orphanage, the kids came in and sang for everyone. It's nice that they sing every meal and one for the teachers plays guitar for them when they sing. Our guide is named Chrys, she’s very lovely and such a great sense of humor and great spirit. I am excited to spend the week with her.
After lunch we went to TJ for our first show. It was for an orphanage for children with AIDs. It was a hard one, the yard was smelly with flies, we were set up near the trash.
After the show we went back to the Tijuana Christian mission for dinner. We had an hour or two to spare and some of us were juggling others napping. There was a large group of high school aged missionary kids, maybe 30 or so, from Tennessee and Colorado. A couple of them were interested in juggling so we started a skillshare then more and more joined. Then some of the older kids living in the mission joined as well. We had everyone in the whole court yard and all teens 15-18years too juggling and hula hooping for about an hour. It was great. A couple of them learned to juggle and Robin did the tall unicycle for them. They were so curious about us and what we do and what our lives were and us too. Definitely come from different cultures within the US.
Today we did 2 shows. Our first show was at a women's shelter. When we arrived there were many many people everywhere. And stuff everywhere, bags of belongings, donations, toys, just everywhere, packed in every nook and cranny. At first we were unsure where to do the show. We would have had to move so many things and still be on top of everything. We found a small room upstairs to use, probably a worship room and decided to use that. It was small but we squished everyone in and kept the show tight and it worked out great. After the show there was no space for a workshop but the kids wanted more so we played games. Aileen had me lead the games as I expressed interest especially with the littles. We played animal games and simon says and then we left. Off to lunch at the mission.
Our second show was at a shelter. It was a place that has been in the new a lot and we were interested to visit there. The people at the shelter were all migrants, mostly Central american. One girl told us she had been there more than 20 days. They are waiting for their asylum dates in Tijuana because the immigration for asylum have changed. It has made thousands and thousands of people stuck here in limbo. It was packed, I didn't go in the rooms but you could tell they were packed with bunks and belongings. The bunks were handmade too of scrap wood. There was laundry hanging everywhere, literally on every fence or tree branch or railing. We found a courtyard with a giant puddle one one side and giant heap of garbage on the other. We decided to do our show there between the mud puddle and the trash heap. As soon as we arrived they wanted to play with us. Creating a little crowd and watching us to set up. Luckily we were set up quickly and could start the preshow.
It was a large group and many watched from all around and above. The kids were very fun and hungry for entertainment. I helped with pre show a little that day, having kids perform with spinning plates and do push up competitions. During the show Robin Peligrosa got two really great volunteers, 2 men from the shelter, one was a teacher there and did some really cool karate moves and even a somersault. Slim and I have been performing our club juggling act in every show. It's the last act before the juggle finale where we do passing. We usually have to perform with sunglasses on because its too hard to juggle in the day sun without glasses. I tried without the glasses but I couldn't do it, it’s just too bright. The kids don't seem to notice.
After the show we did a workshop and the kids loved it of course. The crazy part is the kids were bandits and ran off with half of our workshop materials. We only had a few more days left and those kids really needed them, they had no toys or anything to play with.
Today was our last show, se fini.
The place we visited was up and down many steep hills and then into a canyon with a rocky dirt road. There was a small creek filled with trash and pigs, yes pigs and lots of them and chickens too. The hillside were covered with trash had been dumped down the hill. There were many dwellings in the small canyon that were small shacks, without windows or doors, built into the hillside.
When we arrived we learned there we over 400 migrants living in the canyon. There is a large group from Haiti that has been there for a long time, a few years, they have made their home there now. Nearby is the church shelter that we came to perform for. Most of the migrants were from Venezuela and central america, some of the Haitians came too. The church was very big, like a warehouse, with plenty of room for the show and chairs for everyone to sit. The kids were ready as soon as we arrived. Taking their seats to watch us set up, i love how entertained they are just to watch us set up. Once we were more or less set up the pre show began! Robin with her balloon magic, Nathan with his notebook and sharpie, Noah with some juggling and James with his various gags and scarves.
Today many of the older children had more stern faces. Not smiling at first or for some time into the show. I've been noticing that a lot. The younger kids open up quickly but the older kids and teens take a long time. Eventually though they do warm up and join the fun with smiles and laughs. And often the older children get very into the workshops and learning to juggle or playing games.
It's hard, because the show really isn't enough. I wish we could bring them so much more, but this is what we have to bring and we come 100% for them for that time. They enjoy and laugh and play but then we leave. Our time at each center has been averaging 1.5 -2 hours very consistently with set up, pre show, show, and games and workshops. It’s a short time but get a lot in.
After dinner our host Chrys invited us up for a walk up to her house. She had pointed it out to us a few days earlier when we arrived. It's a little house on the hill above the mission. It's a small cabin built just for her. Although it’s not finished yet, the inside is still being worked on and there is no electricity yet. There is a christain group that comes here similar to Habitat for Humanity, they build simple homes for people. Chrys’s house sits up on a hill with a view of the whole valley and even the ocean. With two bedrooms, one for her and one for her son. Someday soon the power will reach her house and they will be able to move in. Also someday soon a big development will be built in this valley. It's so peaceful now but you can see the property lines carved out in the dirt and the power lines for the new houses coming in there. I can't imagine the changes that the new developments will bring. But no one seems worried about change. I guess the whole area didn't even have electricity until 2 years ago, a whole village, and now they do.
After our walk we came down to the house and started to load up Chrys and little Chris with various gifts for them and the orphanage as we were going home the next morning. We gave her feathers and balls and hoops and bubbles. And then we brought out the clown noses and she was like; No! We have to go down to the orphanage and give the kids all this. I was 9pm by this point. Are you sure? It's not to late? No, no, she said, so off we went with all the clowns and little chris, first to the boys dorm. The kids were in their pajamas but awake. They let us right in and we passed out the clown noses and feathers and juggling balls. Within a few minutes everyone was juggling and balancing feathers, and doing magic tricks with the red clown noses. Then we marched off to the girls dorm and handed out their gifts and shared a short lesson. And then to bed we went. Early to rise the next day and travel back home.
Now that Im home its time to reflect and feel. 2 weeks in mexico come and gone.
We laughed and we cried
We argued and we hugged
The kids were always eager to participate and learn and the clowns were always open and ready to share