16 October, Quaker Youth Gathering and Bolivian wedding
Started the day feeling very tired. Heard Rebecca knock on the door at 7.30am for me to get up. I have to get ready for Ruben who is coming at 9am. To my surprise Rebecca indicates to go to the internet café, I am saying it is not possible. She then says to sleep for another 2-3 hours. I am confused as I think Ruben is coming. Rebecca brings me a bread roll and sweet tea, which I eat. I am grateful for more sleep as I am still exhausted. Had a few good dreams then finally got up to have a shower. The water was cold so I went back to bed.
Rebecca comes back and I am ready to go thinking we are meeting Ruben at 12pm. I am giving a presentation at a Quaker Youth Gathering as a clown. I go into see her and in broken English ask when we are going? she says 2pm. I am confused again. Anyway, I say I am hungry as I had a bread roll for dinner and one for breakfast. She is getting ready and takes me to the city. We decide after talking to Ruben to have lunch at the Quaker Youth meeting.
We catch two mini buses and I am struck at how long it takes to get through La Paz. I am told it is 1 million population but to me seems much bigger I will have to google the population (just did, is right). We move through a range of areas to city centre with theatres, Burger King, churches and restaurants to more suburban areas where there are blocks of flats that are square and traffic everywhere, even for a Saturday. I am enjoying the beautiful weather and discovering this city that I can’t get a handle on geographically. I could easily be lost here as in many cities across Central and South America. I haven’t been able to get a map yet on my journey so I am reliant on my guide. The mini buses only cost around 1.5 bolivanios to 2.5 bolivianios. So not very expensive. There is no rail system here so everyone is driving.
We get to the place where the Quaker Youth are gathering. We go up a steep staircase and I am puffed by the top. I sit with the youth and have pasta and potato. It fills my stomach and gives me some energy for clowning. I am watching the young people just observing them. They have a HIV film on and even I can feel the tears in my eyes. I am thinking when Ruben gets there I will get him to translate a HIV experience I had clowning in Southern Thailand. After lunch Rebecca and I go downstairs as I am hunting for coffee. In this part of the world coffee shops are not that common although you can find them in the city but not the suburbs. I settle for a local shop and buy some Fanta. I have a friendly chat with the lady behind the counter. I buy some healthy yoghurt for later. I am getting in the clown mood, it does come naturally and I find I am able to make people laugh cross culturally without language. So that is a good experience for me.
I get myself changed into my clown suit. I am using a tiny dusty room and using my very small mirror to balance my paints and paint brush. I am hearing Rebecca saying ‘susan it is time’. I said to her I offered to get dressed early but was told to wait until 2pm and then the pressure is on to finish. I want to make it a professional job so I make them wait. I don’t do everything to save time. I then present myself and Rebecca is surprised and impressed by the clown look. We then go down into the church.
I march into the church and am sitting next to people snuggling up and blowing kisses, tweaking my nose and giant dummy. I get them laughing a bit then I ask if Ruben my interpreter is there. He is not. I think quickly and decide it is time to communicate universally. So I use gestures. I say I am a world peace clown from Australia. I tell them my world journey as I know they will recognize the country names. Rebecca is there for back up and is filming at the same time. I then say that peace is connection. I throw the ball around the room. I then say peace is balance and I pretend to be balancing on a balance beam. I then bring out my juggling balls to demonstrate balance and harmony through juggling. Young people love juggling. I bring out the clubs and ham it up like I will drop them on some of the young people. I then say peace is flow and bring out my ribbon I make figure of 8 motions and I make it look like a snake and say that is like Australia, lots of snakes. I do some ballet to emphasize flow in life. To balance all things in life. I put my love glasses on and show them that all I see is love as I go and hug mostly boys, they seem keen. I then put them on a cool looking guy and indicate that love is cool, woah hey.
I then indicated that they go to the back of the room. One guy goes and I laugh. I say everyone to the back. I do a laughter workshop. I mention Dr. Madan Kataria the Indian who invented laughter yoga and introduce them to the ho ho ha ha and then get them to freeze into a shape. I have them engaged in activities such as the tantrum (drumming feet to release stress), uncontrollable laughter on the floor with feet up in the air and the last one I did was getting on a motorbike and trying to start it hahahah and then finally starting it and pretending to ride around the room avoiding crashing into people. Rebecca filmed their backs their heads and at one point the camera is going up and down, I asked her why and she says she is laughing. Why she filmed backs is she is trying to see over the camera. I laughed. We finished the session with shaking hands. I explained that peace is connection, it is love (amour) and it is friendliness. It was a great session and the kids really enjoyed it.
I quickly got dressed as we had to go. We traveled across town as we were to meet with Ruben at the Quaker Bolivia Education office. We did some internet and had some coffee. I also talked about near death experience to them. I had recorded 8 case studies on near death. I advertised for people who had had an outer body experience or near death. The people I interviewed recounted experiences of being outside the body in operating theatres, car accidents, some had accidents and came out temporarily. Whatever the case they explained a detachment in the moment of death and for some a time of decision to stay or leave. Others didn’t want to go back as the pain was too severe, they all did come back and explained they had no fear of death. They realized we are here to love. One case actually was in great fear and never came to term with her experience she did lose her husband and daughter I the accident and the psychic abilities she had she tried to push away. So she was no comfortable with a new perspective. I recounted this to express more about the other side and the importance of love in life and to be aware we are all here to learn. I went to the email after our discussion and found an email from Quakers in New York asking me to pay US$150 to volunteer. I live off my savings and have little savings and no investments. I am not going to pay to give my talents for free. I find myself perplexed at organisations asking volunteers to pay when they give their time for free, which has value. I suspect this is US culture. I no longer wish to work in this way I wish to live and express my life and money is not a major issue in this desire. I made the point to Ruben and I tried to explain the real giving. I found myself thinking to give my book of Veroba a colleague of Gandhi’s who was involved in education. The book is a very good one and I had lent it to Alicia as she is a teacher. I really wanted to read this but instead my inner feeling was to give it. It came from Gandhi’s ashram and it is a special book. I then felt the inspiration of the connection of giving out of love and those who are asking for people to pay fees. This is important because the Quakers promote unconditional love and the founders of this movement were moved by the spirit to act and they believed in loving their enemy. I think in terms of if we love each other would we charge or have faith that life works out. Some people will argue this is naïve and blind faith but I have found in my experience that always something comes to guide you and there are no mistakes. I explained the email was not a mistake and maybe I can convey another way of seeing, or perhaps not. I really don’t know. I just believe in speaking my truth. People can judge it as they want to. I sent the email back with love and tried not to sound like I was lecturing them or seeking a free time. I give my time for free but it has come through years of experience and education. There has been much money spent and invested in walking the peace path. I do feel if I am prepared to offer my time and spend money getting around to be there, the least Quakers can do is support that. To charge me I felt was not the way to lead with love. So I am not paying and will see what happens. I will stay until Thursday. Ruben is wonderful he took it well my critique and organized the rest of my time. He is very flexible himself and very kind. I feel very grateful that I made two wonderful friends Ruben and Rebecca and they have made my time here really memorable and special.
We then left the office and headed to the wedding. We caught two taxi’s to get there it was 7.30pm. I wondered if we were too late as it started earlier in the day. To my surprise there was heaps of people there. The place Rebecca and I had gone the day before I thought was for a marionette puppet show turns out to be the wedding, that is the beauty of the language barrier. We definitely didn’t understand each other. Anyway I said hi to the people and saw the beautiful bride and groom. Ruben got out his guitar and joined the band featuring fiddlers and other musicians. I loved looking around the room ad the beautiful dresses gold and the bowler hats the women wear. It was a nice atmosphere with lots of kids. I decided to do a show.
I told Rebecca that I would clown. We found a room upstairs and I started to get dressed. Turns out I was being told to leave the house. The woman was insistent. Thankfully Rebecca turned up and it turns out it was a private house (upstairs). So we went to the next room down further, thank god I had my small mirror. So I did my make up and went down stairs. The people were excited to see me and the children flocked.
I bounced into the middle of the room and Ruben translated. I told them that I was a world peace clown and where I was from in Australia. I told them I’d traveled the world and explained the places. I said that marriage is peace and love. For me it is to be happy and much hahahah in marriage. I showed them that peace was balance. I played with the children in the front with my giant dummy. I put my love glasses on the bride. I then did some juggling and also had translated that marriage is to be happy and full of laughter. Which I believe and lived in my marriage. Always be a child I feel. The crowd loved it and I got many laughs. Brought out my chicken and showed the children where eggs come from. I brought out my clown doctor stethoscope and went searching for a real heart and the funny bone. I threw the fluffy ball around the room and talked about the connection of family, friends and community. I threw it up to the top level (two levels) and people threw it around. I told them that love (amour) is life and that is peace.
It was successful and the children were passionate and very loving towards me. They were grabbing at my dummy and my red nose. I pulled out my stamper with a happy face and they were all giving me their hands, arms, faces to receive a happy face. They so loved it. I was mindful that I didn’t want to take attention away from the bride and groom. So I made sure I got changed. The kids looked at me surprised by so quickly the love was there as they wanted to hug and play with me. They asked through Ruben why I didn’t stay a clown and I told them I was at a wedding. The kids had questions and Ruben kindly interpreted for them. Some asked how old I am, I said very old. Others asked about Australia and my toys. They were so beautiful the way they turned their faces up and really reached for a hug. I knew I had affected a few of them deeply. I really felt the love. There was one little boy who was incredible talented he did the splits sideways and could dance. He was around 7 years old. I saw another Michael Jackson. I told him that he was talented and he should practice doing what he loves. I found myself shaking hands of all people and being hugged and kissed. The whole crowd were extremely welcoming and loving and I felt embraced by the whole community. I was so surprised at how many wanted photos of me as a clown and when I was dressed normally. I was seemingly very popular. I felt like a celebrity yet I didn’t want to take up the attention, however I couldn’t say no. It was an incredible experience. One I will never forget.
We then gathered up our gear and Ruben, Rebecca and I left. We caught a mini bus then a taxi. Ruben was talking about the wedding he had said earlier it was an ordinary wedding (not rich people). I liked that. He said that the boys and girls formed lines and the bride and groom walked through. I saw the bride and groom with the cake, it was very funny. The bride just launched into the cake and ate with her mouth (no hands). And the groom just plunged his face in. it was funny to watch and interesting. They had games and activities to celebrate. I was thanked as well. They had to count up their presents later I saw them in the spare room, they had lots. It was warm and wonderful and I felt the privilege of being the only foreigner in the room. It is an experience I won’t forget.
Anyway it is late and I have to be up at 7am to go to a Quaker meeting as I will present in the afternoon. So better get some rest. It has been full on and my energy is up and down. However, I will sleep with a smile on my face tonight. I am really happy and grateful. I really noticed my energy picked up the moment I started clowning. It is truly what I love.